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Trips, experiences, tours, activities – you call them what you like, travel brands want a bigger piece of the sector. For plenty of companies, it's no longer just about the flight or hotel.

Boutique hotel booking site Mr and Mrs Smith has become the latest travel company to make a deeper move into the tours and activities space.

The company, which was set up by wife and husband team Tamara Heber-Percy and James Lohan, has bought London-headquartered trips marketplace SideStory for an undisclosed amount.

SideStory currently offers tours in London and Paris but Mr and Mrs Smith plans to add Lisbon, LA, New York and Tokyo under the name Smith SideStories.

Mr and Mrs Smith already had an existing partnership arrangement with SideStory but the deal shows the value travel companies are placing on owning a bigger slice of the growing experience sector.

“We are really looking forward to building on the SideStory platform and curating the very best experiences for our members. Curation is right at the heart of the Mr and Mrs Smith brand and experiences ‘worth getting out of bed for’ was my absolute favourite section of our very first guidebook 15 years ago,” said Ed Orr, Mr and Mrs Smith CEO.

A Booming Sector

The most ambitious travel brands want to own more of the whole travel experience. The tours and activities sector has been pretty resistant to digitization, partly because of the number of suppliers and the fact that tourists make many bookings in person and on the same day. It is only really in the last couple of years that companies have tried to bring them online and make booking easier.

For Airbnb this has meant placing a big bet on its Trips platform, which is now active in 60 destinations worldwide. Others have pursued similar goals.

Marriott invested in metasearch platform PlacePass and Germany’s TUI Group paid Hotelbeds group $136 million (€110 million) for its destination management unit in a bid to get deeper into the sector.

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Tags: airbnb, experiences, marriott, mr. and mrs. smith, tours and activities, tui

Photo credit: A SideStory experience. Hotel booking site Mr and Mrs Smith has bought the company. SideStory

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