GetYourGuide is an online travel startup from Berlin which is still struggling from the impact of the Covi-19 pandemic. They have recently launched a new product named “Beat the Crowds” with the aim of solving the overtourism problem. As an aggregator of small travel companies such as museums, cultural sites and guided tours, its business model is a curated collection of more than 58,000 activities to do in 150 countries, which can be reached via its app and website. Established in 2009, the Berlin-based startup with $650 + million in its trunks was founded on the promise of globalization — until that pledge was shattered.
“This isn’t a secret. Revenues fell by 95%. We sold 40 million experiences and generated tens of thousands of bookings each day. It’s now in the hundreds, “says Tao Tao, Chief Executive Officer of GetYourGuide, on a recent Zoom call.
This isn’t just Tao Tao. Almost every online travel agency (OTA) is now in survival mode. Klook, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and (in-person) Airbnb Experiences both saw booking sales drop off the cliffs in March and April, as the pandemic shut down international borders, grounded commuter flights, and closed down accommodation around the globe.
And still, creativity still remains. As a small, extremely nimble business, GetYourGuide teams are working rapidly to develop new technologies that can stay relevant in the post-covid era. Their mission is to fight the re-emergence of overtourism by offering a solution called “Beat the Crowds.” If it succeeds, the start-up could just make a return.
How “Beat the Crowds” Works
This new technology will not fix the travel industry’s problems of monitoring passengers more efficiently, nor will it redefine what is acceptable and what is not in relation to tourism. Yet it could help to control lines at almost any attractions.
The app is designed to calculate waiting times and occupancy rate in real time with its sensors. GetYourGuide uses this data to estimate waiting times, and to offer this data to the attraction and directly to consumers via its smartphone app. The goal is to tell consumers how long it takes to get in and tell them how crowded it is in various parts of the building. Per Tao Tao, testing of the product was postponed when the attractions closed down due to Covid in March and will be reopened to the public as partner venues open again.
Timed online ticketing also enhances crowd control, and attractions such as the One World Observatory, Van Gogh Museum, and Top of the Rock in New York have also been introduced to distribute arrivals. (If you try to buy a ticket, you’ll see this.)
“We must understand that museums like the Louvre and many other galleries are not tech companies; they are the stewards of centuries of history. For smooth entry, we’re helping you shift them to online ticketing, so you don’t have to contact anything and you can pre-book. Audio instructions can also be downloaded on your mobile. That’s a big change to attractions, “Tao says.
Hotels and airlines switched to digital over five years ago. Yet tourist attractions are yet another story, not a small matter for the hospitality sector. As travel gradually resurrects, demand for controlled mobility will rise — especially within luxury travel firms, which rely on their ability to deliver the best of all.
“We require technologies to help us deliver advantageous resources to our high-end customers that is not hard to use. We must make our experiences better, “says Franka Holtmann, Managing Director of Le Meurice, the historic Grand Dame hotel, which reopened on 1 July in the middle of Paris, where cultural experiences are indeed a life style.
What’s the catch here?
Boutique online travel startups don’t control border restrictions or direct international air traffic. And they would definitely not be able to keep overtourism from coming to the Disneyworld Orlando, canals of Venice, or the Pyramids of Giza.
But they will help you postpone your plans at no expense if those plans start looking too expensive to make things financially feasible for the venue. It is called dynamic pricing (versatile pricing that shifts demand, such as the variable price of an airline seat). Smart tourism attractions will keep on going to use it, as it is an established way to eliminate cancelation fees, while keeping clients in Covid days.
“We were the first OTA to allow dynamic pricing via the [application interface] API. We can render rates, cancelations and availability for any venue, “explains Tao, referencing the Moulin Rouge in Paris as an initial user of this technology. When the Can Can Cabaret starts again, the price of a seat depends on who comes to dinner. (As per GetYourGuide, 40% of the attractions this startup offers have already implemented their API.)
Even before the emergence of coronavirus, the movement towards sophisticated crowd control technologies was apparent because of overtourism problems. The dangers it presents have boosted its introduction at gateway airports, but the challenge is how quickly old-school cultural treasures, such as the Louvre Museum or the Sistine Chapel, can be adapted.
People also want to see the wonders of the universe. And travel agents don’t give up on them, since experience is why we travel first. They also reflect what remains of a traveler’s buying power after they have purchased one plane ticket and one hotel. Experiences are somewhat distinct. They are technically infinite. And travel entrepreneurs are seeking to monetize the idea.
“All travel agencies ought to own the itinerary once you have reached the destination. This is our main value, and the Holy Grail is customization. What do you think the average day in Paris looks like? “Asks Tao.
I ‘d say this would involve a walk over the bridge to the Pont des Arts, a contactless tour of the Musée d’Orsay, and a sentimental visit to Les Bouquinistes, the time-tuned bookshops that have been sitting along the Seine for years, selling the world’s biggest literary works by hand for a few coins. If overtourism isn’t a matter of interest, I may as well climb the Eiffel Tower.