Chris Torres and Shane Whaley Give You Their Thoughts On The Major Tours And Activities Industry news of 2019
I won’t lie, I was a bit apprehensive when Digital Tourism Show host and tours and activities digital marketing expert Chris Torres first suggested we produce an episode on our respective shows where we discuss 2019 and what happened in the tours and activities industry.
Nervous because when I produce an episode of Tourpreneur, I always want the show to be about my guest and their thoughts.
Believe it or not, despite being a podcast host, I am always far more interested in listening to other people’s insights, thoughts, and observations about the tours and activities industry than giving my own. (Unless it’s music or football, then it is different.)
What you will learn…
- OTAs for tour operators. Good or a bad thing or both?
- The changing face of the tours and activities OTA landscape.
- Booking.com pulling out of the Experiences sector (for now.)
- Massive changes at Expedia.
- What exactly are Groupon doing in the tours and activities space?
- How was Arival 2019 in Orlando for Shane and Chris? What did we learn? What did we enjoy?
- We give you our opinions on that res tech debate between Peek, FareHarbor, Checkfront, and Rezdy.
- Who is our Tour Operator/Tourpreneur of the Year?
- And Much More
Chris Torres: The Digital Tourism Show, episode 224 is brought to you today by tourpreneur.com the podcast for tour professionals. Welcome to a special episode of The Digital Tourism Show. And this episode I have the absolute pleasure of speaking with Shane Whaley of Tourpreneur.
Chris Torres: Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Tourpreneur, I urge you to subscribe today. Tourpreneur is a podcast for tour operators where he offers advice, and news about the industry, but not only that, he speaks to other tour operators so they can share their stories and share their advice to help businesses like you grow and prosper. If you haven’t subscribed, please do head over to Tourpreneur.com and subscribe today.
Chris Torres: Shane also provides a daily, yes daily email newsletter where he collates the latest news of that given day, and sends out the link to your email inbox. In this episode I will be covering topics with Shane that have happened over the last 12 months, as well as looking ahead to 2020 and what the future holds. So welcome to The Digital Tourism Show, episode 224.
Chris Torres: It’s good to see you again Shane. I guess Arival was the last time we actually met in person and you booth looked amazing. It looked like you had a lot of people coming up for interviews, so it must have been really good for your own show.
Shane Whaley: It was better than I could have imagined. I was a bit nervous beforehand, because I worked on booths before but I’ve never had to organize one. You know yourself being an entrepreneur you have to wear so many different hats, which is why I called my podcast Tourpreneur, because you do the marketing, payroll, taxes, insurance and booth organizing is one. And I’m eternally grateful to Checkfront, because they stepped in with Arival, and said, “Hey, we’re sponsor Tourpreneur specialty space.”
Shane Whaley: And it enabled me to produce content that I would not have been able to do beforehand, because what I’ve noticed with podcasting is, if you go up to someone and shove a microphone under their nose, most people will immediately… get quite frightened off by that. Whereas having prearranged appointments, and sharing some questions in advance, and making it just a 10 minute espresso interview, just to really get a little snapshot of their business, and some of the challenges that they face.
Shane Whaley: It was phenomenal, and you put out a lot of content as well as being a digital marketing ninja, you’re also a content provider when people come up to you. But you must have had this after your book, Lookers into Bookers where people come up, they shake you by the hand, they look you in the eye and they’re like, “You’ve saved my business,” or, “You really helped my business.” We both look up downloads and read reviews, and they’re all great, but when you have that person to person contact, I was blown away, quite frankly.
Chris Torres: No. It’s amazing. It’s almost like they can psych themselves up before hand They might be a little bit shy, or wanted to talk to you on stuff otherwise they can set themselves up. But in terms of Arival with book, etc the amount of people who came up to me, who I’ve never met before, just come up and say, “Hey Chris, I loved your book, loved your video, love this and it’s phenomenal. And that’s what we try to install in or our own customers to say what content, what… there are good content, good videos, good podcasts, good written content, whatever it is to sell your story, show your personality that ultimately is what will open doors for you. I’m a big believer on that. That’s why I do so much of it myself.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. And I knew about you before started Tourpreneur because having been a former director at GetYourGuide, I came into tours from the hotel industry. I spent 13, 14 years in online hotels. Tours was very new. So I used to watch your videos to educate me at GetYourGuide about what it was like on the other side, and what tour operator challenges there were.
Shane Whaley: So I was very grateful for your content and I gave a shout out to our friend Matthew Newton this week as well for his book, Sell More To Us, because that was very useful as well.
Chris Torres: Definitely. Got a copy myself.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. I mean he was saying he’s a little out of date now, but I think the gist of what you’re saying is still true and that’s a difficult thing I guess even with your book. Two years down the road, the way things are going here in the United States without getting political, some of the presidential candidates are saying, “Oh, we’re going to break up Facebook.” So that may look completely different this time, right? You never know.
Chris Torres: Well that’s it. But in terms of the fundamentals of marketing, it doesn’t matter the platform, doesn’t matter what it is you use, or the medium you use. Ultimately it’s all about you telling a story. So that is never going to change. So it’s just adapting to the platforms that go into it. I found Arival great. I thought it was an amazing conference. Again, once again.
Shane Whaley: What I really liked Chris was I had some listeners of the show come up to me and say, “Oh we were on the fence about coming. It’s a lot of money. It’s time away from the business. But we’ve absolutely loved it. We’ve loved meeting all these rest tech companies face to face, meeting the OTAs, meeting other bike tours from around the country.” And nobody came up to me and said, “Nah, that was not for me.” Everyone absolutely loved it.
Shane Whaley: And that was really cool to hear, because I know we are both huge supporters of Arival, and we feel that listeners and viewers and subscribers should go and attend, because it will help grow their business. And a large part of that for me is… And I’m not sure if Arival a really would be happy with this, but I’ll say it anyway. For me, Arival now is almost like a school reunion in many ways, where you see people that you talk to online, or you read their posts on LinkedIn and then you meet in person, have a beer or coffee, catch up.
Shane Whaley: And actually this year, because Arival was getting bigger and bigger, there were people I couldn’t get to see. So Joe Robinson for instance, who was at Redeem, he’s moved now. We were supposed to meet there, we never got time. And there were various others that the time wasn’t enough.
Shane Whaley: So I like the learning. I love the networking, but also it is like having a couple of beers with people who are in the same boat as you, and we’re all speaking the same language, whereas I’m sure when you go to the football, or have a beer with friends, they don’t really get what we do, and to be around people who understand the challenges, and frustrations and you can use acronyms that they understand. I love that about Arival.
Chris Torres: Yeah, I’m exactly the same. Meeting up with all friends and making new friends, et cetera. And that’s… I think that the Arival there between me and Jessica, who at that point worked for me, now works for Arival.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely.
Chris Torres: So now we had about 40 meetings between us, just at Arival, so been able to network, meet new people. And most of those meetings were… I think that it’s just part of my ethos, we of course told them about what we did, but most of the people who came up to us was talking about, “How do I create a better experience on Facebook?” Or, “How do I attract people on Facebook using ads?” Et cetera.
Chris Torres: And it was basically stepping out, advising them in most of those meetings. So and off the back of that, that’s made some good business. So every year we make new customers from Arival, so it stimulates their… it’s the go to event, absolutely love Arival. And I’m going to just say me and Shane don’t get paid from Arival or anything.
Shane Whaley: Very true.
Chris Torres: So we just love the event. So what was your one takeaway from Arival last time? What would you say was a highlight?
Shane Whaley: Ah, well I think what I hear the most, so here’s the thing that was different for me this year, I had 25 interviews racked up, so I didn’t actually get into any of the sessions. However what I experienced was people who were coming in to be interviewed, what they were experiencing on the sessions.
Shane Whaley: And the one that came back the most was the race tech debate. And it was really interesting too, because my show was mainly geared towards small to medium tour operators, right? So the big guys do listen, but it’s mainly smaller to medium that listen and some of them are like, “Oh, we were really shocked because we work with FareHarbor, we love our FareHarbor account manager.
Shane Whaley: Our market manager support is great, but what we saw on stage was not what we thought the company was.” And I was hearing that from quite a few different guests that came on the show. So I watched the video, and I could kind of see what they were doing. I thought, is this being blown up? Was it exaggerated? And that was a fascinating debate to watch.
Chris Torres: I watched the video later, and I felt the same way. It was almost as if Max came onto the stage almost in a defensive mode straight away, straight off the bat, rather than just sitting down and discussing about how they can push the industry forward, because in my opinion they all have a place.
Chris Torres: They all have their own unique selling points. But I just felt it was a very much our defense stance he took right away from the start, and he was berating other operators, all of other Booking platforms that were they all et cetera. And it just didn’t come across well at all. I really don’t know.
Shane Whaley: And the weird thing for me is I interview a lot of our guests. I think if I go back over there, most of the guests FareHarbor is the most popular booking platform they work with. So they’re doing really well in the market. Yes, that they’re aggressive in the market, they’ve been bought by the Booking group, et cetera. But I don’t think that had anything necessarily to come on the stage to be defensive about.
Shane Whaley: It wasn’t like they’d hiked up a ton of rates, or something had gone down. So I was surprised by that stance, especially when you contrast it with Peak, CheckFront, and Rezdy, who are pretty calm and measured and just talked about how have they saw the market what they are, as opposed to kind of… Mean that the quote that Max came out with that, I forget it now. It was something that some elephants die or something. And I was like, “No, this is our industry. This isn’t wall street.
Shane Whaley: This isn’t an investing conference.” The cool thing about our industry is we all share knowledge. Yeah, we compete but we share knowledge. We help each other out. I really see that especially with tour operators. I always remember one of our shows Mike Down in Charleston runs a ghost tour and really bad car accident, hospitalized for six months, or so, and Bulldog Tours towards jumped in and ran his tours for him, they’re big competitor. And they were like, “Don’t worry, we’ll help you.
Shane Whaley: And I see this throughout our industry that, and we’ll get on to get you go to Originals in a minute, because that’s going to be interesting how that goes down in the marketplace. Yeah. I’m not sure if somebody had coached Max incorrectly or he didn’t read the room was with my opinions. It’s a shame, FareHarbor do a lot of good stuff. But what I will say is some of the FareHarbor customers who I spoke with were like, “Yeah, we’re not going to leave FareHarbor. We love our market managers. We were just taken aback by the stance.
Chris Torres: I think a lot of people were, But no I’d say, I don’t see how they’re going to affect the business. They’re too big to be honest, so it won’t affect the business that much. Not like I thought.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And there was that central question and I guess this is probably why Max felt he had his back to the wall, because Bokun weren’t up there. And of course, FareHarbor got bought by Booking and there was that discussion should an OTA on a Rez system, et cetera. And I don’t know what you find talking to your customers and people in the industry, but most of my listeners, they don’t really care.
Chris Torres: Yeah. No they don’t.
Shane Whaley: And I know this makes the case that why would you let an OTA on your plumbing? And I understand it, but most small to medium size tours I was like, “I don’t really care as long as it works. As long as it’s price I can afford it, does everything that I need, doesn’t give any headaches. I don’t really care who owns it.”
Chris Torres: Yeah. Oh yeah. No, I agree to a certain extent. I’m not talking about OTAs, et cetera. Whether it’s them buying up Booking platforms, or them promoting their own businesses, etc. OTAs have a place, I think the OTA should be there to compliment the suppliers, and the operators and everything else to help them generate more business.
Chris Torres: But what I agree with Peter Syme in terms of his angle owners is I think OTAs are now getting to a stage where it’s more of a detriment to the industry from a personal perspective, than as a help. Though a lot of businesses out there are looking to grow their own brands and grow their own businesses and actually be a business, but a few are hiding behind a TripAdvisor or GetYourGuide, or any of the other OTAs.
Chris Torres: And your brand is not at the forefront, and you’re also not in charge of your own customer data, then to me that is a major issue. That was an article I wrote all about OTAs, competing onGoogle ads against their own suppliers and everything else is unsustainable suppliers just won’t be able to afford doing their own marketing as well as being on OTAs, is paying the commissions as well as the operating costs, et cetera, et cetera.
Chris Torres: And all these litte things when you’re talking about bookkeeping, another thing else and the whole Tourpreneur aspect of it is how are they going to make money? So something has to change and it’s just unsustainable in my opinion at the moment.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. I mean I come to it from a different view. I worked for an OTA for 15 years or so on the hotel and the tour sites. So I’ve seen how much money can be made by tour operators-
Chris Torres: Oh for sure.
Shane Whaley: … who work with OTAs. And let’s be honest, you deal with Facebook ads, Google ads, you know that’s not cheap and costs are rising. So if you are pairing and paying an OTA 25%, and you’re getting good business out of it, and it’s saving you from either trying to learn Facebook yourself and throw a load of money down the toilet quite frankly, because it’s a tough thing to learn. It takes a while.
Shane Whaley: That’s why there’s people at your own Chris that do this professionally, or going with a digital marketing agency who promised the world and doesn’t deliver. There’s a lot of that going on. And then you look at that 25%. I know Peter Syme is right, you’ve got to look at your bottom line and your profits.
Shane Whaley: But then I do think, “Okay, how much time should you dedicate to running your own Facebook ads and Google ads, versus getting out with your tour guides and doing quality evaluation or talking to your customers to find out, ‘Hey how can we improve this? How can we enhance it? What else would you like to see?’” So I understand the dangers of it. But I do also know the OTAs have supported a lot of tour business.
Chris Torres: Oh, for sure. I know a lot of people may think I’m completely against OTAs. I’m not, like I say, the have the place to have… they do help a lot of different businesses. But I know, I suppose I come to it from the aspect of if a person also who wants to grow their own brand, and have their own brand name and everything else being seen in the industry.
Chris Torres: It’s going to be harder relying on OTAs for that, because obviously a TripAdvisor logo or GetYourGuide logo, or Booking.com logo, or whatever it would be is always going to be at the forefront. But where there’s always…
Chris Torres: To me there should be like something like I don’t know how I would want that, like a noncompete clause. So if you are helping our supplier, you can’t run ads against their own ads and that type of thing. So I think there’s a lot of things that should come into it.
Shane Whaley: You see that that does happen if you have enough clout. So I don’t think I’m betraying confidence, to say this is across the board. So my time at GetYourGuide Empire State Building would come after you, their SEO police and SEM police would really chase you. And I know all the OTAs were threatened with Empire State Building walking away, because they will, because the problem at an OTA…
Shane Whaley: And again, I haven’t worked to GetYourGuide for almost two years, right? So things have changed. It’s the same thing Booking.com. You’ve got almost this room full of geeks that are locked away in a vault and they’re doing all the SEM. So there’s not much conversation, and they don’t want to have keywords that they can’t use, because they’re running all these algorithms and whatever else.
Shane Whaley: So occasionally you will get an error where suddenly an OTA will be keyword in Empire State Building and guarantee you get a phone call from the managing director saying that if this isn’t off by the end of the day, we’re ceasing working with you. So if you have enough clout, there is almost that noncompete. But a rafting tour, or walk in tour, a brewery tour the OTA just going to laugh at you. And then the other day I was looking at, I think this is the big difference I’ve seen.
Shane Whaley: So in my time at GetYourGuide I would scream at them to spend more money on PPC, and adwords for some of our kind of secondary tours and not the Empire State Building but for instance, Jeff who runs Chicago Underground Donut Tours promote that.
Shane Whaley: And I did see a couple months ago that suddenly they are spending a lot more money on those ad-words. Now I don’t know how Jeff feels about that. I’ll have to ask him on another episode of the show, or maybe he wants to respond to this on the Facebook group. He may be happy thinking, “Well yeah, and I’m paying them 25%, but I don’t have to worry about my Google ads.
Shane Whaley: They’re taking care of it for me.” Or he can be like, “No, this is cannibalizing my own campaigns. I want to be in control of it myself. This is something.” And he’s a from a marketing background, so maybe he does feel that way. But for a lot of tour operators it… You’re outsourcing all of that to an OTA.
Chris Torres: No, I completely get that, from our perspective, and I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but from our perspective it’s driving up the cost of Google ads. So it’s actually becoming to a stage now where a lot of operators, especially the smaller ones, just can’t afford to do Google ads and all at the moment are migrating over the Facebook ads, because it’s a lot cheaper and ads are more targeted to be fair, but it’s a lot cheaper option.
Chris Torres: So it’s almost like Google ads is now going to become just for the few other than the many as such. So it’s a double edged sword. I can see the many benefits of OTAs, but I also think it’s having an effect to the industry as a whole, sort it’s just finding that balance, and I just don’t think the balance is there at the moment.
Shane Whaley: You’re right. And I hear the advice, just give the OTAs the tours that you’re struggling to sell or if it’s a quiet period. But I know from experience the OTAs will be all over you if they want your top products. They don’t want your secondary. They want your flagship product and they want it on their books.
Shane Whaley: So it is tough to adhere to that strategy. What I’m excited about with OTA, so last week I was at the America Outdoors Conference in Salt Lake City in Utah. Very, very different sector of the industry. It’s one that I’m not that familiar with. I’m not really much of an outdoors man. I don’t ski and snowboard, but a lot of those guys are… One guy I was talking to, he was asking me about OTAs, and I have to say to him, “Look, I wouldn’t worry about him just for now because he runs snowmobile tours in New Hampshire.
Shane Whaley: And what I can say is that the OTAs are not touching the… I mean I’m sure TripAdvisor have product there, but they’re not certainly not prioritizing it. They’re prioritizing New York, San Francisco, Chicago, LA, et cetera. Those secondary tertiary areas. They will come in time, because the same thing happened in the hotel industry when I started my career in the OTA I worked for a small British company called Active Hotels and Active Hotels went on to be bought by a more well known company called Priceline and Booking.com.
Shane Whaley: But at that time why Active Hotels did really well and ran rings around Expedia was because they had a system where you could be a small BMB Inverness and you could work with the active hotel system. You couldn’t work with the other OTAs at the time, because they took money on Booking, whereas the active model was payment on departure. But my main point is active were able to get into those regions and deliver revenue. That’s what I want to see, and I do feel it’s just a matter of time.
Shane Whaley: So whether it’s New Hampshire, or Inverness for instance, it’s like, “Yeah, I want to see the OTA is promoting those areas,” because the big issue I’ve heard about this year is actually discovery for sure, and how are these most specialist tours get discovered, that’s the headache and that’s when they do need to use ad-words. But even then they go spend a lot of money to the crack of that. And that’s what I’m excited about going forward.
Chris Torres: The sustainability part of that as well, rather than always promoting the heavy populated areas, it’s telling people about and letting them discover the lesser known but equally as great destinations, et cetera and cities, et cetera. So I think-
Shane Whaley: This is why we are talking about Booking this year. So we’ll go onto this Booking have basically shelved their experiences team, which was a big shock. I think to everybody. I still have not found out the reason why. So if there’s any Booking.com HR directors listening, you guys have done a good job, because nobody will talk to me.
Shane Whaley: They’re all like, “No, we can’t say anything,” and I know redundancies are at play, and some people are moving within the organization, but they’ve clammed up. And the reason I bring that up, because I really felt that with Booking with the data that they have. So let’s say I did book a hotel in Inverness.
Shane Whaley: Booking knows I’m there, and then they can flash up on the app, “Hey, here’s three really cool tours or activities in Inverness, that I may not be aware that there’s a biking tour, or a particular walking tour, or a whiskey tour,” whatever it may be. And they’re pushing that to me. So that’s what I was really excited about with Booking.com.
Chris Torres: There is almost a natural journey… your hotel, flights and hotel and then what can you do, what experience can you take? And it all fitted in.
Shane Whaley: And again, if you think about it, they know like, “Oh that person’s inverness for five days. We might be able to offer them a multi-day tour of the highlands and islands.” That’s where I was, and I’m sure the others will get there. But I really felt Booking, we’re kind of in pull position just for the sheer amount of data they have, I mean…
Chris Torres: It was a shock, especially when, was it Glenn Fogel the CEO, was talking about it just at Phocuswrite conference on the video. He was talking about how they are building that area up. And they are actually… Although I find it quite funny about his quote saying they mostly deal with or try to promote direct bookings rather than using Google ads, et cetera.
Chris Torres: Which I thought the irony of that was not lost on me, after talking about that then literally a week or two later, or whenever it was, then they announced that they are pulling out… I don’t know are they pulling out completely, or they’re just not bringing any new ones on board, or they’re still going to offer experiences at the end of the booking and they’re just not bringing in new ones, or they actually… or is that them. Completely done what do you think?
Shane Whaley: So what I had heard, and bearing in mind, this isn’t confirmed, but I’d heard that they basically got rid of all their experiences teams. So you have to ask yourself if they’re keeping attractions, and experiences who’s going to be managing those. But the press office did say we haven’t abandoned that, our strategy is still the same.
Shane Whaley: So we could argue, and again, I have no evidence to offer here that Glenn Muller turned around and said, “Right now this team are not recruiting a product at a speed that we need to compete. We are way behind everyone else. We’re spending all this money on staff. Why wouldn’t they just use FareHarbor?” I was just about to say that maybe this is a precursor, because the agreement they have with FareHarbor is that they bought and now own FareHarbor, but they treat it as a separate company. I wonder if it’s now going to be more integrated and that FareHarbor’s actually going to be running as part of it. And to me that makes more sense.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. And I thought that from day one is that’s why they were buying it. The plug it in and say, “Right now we can have this connected trip that Glen is often talking about.” And I was lucky enough to work closely with Glenn for quite a while.
Shane Whaley: We have a good friendship and he’s one shrewd guy and you just got to look at Priceline stock price for instance. Compare that with Expedia, and compare it with TripAdvisor, and they’ve done amazing things under his stewardship and most of the acquisitions that Priceline/Booking holdings have made were actually made by Glen, that was his department.
Shane Whaley: So I was talking to a couple of Booking people just last week, and what they did say to me, it was that they’re really pleased to have Glenn at the helm and he’s doing really good things internally. So I don’t think they’ve completely pulled out the space. Why would they? It’s valued at 180 billion. They sat and all it’s data, I just think they haven’t quite worked out.
Shane Whaley: I actually think they couldn’t acquire at the speed they needed. Which is quite surprising, because that was part of my role at GetYourGuide and when I was at Booking.com and for them to walk into a tour operator and say, “Hey, we have all these people Booking hotels with us in your city. We want to offer them your tour.” I’m surprised that they weren’t able to acquire it at a quicker pace.
Chris Torres: I think maybe them and… We talked about share prices, obviously TripAdvisor, et cetera lost a lot of shares recently, or the value of the shares. And I think it’s maybe because it’s two fold, it’s one they maybe they underestimated how hard it is to acquire this market, or run in the top tours and activities market.
Chris Torres: But also because it’s not like flights, and it’s not like hotels where it’s quite standardized. It’s such a… And that’s sort of, when it comes to tech, it’s such a fractured industry in that sort of sense. And I think that’s maybe what they’re starting to realize. “Okay. Right. Let’s see.
Chris Torres: It’s take a lot longer than what we thought.” They blamed Google. I don’t agree with that personally. But I’ve got own thoughts on that but they… I just think that they’ve suddenly realized, okay, this is not going to be as easy a nut to crack, because some of the other industries like flights and hotels.
Shane Whaley: I think you’re absolutely right. But then when you think about how, see this is how I view it at Booking, I think that tours and activities was like the ugly stepchild. They probably weren’t getting the resources, because their stock price lives or dies right now by lodging and accommodation.
Shane Whaley: So was Ram’s team given enough resource to actually build what I just described pushing out towards to the app and things like that? Or is it a case they were feeding off scraps and that’s why they didn’t grow as fast? I don’t know. And again, I have no intelligence on that. Just how I perceive having worked for OTA is it’s really hard to get resource.
Chris Torres: Yes. No, I agree. I agree. I think it’s a resource thing. It’s just like I say, it’s a difficult sector to crack, and to get people, and I know this is the same at other destinations as well but, Scotland where I’m from is such a… Has really high rates of tourism coming over to Scotland as you can imagine. But most tour operators over here don’t have websites, or booking capability yet.
Chris Torres: So it’s like that’s why they rely so heavily on OTAs, et cetera for that type of thing. So when you’ve not got that aspect and people so far behind in this industry, and many destinations that’s why we will often Bokun at 0.01% or wherever it was at the time, and stuff and all that’s gone up since then. But they’ll just trying to get people on to our booking platform, which…
Chris Torres: And that’s part of the strategy that TripAdvisor had. I thought it was a good strategy just to get as many people on to a booking platform as possible and allow people to book online. I agree with that, that there were maybe it just didn’t happen quite as fast as what they hoped to. Maybe they’ll shareholders decided to know the investment they had and that this is not what the shareholders decided who don’t really put the brakes on here a little bit or something. So I don’t know.
Shane Whaley: I mean Glenn’s got a track record of being quite ruthless, coming in. I mean he’s come in, he… Then CEO Gillian Tans is now chairwoman. He made that decision quite quickly, so he doesn’t hang about, he won’t let anything linger. He’ll make those quite quickly. So my feeling is they haven’t gone away from the industry.
Shane Whaley: They will be back. I think they will plug into the FareHarbor content and start using that. I just can’t see why they would walk away from an industry that… They need to grow, and it seems to me that they’ve got maybe, I don’t know the percentage, but nearly every lodging in the world pretty much. So where do they grow? How do they grow? They’ve got car hire and also on their website it was kind of hard to find the experiences side as well. So I think there’ll be back.
Chris Torres: Yeah, no, definitely. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be, to be honest. No, if I keep it under sort of a track of the OTAs and what was your mostly to GetYourGuide experiences, I know you had some thoughts on that. What was your… Obviously you used to work there.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, I did, and at the tail end of my time and GetYourGuide the whole originals came up, and I was never a huge fan, and I’ll tell you why. And this was coming from the OTA perspective not even the Tour operator perspective, but what I loved about my time at Booking.com so I manage…
Shane Whaley: I opened up Scandinavian markets. I then opened up West Coast and Canada, oversaw a lot of offices, a lot of important markets, and I loved walking into a hotel with my market manager and saying, “Hey, our data is telling us if you have a minimum of eight photos, if you have a photo of the TV and a photo of the bathroom hotels that have that increased the conversion,” and then it was down to the hotel to say, “Okay, we’ll act on that. We’ll do it.
Shane Whaley: We’ll get someone in to take pictures.” Or they wouldn’t, and that was down to them. And I love that. Giving the data to everybody, making it a level playing field and saying, “This is what we’ve learned on conversion.” Now I don’t know, because obviously I left GetYourGuide a while ago how that’s working now, but there is a part of me that just feels, “What if they have GetYourGuide, are they just going to give all that data to their originals partner, and not to the rest of the market?”
Shane Whaley: And that’s something that had I still been there, I would have struggled with, because I want to see everyone take advantage of that data and succeed. And if anyone can get you guys listening, if that’s completely incorrect and you’re still giving that data out, then forgive me and I apologize and let us know, but that was what… When you start to pick favorites in a market, and also on the flip side of it there is…
Shane Whaley: I remember Tao Tao did his, Ask Me Anything Arival Berlin and I got my microphone out, spoke to some tour operator said, “Hey, you want to come on and share your views about GetYourGuide Originals .” They were like, “No. We want to come on air. We’re really annoyed about it. We think it’s competing with us, but they give us so much business.” I don’t want to go on the record, which I completely understand, because why would you. I am hearing from the industry a lot of discomfort around this.
Shane Whaley: And then there was the talk that my former boss, Johannes Reck the CEO gave where he was saying that in a few years time he wants 50% of their business to be GetYourGuide Original, and you just start to think, “Well what does that mean? That if you’re running Walking Tours in Edinburgh and they’re coming in and branding another Walking Tours, what does that mean for your business? Why should you bother working with GetYourGuide if they’re just going to have that one favored Walking Tour. How do you do that?”
Chris Torres: Yeah, it’s going to go… Obviously they’re trying to go along the model of Airbnb, or the Airbnb experiences, or even other Tours by Locals as well, because they’re always branded up Tours by Locals and they use their own guides and they actually train up their own guides as well and stuff.
Chris Torres: So they’ve obviously been working at that model and thinking, Okay, for whatever reason they like that model, rather than trying to be another TripAdvisor. So maybe I can see maybe why they’re doing it, because they’re trying to do something different from their TripAdvisor, et cetera. But not what other people that are doing it all. Like I said, Tours by Locals and Airbnb.
Chris Torres: So it’s a funny one. That’s a funny one. I feel like if you’re just an operator who does tours themselves, and you don’t really want the aspect of running our business then yeah, Tours by locals or GetYourGuide Experiences or Airbnb experiences, perfect. That’s probably the ideal situation you can be in and just take out passive income from it. But if you don’t want to be an Uber driver as such with your own business and with your own brand it’s not going to be for you.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And I think… I mean I get it from a brand perspective as well, because I think it’s fair to say there is no brand loyalty in tours and activities yet. There’s some global players like Gray Line for instance, or maybe city sightseeing or Big Bus, but generally like I went on a tour in Salt Lake City, I don’t even know the name of that tour operator because we work in this bubble, right?
Shane Whaley: But if I was Joe public, I would not be able to tell you that it was city sites who ran that tour. So I think what you got to try to do is to build the originals up. So let’s say I’ve come to Edinburgh, but a really good experience on GetYourGuide Originals. I’m going to Berlin, “Oh, I wonder if they have one of those Originals tours GetYourGuide. I think that’s also a route to them building that brand.
Shane Whaley: And I get it, they have a lot of criteria in order to be a GetYourGuide Originals, I think it’s the average score was 4.8 out of five, whereas their average across the board for most of their non-original product is 4.4. So I get it. They’re creating… They’re trying to create a standard, which we’ve talked about a lot in hotels, star ratings, et cetera. We don’t have that in tours. So I agree with you in some ways that it’s a double edged sword.
Shane Whaley: I like the standard. Creating standards. I get they’re trying to build a brand, but in the shoes of a tour operator, I’d be very, very nervous.
Chris Torres: Yeah. And you made a good point when you mentioned Gray Line and Big Bus et cetera, et cetera. I know it’s technically, and they’re going to probably hate me for saying this, but they are technically for lack of a better word an OTA as well as people going to buy into the brand, or whether it’s a licensee , or a franchise or whatever it will be that are buying into that brand.
Shane Whaley: But that’s people consciously think, “Okay, I want to run my business. I want to change my brand from this to this,” because they value that brand, Gray Line et cetera. They are all amazing brands that are well known across the world, so why not. And also that’s what GetYourGuide are trying to do with that as well. So yeah, it can work for big businesses as well, but it’s…
Shane Whaley: As well as those big businesses that would want to… But you can imagine like… Gray Line Orlando for example, suddenly not going to be Gray Line Orlando anymore. We’re going to be getting GetYourGuide Originals. It’s going to be a harder nut to crack I would have thought.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And what happens when… So as I understand listening to Wilfred Fan at Klook, at Arival Bangkok, he was saying that there wasn’t a route they were going to go down, but that could change, because all these OTAs are looking and if they see, GetYourGuide achieving success with Originals, they’re going to pile in. So what are you going to have Klook Originals and Expedia Originals and it’s again, again, very interesting marketplace with everyone picking favorites.
Chris Torres: Yeah. And look, it’s going to be, well, you mentioned Expedia is going to be adjusted, but they are going to do it after the CEOs resigned. So it’s… Was it Mark? Was is Okerstrom? Is that how you pronounce it?
Shane Whaley: Yeah.
Chris Torres: Allan Pectoral so it’s… That was a shocker. I wasn’t expecting that one. But it just shows you how… Like I said, we mentioned earlier it just shows you how volatile this industry is in terms of them trying to crack it… they obviously has a lot of disagreements and some… I don’t know what those disagreements were, but obviously didn’t align with what Expedia are trying to do.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And it’s all tied to the stock price for these big public companies. Once that starts plummeting, as we know it will start to roll. Barry Diller he’s not shrinking violent either. He will take action when needed to protect the business, so I don’t… I don’t know how you feel about the tours and activities with Expedia. I don’t come across them so much.
Shane Whaley: I don’t really come across them promoting their tours. Not many of our guests have really talked about them as an OTA that delivers a lot of bookings. I’ve always… Again, you would think maybe they suffer the same issue I discussed with Booking where maybe they are not getting the resource out of Expedia in order to build this into a real kind of OTA for tours and activities, because they’ve got the data…
Chris Torres: They’ve got the data, and they are a massive company I think, no, obviously the bigger than Europe, I believe, than they are anybody else but always remember Expedia way back when we used to develop websites and did all these things as well, et cetera. Or when you actually looked at the systems Expedia had at that time, and maybe even still today, there were still quite far behind some of the other tech companies in that sort of sense.
Chris Torres: And I think that maybe playing a little bit of catch up in terms of that. So I think that’s what their thought process are still going through. Though I would hate to say it, but that’s one of the reasons why Thomas Cook went under, but they were playing catch up or they left a hell of a lot… They left too late, to be at forefront of the industry in terms of… When you think about it…
Chris Torres: The amount of data Thomas Cook would have had as well, with all the shops that they had and everythng else. The flights, the accommodations, the experiences that they had and everything else. The packages that they offered, they should never have went under, but they just left things a lot to late. And I think Expedia are still going through that phase as well personally, but…
Shane Whaley: Which is why I always felt… And again, I don’t have any evidence for this, but I always thought Expedia were going to come in and buy GetYourGuide at some point. Or it would either be Booking would buy them, because at that time GetYourGuide we’re an affiliate partner at the end of your booking hotel, there was a GetYourGuide link plus Kees Koolen the former CEO of Booking was on the board of GetYourGuide. But I always had a feeling that Expedia would come in and buy GetYourGuide.
Chris Torres: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. I just think that they just do things that a little bit slower than they maybe should have done. And I think that’s maybe why they are where they are at the moment. So yeah, it’s an interesting one. I’ve got a funny feeling we’re going to hear more from Expedia for good or for worse over the next year or two. I think.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. I don’t hear much from them. That’s the thing. It’s like I never hear on the tours and activities side anyway. Maybe that will change with the new order over at Expedia or where they just doubled down on their lodging product and flights if that is sent down. I think another interesting thing that I observed with Johannes Rex talk in Berlin where he said GetYourGuide is number one in Europe.
Shane Whaley: We’re number two in the United States and soon to be number one. Now, obviously a few years ago he was privy to those numbers. There was a big gap quite frankly. But looking now, for instance when I was in Salt Lake City last week, I pulled up both apps and TripAdvisor, this was the score. It was like a rugby score. Tripadvisor 68, GetYourGuide four in terms of activities.
Shane Whaley: Now again, Salt Lake City, lovely place. But I’m guessing it’s a secondary or tertiary city. I’m pretty confident that GetYourGuide haven’t really focused on Salt Lake City yet, which… There’s a lot of outdoor activities that go on there, and there’s…
Shane Whaley: I can say TripAdvisor had 68 activities, so when he says they’re going to be number one quick soon in the US, I did kind of raise my eyebrows and thought, “Is that just fighting talk.” And then I’m not privy to the value that they’re delivering in their biggest cities, but I’m pretty sure if I did an audit of these secondary and tertiary destinations, that trip would be some way ahead.
Chris Torres: Yeah. No, I would agree. I would agree. Yeah. Just go back to your point about not Expedia, possibly buying GetYourGuide et cetera, I couldn’t happen now with that the amount of investment they’ve had. It’s impossible for anybody to buy GetYourGuide. Unfortunately, GetYourGuide they are now in that position where they have to make it work, or they’re going to have to sell it cheap.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And I’m being pretty candid on this chat today. I mean, if Johannes listens, I’m not picking on you, but he also said at Phocuswrite Yeah, SoftBank or an investor, but they’re just along for the ride. And I was like, “No. No one has to chip in millions just for the ride.” And the whole SoftBank thing. It’s like you and I, putting money on Rangers and Celtic to win the title, because they pump money into Klook and they’ve pumped money into GetYourGuide. It’s a really odd situation.
Chris Torres: After throwing money aboard, I’m sure we can take some to help from all the podcasts and shows and everything else.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely
Chris Torres: That’s a punt for you if you can do that.
Shane Whaley: Doesn’t feel wrong for the ride, right? I mean…
Chris Torres: But it really is interesting and I know you are focusing on that and you’ve spoken about Groupon and Amazon, what they are possibly going to be doing, et cetera. Groupon are a funny one in my opinion, because especially here in Europe. Groupon are seen by many as a provider of huge discounted products, whether it’s tours or other products or restaurants or any other things like that…
Chris Torres: And I think that is one of the other issues. I know that trying to really get into the space and grow the space within the tours and activities market, but I think a lot of people will only use them because they expect huge discounts. And a lot of operators just can’t provide the discounts that they’re looking for.
Chris Torres: And I think they’ve got a bit of an issue with the brand because of that. They really have got a lot of work to do to overcome the discount sort look and feel to the brand. I don’t know if they could pull off to be honest. I don’t know what your thoughts are on that, but-
Shane Whaley: Yeah, it’s interesting, because at Arival Orlando, there was a poster in the foyer, which was something like Groupon and there was some… I’ll have to pull up the image now of the photo, but they said no discounts or whatever else. I was like, “Okay, interesting.” And I went over to their stand, and I spoke to someone who was there and she didn’t really know what was happening.
Shane Whaley: And then I said, “Look can you get your sales director to call me? I’d love to get him on the show, because a lot of our listeners are confused,” because she was telling me, “No, no. We’re not discounting on the tour side,” yet I spoke to someone fairly recently and he was a Tourpreneur and said, “No, no. They made us discount.”
Shane Whaley: And maybe they have a two pronged approach, but I would love them to come out on your show or and just explain it a little bit more about what they’re trying to do. I feel you’re right. And also what I’ve heard from our listeners is when they have run deals with Groupon, I think it used to be if you worked with Viator automatically added to Groupon. There was something that…
Chris Torres: Yeah, that hapened to Peter Syme, again to mention him. I know that he had some one of his tours through Viator, then all of a sudden he came on Groupon and now and it just happened automatically and it wasn’t really the type of customer that he was trying to attract. So yeah.
Shane Whaley: And I also heard that the discount buyers are the absolutely worst for leaving bad reviews. They’re expecting a lot more quality or whatever it may be, and they’re quick to leave negative. And that’s weird, isn’t it? You get a 50% off a hotel room, or an activity and then you leave a crappy review. And I worked for a couple of years as VP of sales at a company called Secret Escapes-
Chris Torres: Oh yeah…
Shane Whaley: … which I’m sure you’d be familiar with in the UK. So they did flash hotel deals, deep discounts, but only four star and up. And I’ve got onto a lot of these hoteliers and they won’t touch Groupon with the barge pole. They call them the ramen noodle brigade, or pot noodle brigade for your British listeners.
Shane Whaley: And I don’t mean to be snobby here at all, but what they were saying was those customers would come in, they’d buy cans of beer for their room and sandwiches, they wouldn’t spend it. And the whole thing about flash deal is those hoteliers… Yeah, they want to fill up some rooms, but they want you to have a couple of drinks at the bar, or maybe a meal, or a breakfast, or something. And they never did spend that.
Chris Torres: That’s the whole point. It’s because it’s people looking for something cheap. And that’s… Yeah, that’s a viable market to go after and if that’s what you want to do, but If you are a four or five star hotel, you want people to come in and take meal, et cetera. Then that is not the customer you want.
Chris Torres: They are going to just go out and go to McDonald’s or beer in McDonald’s and have a couple cans of beer. Other burger chains do exist by the way… That’s a… No, it’s just that, that’s not the customer you’re going to try to attract if it’s a four or five star hotel. No, that’s…
Shane Whaley: Yeah. So that’s interesting because maybe they are going to… I mean let’s see what they do. They’ve been very, very quiet about it, but yet they must’ve pumped a fair bit of money into Arival to be a launch partner. That doesn’t come cheap, so maybe they’re going to take this seriously. And you are quite right to mention Amazon. There was a discussion a few months ago.
Shane Whaley: I know some of our listeners said they’d been approached by Amazon confidentially. They weren’t allowed to say much about it. But I haven’t heard any more about that. And I’m reminded a few years ago of Amazon, we’re going to come into the hotel space and in fact they were in the United States for a grand total, I think it was of three months. And then they just pulled the plug and said, “Yeah, this isn’t for us.”
Shane Whaley: And I’ve always admired them for it. Bit like maybe what’s happening with Booking we were like, “Oh yeah, this is a lot more difficult than we anticipated.” And I dodged a bullet there, because they headhunted me to head up their sales division for these coasts and it’s Amazon. I was really tempted, but in the end I said, “No, I’m loyal to Secret Escapes. I’m going to stay there.” A month later they go, I’m like, “Whew. Wow.”
Chris Torres: Dodged the bullet.
Shane Whaley: Big time. Big time. So what do you think they’re up to?
Shane Whaley: There are for sure. They’ll get into so many different things now that they are… They want to be the Walmart of the online, which they are already with that, and they know what to do. So they want to bring in activities, they want to bring in tours. They will eventually come back into the hotel space again.
Chris Torres: I would be surprised if they eventually do have flights to become what Virgin are at the moment, there are probably aspirations for that as well at some point. So they will come back into it and I have been hearing similair rumors as well that they’d been approaching certain operators, et cetera, and trying to bring that part of the business in. So it makes sense for one of the biggest online retailer that is in the world.
Chris Torres: So why would you have something on there but people can buy an experience and give a gift for a loved one, or just to book up a holiday. I think it becomes a one stop shop for pretty much everything. It’s very much like WeChat in Asia where you can get everything on WeChat if they can do that in terms of the Western market, then yeah, they are going to make up.
Chris Torres: I would be surprised if someone like Amazon would come in and buy one of the OTAs, or buy one of the Booking systems whatever it would be to integrate it even more. I wrote an article a while back, a bit more tongue in cheek but I still think it could happen, or Facebook buying TripAdvisor for example. But that doesn’t mean to say Amazon could by TripAdvisor, or something.
Chris Torres: They have the money to do it. Or even Apple, I think Apple will come into the space as well, they’re developing autonomous vehicles that will no doubt… bring in tours and things aren’t then that as well. So there’ll be other companies out there that’ll be… We don’t realize who will come into the space at some point.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. I always say it’s like the gold rush right now, isn’t it? Everyone’s rushing to the West to dig for gold. Some companies are meters away from the seam, and giving up. And then others like GetYourGuide got to give them credit. They’ve been around for a long time at this. There was a lot of learning.
Shane Whaley: I think that’s the key to acquisition. If you think about it, GetYourGuide have got 10 years of mistakes behind them. Whereas if you want to start a fresh like an Amazon, I mean you’ve got all those mistakes to make. Whereas if you come in, and buy that knowledge and expertise.
Chris Torres: And admit to me that makes me makes more sense for Amazon, or Facebook, or whatever the looking at the industry of what’s happening. Just know over the last three or four years they’ll see how turbulent it’s been and the success.
Shane Whaley: as well its had. And then within a few years time they will go, when things may look as if it might… Might take another five years, but if it starts to get a bit more standardized, and things like that, that’s when we’ll just come in and go, “I’ll have that.” And they’ll have another space.
Shane Whaley: The company we haven’t talked about, because they’re primarily consumer. They’re an OTA, but they’re concerned mainly with attractions is Tiquets with a Q, because they got 60 million from Airbnb, which was a puzzle to me, because it seems to be different from Airbnb experiences, whether again they’ll merge them at some point in the future.
Shane Whaley: But well done to the tickets team, because I had fears about them. I didn’t know if they could last with all the money being pumped into GetYourGuide and Klook and up against Trip. I was a bit worried for Tiquets and that’s not because I’ve heard anything bad about them. I think they’re a great company, but taking real deep pockets to compete in that space…
Chris Torres: That’s going to be a… It’s going to be an issue for many of the booking. I think it was Arival there, they mentioned something like the 150 Booking platforms that then reservation systems, or whatever it is. It’s incredible. Not within the next five years. I’d be lucky if I was going to be 25 of them, or 50 of them or several of them. If enforced, there’s going to be acquisition.
Chris Torres: Some are just going to fall to the wayside, there are a lot of good companies, Tiquets is one. There are a lot of good really good companies out there. And I like the aspect that they are more independent, or this is one of the reasons why I like things like Peek Pro and all the other ones, because they are independent.
Chris Torres: They don’t have a FareHarbor or TripAdvisor hanging over their head and shareholder’s saying, “You need to make this, you need to make that.” There’s always going to be a place for an independent system. But yeah there has to be consolidation that can continue with 150 different platforms.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, you say that… My eyeopener last week was… So there was a massive kind of exhibition area, vending area and I was like, “Wow.” So Peak were there, they had a booth, FareHarbor had a booth, FlyBook. And I didn’t realize until last week that FlyBook actually started out, which was a Booking engine for Fly Fishermen and Fly Fishing Tours.
Shane Whaley: So they kind are of that ilk and got them being there. And then there was these other booking platform guys that I was not familiar with. And when I was asking around some of the attendees, or “Who were using your online Bookings,” it was two or three of either these adventure booking platforms that I want to say 90% of people were using, no one said Peak, no one said FareHarbor.
Shane Whaley: It was these guys. And, I said to Douglas Quinby, because we had dinner together and I was like, “I hadn’t even heard of these guys. Are they in the 150 that we think are out there?” So I think by niche, maybe if you’ve got someone who’s like, “Yeah we’re just specialize on food tours,” or, “Yeah, we’re just specialize on ghost tours.” Now, I don’t know if that’s sustainable as a business.
Shane Whaley: I don’t know the margins and the finances, but I think… Then I could see a smaller Booking platform working, because you know you’re running a food tour, they understand the challenges, they understand what you need to run that food tour. But yeah, I think it will be a blood bath. And I hate to say this, but every time I attend them on Arival I think, “Oh. You know what Booking platforms are not going to be around this year that I met last year.” It’s a market economy. It’s competition. It’s what happens.
Chris Torres: Yeah, it’s actually quite funny. And I do a similar thing. I take… There was a roll banner of all… it was obviously not all 150 but I put quite a lot of Booking platforms on it. I took a photograph of it, and if they have a summer thing of the year.
Chris Torres: at Arival I take another photograph of it, and just sort of see what the differences are each year on year. Let’s see who’s dropped off or merged or so. Yeah. It’s quite an interesting one. So what would you say was your sort of finish off more positive notes, etc. So what would you say is your highly of the year? What stood out for you in 2019?
Shane Whaley: There was a lot because obviously Tourpreneur started in January of this year. It was an idea-
Chris Torres: Well done to get past your first year?
Shane Whaley: Yeah.
Shane Whaley: This was your first year?
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And when I was at GetYourGuide, one of my frustrations and I think every sales director experiences this, that you are so involved in strategy meetings. I think 80% of my time there I was involved in recruitment, because we were building a big team that I just didn’t get enough time to get out and sit with tour operators. Yeah.
Shane Whaley: I sat with the Empire State Building and Disney and all of those, but I never sat down with a brewery tour, or a walking tour. So I’d always… What they fascinated me, and what fascinates me about this space more than any other, is if you have a passion for local breweries that you can build a tour around it and you can make a living out of it. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s hard. It’s not easy at all. And I love hearing these stories of how people are, “Oh yeah, I was a lawyer, but I got fed up of all that.”
Shane Whaley: Or I got fed up with in the corporate world and I run brewery tours, or a punk rock walking tour of New York. And I love what I’m doing. Every single day I get out of bed with a smile on my face. And I think for me that’s been the real highlight is speaking to people who are happy to go to work, happy to build a business they love that seeing smiling faces on the guests. And also just what’s available in terms of technology. If you think…
Shane Whaley: I was joking with someone the other day about 20 years ago, 10 years ago to an extent, marketing you’d put an ad in the paper and wait for the phone to ring. You had no idea if that ad was resonating. Whereas you know more than anyone else, because you stick a Facebook ad up, you see straight away, “Oh it’s not converting, let’s change image. Oh now it’s converting. Oh no, it’s not. Let’s change the title.”
Shane Whaley: All of that ninja tricks that you guys do, and we are able to do within a matter of days to kind of work out if the ad is effective or not. So I’m really excited about more people discovering more of the specialized tours. Everyone who goes to New York city know they can get a… Actually I say that about the Empire State Building.
Shane Whaley: One of my frustrations always used to be still as I was there last weekend, I walked past the Empire State Building, I see a big line of people outside. That’s just the line to buy a ticket. That’s not the line to get in. And I’m like, “You woke up to smartphones. Just use them to book your GetYourGuide, Tiquets, TripAdvisor, whatever. At least book your ticket to get in there. So we have a long way to go-
Chris Torres: We do.
Shane Whaley: … even with the big, big names, but I really look forward to smaller tour operators using the technology that’s out there, because let’s be honest as well that yes, of course your business relies on paying customers that like, “Yeah, I don’t have time to do it. I don’t have time to learn it.
Shane Whaley: I don’t have time to make mistakes with Facebook. I’ll give them money to Chris, let him go do it.” But for people who are just starting out who don’t have any revenue, there’s YouTube videos they know what your channel is, like I said at the start of the show, I learned so much through watching you.
Shane Whaley: Even when I started Tourpreneur and I always share that I just paid 400 bucks for a session with someone and then the next week you put out a show that basically covered what she told me and I’m like, “Wow, Chris would have just saved me 400 bucks,” right? So I am excited about this. I’m excited about more Arivals next year. I think they get better each year.
Chris Torres: They are listening. They’re learning this week Skift announced that they are having a one day tour for-
Chris Torres: That’s interesting.
Shane Whaley: One day summit for tour operators. And let’s be clear, because they reached out to me and said, “No, no, no.” He said, “We’re not competing with a rival. This is for the multi-day tour sector, which is still a really important sector.”
Chris Torres: Certainly is a lot of our customer base is multi day. We have obviously a lot of day tour companies here as well that we help. But multi-day is such a huge part of industry. And that’s a funny one, because it’s all the really Tour Radar that are the OTA that helps with that. So everyone else hasn’t really looked that market or cracked that market yet. So it’s… But the guys at Tour Radar they’re doing a really good job with that.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. I think GetYourGuide will get in there. I think right now they want to do day tours then they’re going to move into multi-day tours, and maybe that is something where they can be I think more successful. The best multi-day tour I ever did was actually in your home country of Scotland.
Shane Whaley: I did a Rabbies tour if Highlands and Islands, and one of the best tours I ever went on, it was just you sit back in a mini bus, let someone else drive, someone else sorts the hotels out, the tickets… Anyway, I can go on. So that’s exciting. And then also on the back of that, Chris there was a… I wasn’t able to attend it, but there was I think a one day event or a half day event at World Travel Market this year for tours and activities.
Shane Whaley: There was a day at ITB in Berlin. So these are big powerhouse names. WTM, ITB, Skift who are all now taking our industry seriously. It’s almost like, “Oh yeah, we’ve ignored this sector,” and what I love about Arival every year they’re getting more and more attendees, and I’m hoping the Skift event draws a good crowd as well, because they know these people are not going to run the events.
Shane Whaley: But I know, and you know from your subscribers and viewers that tour operators are hungry for information. They’re hungry to learn. They want to take that knowledge and implement it in their business, because there are a lot of empty suit gurus out there that will charge them a load of money for so-called marketing advice, and they don’t understand the language of tours and activities. You do. You’re in the middle of it. This is what you do, Tom Crouch at TRK is another one.
Chris Torres: Yeah. He does it.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. These are good people in the industry. So I’ll shut up now, but I’m really excited about next year and the years after for tours and activities. This is why we do what we do.
Chris Torres: No. And you hit the nail on the head this is why I put so much free content. So yeah, I run a business, I run a marketing agency, I’ve got staff to pay. Obviously I need to make money to keep the business going. And to make my wife happy. I’ve got a wage coming in and feeding the kids. But then I’m a big believer in terms of when you’re doing marketing as offering as much free advice as possible.
Chris Torres: I want to see the industry grow. I want to educate the industry as much as possible. Because at the end of the day people will off the back of that will just come and approach me anyway and ask for help if we need to have the need to et cetera. I understand that we can’t help everyone. There’s a lot of small businesses out there just don’t have budgets for marketing et cetera, or using an agency for marketing.
Chris Torres: So I’ve been able to sort of say, “Look, this is what you need to do. And then maybe a few years down the line when you are out of the stage where you want to know work on your business rather than that you do want to look at an agency then that’s what he had for you. But I’ve given up free advice.
Chris Torres: I want to see the industry grow as a whole, because it’s such an… As I’ve always says for me, I’m the same it really is the best part of travel. No one really remembers the flights they take or the hotel that they stayed in, but they’ll always remember the experiences they had in their destination. And that to me is the absolute spine and backbone of the industry.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. And here’s the thing, your book right now, up until 31st of December, Lookers into Bookers is five bucks. That’s a pint of beer, or maybe half a pint in London. I live in Vermont.
Chris Torres: But I always say. I thought, again, it’s just one of these things. No, I don’t make money from the book. It’s purely there to… Basically the money that I’ve made so far is basically it’s covered the print costs, because it wasn’t a cheap to print but 400 pages, et cetera. It wasn’t a cheap book to print.
Chris Torres: So yeah, I thought now, the print side of it is sold out at the moment. I hope to do another print run. So I thought with the digital one Christmas coming up in January is always a busy time for tour operators, or for most tour operators. But I will not stick up for a fiver, if helps someone know for five pounds to book a few extra tours, then to me it’s done the job.
Shane Whaley: Yeah. And I have both versions. I have the print version, because I’m old school, but I love having on my Kindle as well when I’m away from the office, or if I just want to quickly the search for something. So thank you for making it… Someone asked me the other day on Instagram, “Are you going to release an audible version?
Chris Torres: It doesn’t really lend itself to that, because there’s pictures and guides and workshops within it. So I don’t think so in having 400 pages of listening to me doing the audio It might work too well. I don’t know. But it’s a… But I’m going to need to probably use a translator for it if that was the case.
Shane Whaley: That’s what I said. I said, “Well I dip in and out of your book. I don’t read it cover to cover.” I will be like, “Oh I need to do some work on Instagram, let me go and read up on my book.”
Chris Torres: And that is the beauty of the book… it’s Broken up into sections so you can do that.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. So thank you for writing it, because I rely on it a lot.
Chris Torres: Not at all. Not at all. Now I’d like to also sort of mention that for what you guys do and Tourprenuer does. I don’t listen to that many podcasts. But your’s is one I listened to religiously and I was like, without giving you a big head… what you’re doing in the industry, giving tour operators a voice and everything else’s it’s required and it’s needed.
Chris Torres: And I commend you for it, and I know you’re looking at doing it for a year, and I know you have to… You’re not going to be there for another year, et cetera. And so hopefully fingers crossed you can continue and keep it going.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, the plan is, recruits from sponsors, because obviously like you said, got to keep family happy and put food on the table and everything else. As much as I love doing this, I can’t really afford another expensive hobby. But yeah, I just think that what I’m trying to do with the podcast is Chris, you are an expert in your field. People, pay you to market their tours and activities. I’ve always worked for an OTA. I’ve not run my own tour business.
Shane Whaley: So what I try and do on the Tourpreneur show is the guest is the expert. The guest is the guru. I want to help flatten the learning curve by sharing someone’s challenges or a nightmare situation they had, or how they got started. And I think the most encouraging thing for me is the amount of people who write and say, “Hey, you know what? I’ve been thinking of running my own tour for years and wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Shane Whaley: I love listening to your show and I’m planning on launching next year.” What I call Tourpreneurs in waiting, because the great thing about capitalism and market economy, and the free market is we have the tools to do this and we have the tools to get out there and make a living doing what we love.
Shane Whaley: I read a lot online about people that doom and gloom merchants, and lots of stuff going on in the world. But when you look at the economy and the tools we have, we can build a business. It’s not easy. It’s tough. I know many fail, but the tools are out there, and the knowledge is out there that will enable us to make a living doing something we love.
Chris Torres: Yeah. Oh, definitely. Yeah. And I can’t wait for the Toupreneur global event to happen at some point when you bring it all together.
Shane Whaley: I leave the experts like Douglas of Bruce or Alex to do events. I’m more than happy to support all the tour operator that are out there. But I appreciate the vote of confidence.
Chris Torres: So I’d like to finish on sort of I know who I would select, but with all the tour operators you’ve spoke to or seen over the last 12 months, who has been your most outstanding tour operator that you’ve came across so far? Who do you would think? I know you’ve probably got so many you can choose, but if you had to pick one, who would it be?
Shane Whaley: I think we’re going to pick the same one here. And that’s Invisible Cities.
Chris Torres: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say.
Shane Whaley: And I love what Zakia is doing. I love her passion for this. She’s not doing it to be a celebrity. She really believes in her mission, and the fact that they donate 100% of their profits back. No, not 50%, 70%. It’s 100% of their profits back. It’s really hard not to be motivated by that, and inspired by it.
Shane Whaley: So that’s one I’d pick. And then I think the other one I actually, just put another one in there, is Jessie at Walk on the Wild Side Tours in New York City, because he was telling me he loves music, he loves punk, post-punk and all that. And he’s built his own tour around walking tours around these sites in New York, which is a very expensive place to live.
Shane Whaley: And I went on the tour with him and he said, “Yeah I’m making profit now. Now I’m making a living. It’s taken me eight months,” and now I take my hat off to him because it’s hard work. It’s lonely what we do. It can be quite isolating because our friends don’t understand our industry. And so yeah, I mean all the Tourpreneur guests are great. That can be wrong. But that story can resonate with me. How he’s taking his passion for music, built a business around it and making a living in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Chris Torres: And that’s when you meet the more successful tours. It’s when it’s something you’re passionate about, you can tell good stories, highlight the experience. And that to me, that’s a… From a marketing company’s point of view, that’s an absolute dream to work with because that’s what you want.
Chris Torres: But do I agree with the first one Invisible Cities and for anyone listening or watching who doesn’t know who invisible studies are, watch the Arival video that they posted on there, and she was one of the first speakers. Zakia basically takes homeless people, turns them into tour guides and gives them their lives back.
Chris Torres: And I know for a fact that after that speech at Arival, the amount of people who came up to and spoke to her through that whole event was incredible. And the number of awards that she has won this last year as well, it’s been well justified. So it’s a company I keep watching, I love what she’s doing and long may it continue.
Shane Whaley: What I like about Zakia she’s honest. She doesn’t… Yeah, she says, “Yes, sometimes it’s tough to get those guys to turn up on time, and look presentable because that’s the…” But she’s honest about that. To quote her, she said it’s bloody hard, and that’s why I admire her as well.
Shane Whaley: She’s not getting up like a Gwyneth Paltrow saying this is like unicorn poop or whatever. I know she’s really saying, “Yeah, this is-” Sorry Gwyneth, I know you’re listening to this show… and Chris Martint and I don’t like Cold Play. But no, I respect the fact she’s being honest about how tough it is.
Chris Torres: No, no. True. Exactly, and all credit to her. It’s a very, very hard job. But no, giving people the life back is such an incredible thing. And doing it in a way that… The thing I like about what she does with their businesses is not a charity. It’s actually set up as a proper business, gives the people that she’s helping a sense of security, because it’s seen as a job, not as a handout as it were. So it’s a… Should I say that’s incredible.
Shane Whaley: I’m excited, I’m chatting to her shortly. I’m going to start next year. The first two openings we will be with her, because I want… January can be a tough month, right? You’ve had Christmas, new year and it’s like back to it, and I want to start the year with some inspiration, and I just… I don’t think there’s anyone who can beat her right now in our space.
Chris Torres: Especially just after the Christmas and new year period and especially for a lot of homeless people, not going to be on the ship. Some good stories and things I had to tell from that one.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris Torres: So finally, what would you say is your… What are you looking forward to in 2020? What do you think is going to happen in the next year?
Shane Whaley: Oh, really tough question. I don’t know. I think there’s going to… I think I agree with you. I think there’s going to be more acquisition news, I think.
Chris Torres: I think there’s going to be a lot more of it than it has been over the last couple of years. I think 2020 is going to see a massive amount of acquisitions, and some surprising people coming in, whether it’s Amazon, or something along that sort of lines coming in and buying one of the systems, or one of the OTAs or whatever. I think that’s be a big shake up in 2020 personally.
Shane Whaley: I also hope… And again, I know this is really difficult for tour operators to offer, but I would love to see dynamic pricing coming in as well this year. I just think there’s such a big opportunity there to sell spaces on your bus when you’re quiet and have a premium price when you be again, I know this is really, really hard in terms of the technology and I’d love to see that come in.
Chris Torres: Yeah, no, definitely. But again, that’s why all the OTAs are having issues. there’s nothing standardized at the moment. The industry needs to have a more standardized system and I know a lot booking platforms may not like that, but that there has to be something to standardize the industry like what happened with hotels, because it’s not going to…
Chris Torres: It’s going to get to the stage where it can’t grow any further, or it’s always going to be sort of left behind compared to the other industries. So it has to… Something has to happen over the next couple of years. Hopefully that will happen at some point.
Shane Whaley: The other thing I’d like to see happen, maybe a bit controversial is I would like to see Airbnb become a proper OTA. All these policies they have about minimums and you can only take air… Which they turn a blind eye to a lot of that. You can only take Airbnb. Again, there’s a lot of data and I’m thinking of the tour operator out there, particularly those who have more specialists towards using Airbnb.
Shane Whaley: I know they’re being very picky who they’re working with. I’m like, “Oh, come on, just be on OTA. You can still curate and have some slightly different than the main OTA. But I really would like to see you just become an OTA.”
Chris Torres: No, I agree. I’ll put my hands up… Anywhere I’m going on a destination. The first place I look at is an Airbnb. I haven’t bought an experience on Airbnb yet, but certainly for accommodation it’s the first place I’ll look up. I think they’re sitting in a little Goldmine now. All they need to just push that button, and they can really blow up and I think.
Shane Whaley: I think you’re right. And I think, as I said, the big pin point I’ve heard about in 2019 we’ll hear it again next year is discovery. How do my tours get discovered? And they can play a huge part in that.
Chris Torres: And to be fair enough, Booking are moving more out of the experience space that opens a door for Airbnb. And so why not push a button on it?
Shane Whaley: I agree.
Chris Torres: It’s going to interesting times, that’s for sure.
Shane Whaley: Definitely. That’s why we do what we do. Every morning I wake up, I write the brief. It’s like, “Okay, what’s happened today? Who’s resigned? Who’s being bought? What new tours are out there?” It’s just such and I know it can be a frustrating industry to make money out as well, but it’s… I can’t see myself ever working in another industry and especially if you say I’m going to do his best part of travel as well. So it’s exciting.
Chris Torres: For sure. I must say I’m so ingrained in this industry and I’m so invested in it and I love it. It’s a bit hard to work on anything else.
Shane Whaley: Definitely.
Chris Torres: Well Shane, it’s been an absolute pleasure. We need to do this more often, I think maybe…
Shane Whaley: I think you are right.
Chris Torres: Yeah, maybe every six months, or so we’ll do a lot of review view of what’s happened at least or something like that. We can buy enough forces to do another wee mashup. I think that’d be-
Shane Whaley: I think that’d be great. And what do the listeners think? That’s the important thing. Just like with tours, asking guests, “Chris and I rapped on too much here and rambled, or have you enjoyed it? Let us know in our respective social media channels,” because that’s what puts gas. Sorry, petrol in our tanks, right?
Chris Torres: Yeah, diesel or unleaded. Even my son Kyle, he obviously… My son is going to be four in January and he, as any kid is is glued to his ipad, et cetera. And he’s… I’ve been to the petrol station. He said, “Are you putting gas in the car.” And I’m like, “Oh God, no.” He’s watching too many American shows. I was like, “All right. Okay.”
Shane Whaley: True. Very.
Chris Torres: If I start spelling color without the U, I’ll be mightily unhappy.
Shane Whaley: I hear you. I have to be careful. I’m an American citizen now. So I have to adhere to both. I have to be bilingual.
Chris Torres: Of course. Of course. I only joke Yeah, I was going to say we didn’t invent the language first but us Scot’s didn’t really English, so there we go. Even we don’t speak proper English.
Shane Whaley: But I am a Welshman so I’m with you their.
Chris Torres: But Shane, an absolute pleasure. And let’s do this again. And as you say, if the listeners love this episode, or the Watchers love this episode, If you want to see us again, just leave comments and we’ll look to do more of this.
Shane Whaley: Cheers Chris.
Chris Torres: All right thanks. Cheers.