Skift Take

If local Gray Line companies can upgrade their technology as outlined, then this partnership will be a nice step forward for the tours and activities sector.

If you are on vacation and looking for a Segway tour in Madrid or a brewery expedition in Milwaukee, you may soon be able to book these tours last-minute and online through a new Gray Line partnership with a UK-based technology company.

The hope is that the partnership between Gray Line, which operates sightseeing tours around the world, and tour reservations specialist TourCMS, will enable travelers to book last-minute tours online, with accurate availability and rates, whether on or through its partnerships with online travel agencies.

The partnership highlights the fact that the highly fragmented tours and activities sector over the last several years has been inching its way into the modern, online word in a way that airlines and hotel chains have done so over the last decade or more.

Today, if you want to book that Gray Line-operated Segway tour in Madrid, you’d have to book it online at least two days in advance because reservations are subject to availability, and Gray Line doesn’t have the technology and connections to get the updated the information faster or in real-time.

But, if you wanted to book a Gray Line hop-on, hop-off bus tour in Chicago today, there would be no such mandatory delay in making a reservation online at the last-minute because there are many of these tours happening throughout the day, and availability isn’t a problem.

The new Gray Line-TourCMS partnership and initiative, dubbed Gray Line Connect, means online travel agencies and other tour sellers who partner with Gray Line would be able to access rates and availability data lickety-split without the tour operators having to manually update the data through an extranet.

Given the mobile revolution and the penchant of travelers to try to book sightseeing activites on the spur of the moment, such technology partnerships will bring tours and activities into the modern world.

“Because we are running the reservations system for these [tour] businesses, we know the true remaining availability so we can move to same-day bookings for these tour operators,” says Alex Bainbridge, CEO of TourCMS.

Brett Asbury, Gray Line’s vice president of operations and business development, says the company’s local members are “fine-tuning their businesses and operations to support the goal of eliminating advance-purchase requirements to support last-minute bookings.”

“The timetable is to make the marketplace available at World Travel Market [in November] as we already have all the core product data in a common database,” Asbury says. “As licensees adjust their operations, we hope that nearly the full data tour/activity products will have real-time availability.”

Eventually, the partnership could also streamline the way travelers redeem vouchers for their desired tours.






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