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Tours and activities specialists like GetYourGuide have a huge advantage over bigger brands like Google, Booking.com, TUI, and Tripadvisor because the complexity of the experiences business requires a singular focus.

That’s the opinion of GetYourGuide co-founder and CEO Johannes Reck, who spoke with Skift Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O’Neill for Skift Forum Europe on Tuesday.

Reck said Google, which he characterized as a very good partner, should stick to being an advertising vehicle.

“I don’t think Google is actually the place where you should book,” Reck said. “You could see for yourself during the pandemic when the shit hit the fan, who was refunding the customers, who was manning the customer service centers. That was GetYourGuide, that was not Google, right?”

GetYourGuide was among the German travel companies that chastised Google in April for its lack of advertising reimbursements for partners when Covid-19 led to a flurry of cancellations. French travel companies voiced similar concerns.

Asked about the threat of Google becoming a tours and activities booking platform, Reck was dismissive, arguing that tours and activities require ground operations, and real-time data.

“So I would take any type of Reserve on Google or any notion that Google becomes an OTA (online travel agency) with a grain of salt because they’ve just throughout the pandemic demonstrated that they cannot do that,” he said.

Reck contended that GetYourGuide has become the global market leader in tours and activities, was having its “greatest year ever” pre-pandemic, and is poised “to actually sprint out of the crisis.”

“They (customers) are coming back to us and they are not coming back to Google in the upswing,” Reck said.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on Reck’s remarks.

Reck said GetYourGuide is seeing “phenomenal growth rates” across Europe, with Germany in the lead, although France, Italy and Spain are generating “very positive signs.”

Consumer behavior has shifted from booking a tour pre-pandemic once arriving in a destination to “suddenly it’s unthinkable to go to Rome and not plan,” or to stand in line for a Vatican tour, he said.

Booking.com Is Apple Music, Not Spotify

Asked whether he was worried about Booking.com’s strategy pivot into a new partnership with TUI’s Musement, Reck pointed out that just because a company can sell hotels doesn’t mean it would be successful hawking tours and activities.

He said Booking.com has not competed successfully against GetYourGuide in tours and activities because it requires a lot of tech, knowing the business complexities, and making it a company’s number one priority to scale globally.

Reck likened the Booking.com-GetYourGuide experiences competition to Disney versus Netflix in streaming, and Apple Music versus Spotify in tunes.

“People typically underestimate the young startup that is 100 percent focused while there are all eyes on the incumbent who is typically a very large and slow company,” Reck said. “I think there is really something to David versus Goliath, and I think David is typically faster and more agile and can really get things done.”

Not a Fan of Tripadvisor Listing Fees

Reck pushed back against Viator’s decision to begin charging tour and activities operators a fee for new listings beginning August 1. He said unlike Tripadvisor’s attractions brand, GetYourGuide won’t charge a listing fee.

“I think imposing any type of fee in this point in time is just not something that’s timely or should be done or will help the customer in any shape or form,” Reck said.

Photo Credit: Pictured is a tour in Calton, Edinburgh in Scotland on January 9, 2013. GetYourGuide claimed at Skift Forum Europe, which took place June 30, 202o, to be the global market leader in tours and activities. Byronv2 / Flickr.com