Connectivity arms race heats up as TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings seize tour tech firms

TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings have each acquired software providers for tours and activities bookings

Competition is revving up in the tours technology space as online giants TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings respectively acquired Bokun and FareHarbor to expand beyond their core offerings.

The acquisition of Bokun, an Iceland-based business management software for tours, attractions and experiences suppliers, will enable TripAdvisor to expand its offering by “providing suppliers with technical solutions”.

TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings have each acquired software providers for tours and activities bookings

Dermot Halpin, president, TripAdvisor Experiences and Rentals, commented in a statement: “Our opportunity in this space is enormous. We’re committed to taking the experiences sector far beyond its current online penetration of just 20 per cent, and Bokun will play a critical role in this mission.”

TripAdvisor will slash the pricing of Bokun’s product from its monthly subscriptions of €100 (US$122) to “a fraction of a per cent per booking” in the near term, making it far under the industry standard of five to six per cent, it revealed in the press release.

This latest move will signify “a new phase” for TripAdvisor as its seeks to grow beyond our core offering as a distribution channel, Halpin remarked, adding that Bokun is expected to simplify distribution for suppliers and dramatically improve the shopping experience for travellers.

Bokun will remain based in Iceland, with immediate plans to expand the team. Terms of the acquisition are not disclosed.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor’s latest move reflects similar aspirations of Booking Holdings, which last Thursday announced the acquisition of Denver-based activities and experiences booking software provider FareHarbor.

“Today travel is fueled by technology, yet the local experiences and attractions marketplace is still largely offline,” said Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com in a statement.

“We see an immense opportunity to leverage this technology to bring more local experiences online, benefitting the entire global travel ecosystem for both consumers and local businesses by allowing them to connect instantly through a seamless digital experience,” she added.

FareHarbor will operate as an independent business within the company, and its senior management team will report into the Booking.com leadership team.

The acquisition has been approved by FareHarbor’s board of directors and stockholders and is expected to close in the coming weeks, subject to satisfaction of closing conditions.

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