Skift Take

As our Megatrend foretold, Skift expected there would be a lot of news around tours and activities this year, but even we are surprised by all the action so early in the year. Will a long background in cruise vacations help Royal Caribbean Cruises' latest venture, GoBe, break out from the pack?

Add Royal Caribbean Cruises to the long and growing list of companies diving into tours and activities.

The world’s second-largest cruise company — which already carries a good chunk of oceangoing travelers on its three lines — officially launched tour-booking site GoBe Wednesday.

More than two years in the making, has been quietly operating already for months and includes more than 4,000 activities through partnerships with tour operators and guides. The company has thousands more lined up to add to the site already.

In an interview Wednesday, GoBe managing director Billy Campbell said that while the company will cater to cruise passengers — there’s even a ship-shaped icon for them to click on — the market is much broader.

“I think the best message is cruisers are a really important part of the global travel market, but it’s just a small part,” he said. “Ninety-six percent of world travel is going to be not on a cruise ship, and that’s what we’re really focused on.”

Campbell said that while port cities have been well covered by cruise lines and excursion providers, internal destinations such as Las Vegas, Chicago, Madrid, and inland China are underserved.

For now, the company is selling direct to consumers through its website, but there are plans to work with travel agents and with other travel suppliers including hotels and online travel agencies. Ecommerce director Sam Bloomberg-Rissman, who was most recently digital guest experience director at Disney Parks & Resorts, said the company will devote more resources to a mobile app once the website is fully launched. A mobile app is key to allowing travelers to book in real time while they’re already in a destination.

So far, Campbell said the company has heard from clients who want to book something between a day to a year in advance.

“We want to serve everybody and we’ve seen in our booking patterns that people are coming online and they want to do something in three or four days, some are saying, ‘Can we do something tomorrow?'” he said. “No website has really been able to pull that off. We think we will. We want to be able to eventually book today.”

Marketing director Jared Zech said GoBe is working on internal solutions to support real-time booking.

“The industry as a whole, especially on the supplier side, has a long way to go,” he said. “Being in now is just being in on a time when there’s some adoption on the other end.”

The Tours and Activities Bandwagon

Wednesday’s announcement by GoBe is the second such venture from a high-profile travel company just this week. On Monday, Marriott International said it was investing an undisclosed amount in the tours metasearch platform PlacePass to better deliver experiences to loyalty members. That’s a different approach from the move by Royal Caribbean Cruises — unlike PlacePass, GoBe sells direct to customers without connecting to other sites — but still signals widespread interest in the sector.

Last year saw accommodations disruptor Airbnb enter the space when it launched Airbnb Trips, a product that is still expanding globally.

There has been so much interest in tours and activities that Skift declared the segment finally coming into its own as one of this year’s Megatrends.

GoBe’s team agrees that the company is entering crowded territory. But they believe a couple of factors will help set them apart.

One is the company’s name, which Campbell thinks has lots of marketing potential.

“Go be romantic, go be adventurous, go be a golfer,” he said. “We really want to incorporate fun personalities in terms of that messaging.”

The other distinction, the company said, will be its focus on customizable activities. GoBe is promoting bespoke “Travel Creations” — think private tours with expert guides — that it says will be found nowhere else online.

“The whole space has been commoditized and we want to make it much more specialized,” Campbell said.


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Tags: royal caribbean cruises, tours and activities

Photo credit: Travelers are shown bicycling in Barcelona in this promotional photo. Tour and activity company GoBe, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises, officially launched Wednesday. GoBe

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