Skift Take

As we've said repeatedly: Everyone wants a piece of tours and activities, but not everyone can be successful. Royal Caribbean Cruises tried something different for a cruise company with GoBe, but the space was crowded.

As travel giants around the world double down on their tours and activities offerings, one big company is getting out of the game.

GoBe, a tour booking site owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, is no longer taking new bookings, but said in a message on its website that all existing bookings would be honored.

“GoBe was launched to provide a fun, intuitive way for travelers to book tours and activities all over the world,” the site said. “Unfortunately, we will not be accepting any bookings as of May 15, 2018.”

The subsidiary’s managing director, Billy Campbell, could not be reached. A Royal Caribbean spokesman declined a request to interview executives involved in the venture. The parent company, the world’s second-largest cruise operator, has not disclosed how much it invested in GoBe.

The online trade website Seatrade Cruise News reported the news Thursday.

Royal Caribbean officially launched GoBe in March of 2017, though it had been operating quietly for months before that and had been in the works for a couple of years. When it debuted, the site offered bookings for more than 4,000 activities through partnerships with tour operators and planned to add thousands more. While the seemingly built-in audience of cruise passengers was able to use the service, Campbell said last year that he especially wanted to reach non-cruisers.

“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?'” Campbell told Skift last year. “No website has really been able to pull that off. We think we will. We want to be able to eventually book today.”

About 20 people work at GoBe, according to Rob Zeiger, global chief communications officer at Royal Caribbean Cruises. The parent company expects to find other positions for most of those employees, and is discussion options with Campbell as well, Zeiger said.

He said Monday that the site’s failure wasn’t due to “lack of skills or sound thinking.”

“We had a good team with a lot of ideas,” Zeiger said. “It’s just always hard to be a start-up and break through into a large, established marketplace.”

The tours and activities sector has seen intense investment and consolidation in the last couple of years — and even months. Booking Holdings announced it was buying booking-software provider FareHarbor in April, and the next day TripAdvisor said it would buy Bokun, a tech provider for tours and activities.

Earlier this month, TUI announced moves to become a bigger tours player, and TripAdvisor’s CEO doubled his estimate of the business to $2 billion.

When GoBe launched, Campbell acknowledged the competitiveness of the space. But he said he thought the company’s name would help it stand out, as well as its focus on customizable activities.

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

Tony Carne, managing director of the tour operator Urban Adventures, said in an email that he was hoping to finalize a partnership this week with GoBe at the travel convention IPW in Denver.

Carne said he thought the tour booking site was “always a bit of a hedge for Royal Caribbean.”

“Ultimately however that isn’t their core business for tours,” he said. “Core business is on board the ship as that is where the better margins are.”


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Tags: royal caribbean, tours and activities

Photo credit: Travelers are shown on a zip line in Alaska in this promotional photo from GoBe. The tour booking site has folded a little more than a year after its official launch. GoBe

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