Welcome to the Magpie Newsletter.

The goal here is to provide a resource for anybody in the ‘Experiences’ sector of the Travel Industry; Tours, Activities, Attractions, Events etc. The theme will be technology and distribution. If you have anything that you think we should share, please do not hesitate to send it over.

1. Peek raises some money

Peek have raised $80m in a Series C.
Series B was $23m in 2018. This is great news for the industry – investors are obviously confident in the sector. This is easily the largest res-tech (reservation technology) investment seen so far. (Taipai based KKDay raised $75m which included a large res-tech element, but they are primarily an OTA)
So what’s the plan?
Global domination strategy? Nope.
B2C expansion? Nope.
Acquisition of cash-starved struggling competitors? Nope
Oskar (founder and CTO) reveals much more in the video below.

2. Magpie announces Google Things-to-do integration

Yes, this is a Magpie newsletter talking about a Magpie milestone. Every now and again a little self promotion is fine.
Google Things-to-do (TTD) is causing quite a bit of confusion. MOST of that confusion is caused by industry players and media enjoying a bit of drama around a company and a product which some argue need to get everything perfect before they release a product. Unfortunately, that’s not how Google works.

The program is live. It’s generating a LOT of traffic, mainly for the OTAs at present. It’s free traffic for operators / suppliers, and it doesn’t make any sense to sit around and wait to see what the program evolves into. Some products are generating 100-200 free clicks / day and some conversions are 10-20%

If you’re an operator, get signed up now. Optimize your listings, and adapt as the program evolves and expands. You can find more information and explanations here.


3. Covid efficiencies

A quick anecdote. In recent discussions at WTM in London, a large sightseeing operator was talking about lessons from Covid / lockdown.

Q: What are your current global staffing levels now vs. the same period in 2019?
A: 50%
Q: If you went back to full occupancy (passengers), based on same period in 2019, what would your staffing levels be?
A: 50%

This is a large, well run global company, which each day / week /month throughout 2019 and prior was looking at line items in budgets, trimming and saving wherever possible.
Costs naturally increase over time, but are really sticky the other way. It turns out that “wherever possible” has a large degree of how necessary those cuts are.
These numbers are significant – I’ll be writing a larger piece on this.
My kids love it when I tell them (most days) that “the plural of anecdote is not data”. Still, this kind of story / example is a long long way from unique right now.

4. Data Standards

A couple of discussions on LinkedIn recently regarding Data Standards.
This article from Rod Cuthbert regarding his experience in Ground Transportation with the GTFS standard.

Continued discussion on my Linkedin post here

There will be a standards forum at Arival in San Diego in February. It might not sound very interesting (it’s not) but its critical to drive innovation in the industry. Please let us know if you’re interested in participating in this, and in helping to move the industry ahead.

5. Viator Accelarator

Just to clarify – Steve Kaufer (Tripadvisor CEO) confirmed that increasing your commission will improve your organic placement on Viator. It’s not really a secret that commission rates are part of the sort algorithm, but it’s rarely mentioned publicly.
What is different here, is that it is offered at scale – so there’s an assumption that if an operator moves the slider (increases commission) that placement will improve.
What if 100 operators move the slider? More to come on this story, I’m sure.

6. GetYourGuide

Tao Tao, speaking at Arival @ Tourism Innovation Summit in Seville:
GetYourGuide sounds like it’s becoming less of an OTA, and more of an ‘ecosystem’ player. With an emphasis on technology, that includes the powering of some websites, ticketing solutions, and possibly other in-destination software, presumably to help operators cross-sell, up-sell and other merchandizing activities.
It puts them in a bit of a different competitive landscape for those products, probably going up against the likes of Tiqets and res-tech / ticketing companies.

It’s still vertical integration, much like the Originals product. That seems to have been de-prioritized somewhat – no more talk of Originals making up 50% of all supply. Also no more talk of acquiring more operators. The last 18 months would have been probably the best time in history to double-down on that strategy, but additional deals didn’t happen.

It looks like City Experiences (Hornblower) might take up the slack here and continue to scoop up operators which fit their portfolio of products.

7. Travel Conferences & Trade Shows

3 recent travel events all went ahead successfully.
WTM in London – Maybe 30-40% of normal – but the usual great event
Tourism Innovation Summit in Seville – with a full day of Arival content
Phocuswright in Fort Lauderdale – excellent well attended event – you can find the content on YouTube.

After so long without events for most people, it was a bit like a new Game of Thrones episode – you spend the first half of the event just trying to remember who is who, who is where, and who actually survived.
It was great to see so many friendly faces – all with great attitudes as we look to the future.

8. Tourpreneur Podcast

Shane Whaley and the Tourpreneur podcast now has over 200,000 downloads!
That’s a huge achievement and an excellent resource for Tour Operators. Listen to the podcast episodes here and join the companion Facebook Group.

9. Fundraising

FunNow – Tours & Activities booking app based in South Korea
KKDay participated in the $15m series B.
Deals of this size from Asia tend to get very little exposure in the west. Yanolja, also based in South Korea, raised $1.7 Billion this year, and I know very few people who have heard of them.

Connect&Go, based in Canada have raised $3m – offering a variety of software solutions to attractions.

Borrow a Boat have raised $1.4m. They are based in London, and you can probably guess what the platform does.


Arival – San Diego
February 1 – 4, 2022


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