Top 9 Online Travel Agents for Selling Experiences

You’ve probably heard it a hundred times before — an online presence is essential for selling your tours and activities nowadays. But it’s one thing to have a website with self-service bookings, and another to be wherever your audience is looking on the internet. With online travel agents (OTAs), you can increase your chances of gaining that much-needed visibility.

Of course, there are tons of options available, especially with new online marketplaces popping up all over the place. That’s why we’ve decided to break down which ones we think you should make part of your OTA marketing strategy— including some of the bigger names, and perhaps a couple you haven’t heard of yet. 

1. GetYourGuide

GetYourGuide home page

About

Based in Berlin, GetYourGuide (GYG) is an OTA start-up for travel experiences that quickly became popular in Europe and is now making waves globally. With a focus on mobile bookings and Instagrammable tours and activities, GetYourGuide appeals to millennial travelers who want unforgettable experiences that are share-worthy.

What’s new

What isn’t new? GYG is making it through rounds of funding at lightning speed. Just last year, GetYourGuide picked up $484 million in Series E that boosted its valuation over $1 billion — which is the biggest growth round for a company in tours and activities, as well as the highest for a European start-up.

Since GYG created a marketplace solely for tours and activities, rather than tack something onto an existing platform for flights and hotels, they’ve been able to meet the needs of today’s traveler better than anyone else. The numbers speak for themselves, selling over 25 million tickets so far. 

Benefits

Not only will GYG help you reach a massive audience through their promotional efforts, but they’ll also give you a hand in other ways. For instance, they offer multilingual and 24/7 support for better customer satisfaction, and a range of tools to help you make the most of the tour booking platform — including free analytics and optimization.

Downside

GYG has made quite the name for itself, which it’s capitalizing on with GetYourGuide Originals. Sitting on mounds of customer data, GYG has started building its own tours that are what users specifically want. Of course, these tend to get prime real estate on the platform, meaning you have to compete with GetYourGuide Originals on their home turf. 

How to join

Similar to most online travel agents, it’s free to sign-up, and GYG only takes a commission on successful bookings. There is a short application process, and they do ask for your social media profiles and website. While that’s to get to know your business better, it might also be to check whether your tours and activities align with user expectations.

P.S. Checkfront just released our brand new GetYourGuide integration. Now, you can start taking and managing your GetYourGuide bookings today.

2. TripAdvisor Experiences

TripAdvisor Experiences online travel agent

About

You might be familiar with TripAdvisor already, where you can list your tourism business, collect reviews, and boost your ranking. But after acquiring Viator in 2014, TripAdvisor branched out and introduced TripAdvisor Experiences to grow in the tours and activities space, while allowing operators to list and sell their products on the travel platform.

What’s new

Many speculated how the Viator acquisition would pan out, and now we do. Earlier this year, TripAdvisor announced that they’re restructuring and treating Viator and TripAdvisor Experiences as independent brands going forward. So far, it’s unclear how this will impact current listings. 

TripAdvisor Experiences also recently sent out a shocking email to operators saying that commission rates will be standardized based on destination and product. More specifically, they will “adjust the retail price of your product(s),” without requiring any action on your part. But what if you want to take action against this invasive change?

Benefits

Your products will appear across their network, including the TripAdvisor app, Viator, and thousands of partners. Altogether, you can reach 490+ million travelers, and since TripAdvisor Experiences supports 28 languages and 14 currencies, you should have no problem converting a global audience. 

Downside

With a standard commission, there’s supposed to be a more balanced marketplace. But many believe this is TripAdvisor’s way of introducing dynamic retail pricing. And according to DestinationCTO, it might not be the best strategy to win the OTA battle. Right now, it just seems like TripAdvisor is making unpopular decisions left and right. 

How to join

You don’t need a TripAdvisor listing to sign-up, although the two go hand-in-hand. There are no upfront costs, but TripAdvisor Experiences takes a standardized percentage of each booking made and now also has pricing control over your tours and activities

3. Viator

Viator online travel agent website

About

Founded in 1995, Viator quickly grew to be the largest travel booking site for tours and activities, which ultimately landed them a position as a TripAdvisor company. This online marketplace continues to attract millions of travelers worldwide as they work with local operators to provide the best experiences in every destination.

What’s new

Previously mentioned, Viator was initially paired with TripAdvisor Experiences after being acquired, but is now stepping out on its own in the TripAdvisor family. This transition seems to be good news for Viator, considering they’ll get a chance to come out on top again with their own product, engineering, and marketing teams.

Benefits

Like TripAdvisor Experiences, your products will get featured on other channels besides just Viator. But the biggest bonus now is that Viator should see a significant boost in its brand marketing budget thanks to the recent reorganization. If so, the extra spend would help increase visibility and gain traction where new travelers are looking — bringing more bookings your way. 

Downside

We’re not sure how Viator will bounce back after a few years of living in the shadows of TripAdvisor Experiences, especially with new and strong players in the game, including GetYourGuide and Klook. Only time will tell. 

How to join

For now, it looks like you still have to sign-up for TripAdvisor Experiences to access Viator. We’re not sure if this will be changing soon.

Reach millions of travelers with Checkfront and Viator!

4. Klook

Klook OTA website for tours and activities

About

Recently founded in 2014, Honk-Kong based Klook is dominating the OTA battlefield as a newcomer. Hosting over 100,000 activities in 270 destinations and counting, it’s evident the company isn’t slowing down anytime soon. First tapping into the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, Klook, short for Keep Looking, is staying true to its name and seeking growth opportunities in western markets. 

What’s new

Just like GetYourGuide, Klook is achieving unbelievable amounts of VC funding, making it one of Hong Kong’s top three unicorns. Last year, they raised $225 million in Series D, with a total to date around $500 million. Unlike most online travel agents that focus primarily on pricing to win over travelers, Klook takes on a more personalized approach, which is proving to be a successful strategy. 

Backed by significant funding, Klook continues to innovate and plans to make its technology unrivalled. By using artificial intelligence, the travel experiences platform also hopes to provide better recommendations based on the type of trip, as well as tailor offerings according to what’s most popular in specific markets.  

Benefits

Klook has a strong foothold in the APAC region. With a team of local experts who understand the Asian market best, there’s a promising opportunity to reach this massive audience. Klook also specializes in Free Independent Travel (FIT) — which is a booming market. As a Klook partner, you’ll get access to their growing community of solo travelers, especially as they continue to expand globally. 

Downside

Since Klook focuses on a younger, cost-conscience audience, pricing tends to be relatively low, almost on par with wholesale rates. If you want to stand out on the platform, you may have to put up with insanely discounted offers. 

How to join

You can register as a Klook partner by filling out a simple form on their website. Afterward, a Klook representative will get in touch with you to talk more about your business and listing. It’s free to join, and of course, Klook will take a percentage of your bookings. 

5. Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences search page

About

Already a well-loved travel platform for finding unique lodging abroad, Airbnb launched Experiences in 2016 to help travelers have an authentic local experience to go along with their local stay. Shortly after, Airbnb introduced Adventures to expand into multi-day, group excursions. Similar to the accommodations side, Airbnb Experiences is primarily peer-to-peer, whereas small tour operators host Airbnb Adventures

What’s new

As Airbnb works to grow its tours and activities business with a former Disney executive leading the way, they face many challenges ahead. For starters, Airbnb Experiences is up against the likes of Klook and GetYourGuide for attracting millennial and Gen Z travelers. At the same time, Airbnb Adventures will have to compete directly with well-known and trusted tour operators.

While their focus on off-the-beaten-path trips should give them an advantage in today’s travel landscape, Airbnb is currently distracted by ensuring the safety of their Experiences program. Scarred by unfortunate events with Airbnb rentals, they want to provide better verification of Experiences hosts — including checking for proper permits — considering activities pose a higher risk of danger.

Benefits

Due to the local nature of Airbnb Experiences and Adventures, becoming a host is best suited for individuals or small businesses. So whether you’re just starting out or curious to see if guiding is your calling, this platform is perfect for getting your business off the ground. You can use it to build a customer base, collect testimonials with Airbnb’s reliable review process, and work out any kinks before scaling up. 

Downside

Currently, there are no guest minimums on Airbnb Experiences. Since you have to honour all booked reservations, you could end up hosting one person only, which might not be worth your time and resources. Especially considering Airbnb doesn’t integrate with reservation systems, making it a challenge to fill capacity automatically. 

How to join

You don’t need to host guests overnight to host an experience. All you have to do is meet their guidelines and create a unique profile. Just know, Airbnb takes a 20% commission compared to 3% for Airbnb homes. 

6. Expedia Local Expert

Expedia Local Expert online marketplace for tours and activities

About

Expedia Group is the world’s largest travel platform with over 200 travel booking sites in 70 plus countries — including Expedia Local Expert (LX), which launched in 2014. Found under the Things to Do tab on Expedia.com, LX offers a diverse portfolio of local tours and activities to complement an itinerary after booking flights, hotels, and transportation. 

What’s new

We haven’t heard much about what’s going on with Expedia Local Expert, apart from selling over $500 million in tours and activities back in 2017. But right now, it seems that Expedia is focusing on connected trips — the most recent travel buzzword. Eventually, they hope to deliver frictionless travel experiences using advanced technology that services any itinerary disruptions that might trickle down from flights to activities. Being first to do this will be a game-changer.

That said, Expedia Local Expert is spearheading the Open Connectivity for Tourism (OCTo) — an initiative that plans to tackle the current fragmentation in tours and activities with a standard API specification. Perhaps this is a step toward a connected trip, considering it’s already a step toward better connectivity all around for the travel experiences industry.

Benefits

With Expedia Local Expert, you can get access to a global audience while being marketed on more than 60 travel booking sites and 30 countries in 17 languages. What’s more, Expedia LX also operates concierge desks in hotels all over the world to offer recommendations to travelers in-destination, helping build your offline presence as well. 

Downside

Although Expedia is one of the biggest names in the travel industry, there are some promising up-and-comer OTAs that are shaking things up. In comparison, Expedia’s site and mobile app are starting to look a little outdated, which might be okay for an older demographic, but not so much if you want to reach the newest wave of travelers. 

How to join

To sign-up for Expedia Local Expert, you simply have to fill out a form. Registration is free, and from there, you can create your listings and manage your availability, pricing, content, and more. 

P.S. You can start using Expedia Local Expert with Checkfront today!

7. Booking.com

Booking.com Attractions online travel agents page

About

Similar to TripAdvisor, Booking Holdings acquired reservation tech for a piece of the tours and activities sector. However, they took a different approach with experiences on the platform. Instead of listing available inventory, Booking.com sends personalized recommendations after travelers book a room, who can use QR codes to access exclusive discounts and offers for things to do wherever they’re staying.

What’s new

Missing out on booking potential from locals and travelers who already have a place to stay, Booking.com dropped the hotel requirement for booking tours and activities. Now with Booking Attractions, available in over 150 destinations and 43 languages, travelers can see a full list of travel experiences they can book in advance. 

And now, Booking.com is about to finalize a preferred partnership with Musement. After acquiring a booking software company a couple of years ago, it seems like Booking Holdings is scrambling to get a leg up in the tours and activities industry while at arms race for the connected trip with Expedia.

Benefits

With a user-friendly mobile app, Booking.com appeals to travelers who rely on their smartphone while in-destination. On top of that, Booking.com harnesses its data and technology to match travelers with experiences that are most enticing for them. As such, your listing stands a good chance at getting in front of the right eyes, ensuring high conversions from mobile bookings.

Downside

Like most OTAs, Booking.com comes with a commission fee, but they quote you what that is based on your location before you join. Also, it’s speculated that Booking.com shares customer leads with Fareharbor and potentially Musement now, which isn’t exactly fair competition for operators who use other reservation systems and diversify their distribution.

How to join

Right now, there isn’t a designated sign-up page for experience providers. But if you visit the official Booking Attractions page and scroll down to the bottom and click on Attractions help centre, you can send a message to their team and get further instructions.

8. OnceThere

OnceThere website

About

Based in Texas, OnceThere works directly with Vacation Rental Managers, local tourism bureaus, and hoteliers to distribute bookable gear and activities to travelers currently in-destination — hence the name. Despite being a small team, OnceThere has over 300 markets in North America that promote over 10,000 travel experiences.

What’s new

After launching in 2016 by former HomeAway executive, John Weimer, OnceThere is still in the start-up phase as it tackles the last frontier of online travel. But unlike its competitors, OnceThere has been focusing primarily on making online bookings convenient while supporting meaningful connections between agents and travelers. 

Benefits

The majority of activity bookings are made either the same day or less than a week in advance. Many last-minute travelers turn to their smartphones to discover things to do while in-destination. But some prefer looking around a visitor information center or asking local experts for recommendations. OnceThere helps you capture both types of travelers by listing your products on DMO and hotel apps, as well as on-premise with concierge and visitor agents. 

Downside

For now, OnceThere is only available in certain locations across North America. Hopefully, we’ll see OnceThere expand globally, so activity providers all over the world can get access to this excellent distribution channel. 

How to join

You can schedule a free demo with OnceThere, and someone from their team will walk you through onboarding for quick set-up. 

Become a OnceThere activity provider with Checkfront!

9. Reserve with Google

Reserve with Google home page

About

Although Reserve with Google isn’t an online travel agent, it’s still a promising distribution channel considering Google is where most travelers start their travel planning. First launched in 2017 for service providers like restaurants and hair stylists, Reserve with Google quickly expanded into activities, giving experience providers a chance to take bookings right in Google Search, Maps, and Assistant, too. 

What’s new

There hasn’t been much news lately about Reserve with Google after OTAs and booking software providers scrambled to partner with one of the world’s most valuable brands, but there have been a lot of questions. Many tour and activity operators are still wondering whether it’s worth the fuss right now, and how it works with multiple resellers that integrate with the tool. 

It’s also no secret that Google has big plans to disrupt the travel industry. Already, they’ve made countless improvements to Google Maps, revamped Google Trips as a travel site, and hurt OTA organic search traffic with their latest BERT algorithm update. If anyone’s going to master the connected trip, it’s probably going to be Google, and Reserve with Google will likely play a part. Stay tuned!

Benefits

Obviously, the biggest benefit to Reserve with Google is that it’s free. So if you use the tool with your reservation software, it can act as an extension to your direct bookings. More than that, Reserve with Google shows up right where travelers are searching and helps them progress intuitively through the booking steps without navigating elsewhere. That means higher conversions for you, from an incredibly massive audience. 

Downside

There are eligibility requirements for Reserve with Google, and it’s still only available in particular countries. What’s most concerning, however, is that online travel agents also use the tool and can automatically populate your products if you qualify. And since travelers don’t have the option to choose what distribution system their booking goes through, you could wind up paying commissions for a sale that could’ve been direct.  

How to join

To access Reserve with Google, you must have an account with a booking software provider or OTA that’s already a partner. You’re in luck, Checkfront has a Reserve with Google integration, but again, you have to meet the compatibility requirements.

Want to create a listing with all of the above? Let Checkfront be your channel manager for tours and activities!

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