GetYourGuide accepts there is a risk involved but claims it wants to "transform the tour experience itself" with the introduction of its own branded products.
The vertically-integrated strategy will start with the introduction in August 2018 of Project Incredible, a pilot program of five tours in three destinations in Europe in what is being touted as a "Netflix Originals for guided tours".
The tours have been developed with some of the online travel agency's main partners by "contributing resources and expertise and stamping with our own brand as a seal of quality".
The program is slated to expand to 100 tours in 15 destinations during 2019.
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GetYourGuide, which launches a new brand identity this week to coincide with the announcement, claims the move is the first by the current crop of OTAs focused on tours and activities to head down the vertical route.
The tours will be run by experienced guides who have completed additional training courses and will include "special access" to the products on the ticket.
GetYourGuide may be the first to go out with a fully baked product but Viator is known to have tested the branded-tours concept previously and Orbitz had agreements stretching back to its pre-Expedia Group ownership to have Orbitz-branded vehicles for tours.
The strategy comes on the heels of significant changes in tours and activities over the course of the last 18 months, including the entry of Airbnb into the sector whereby its hosts can provide their own tours.
Speaking to PhocusWire, CEO Johannes Reck says "it is absolutely a risk" but sees the change in direction as a way of being more accountable for the quality of the tours in its marketplace "than if we remained just another intermediary".
"But we’ve known for a long time that in booking tours and activities, consumers are much less likely to make the distinction between platforms like GetYourGuide and the tour and activity providers than in other segments of travel, like accommodations.
"A customer might still recommend a hotel booking site despite a subpar experience with a specific hotel they booked on it. That simply isn’t the case for our business."
"The opportunity outweighs the risk," Reck says, adding: "If we are successful, we’ll become the go-to brand customers think of in planning this leg of their journey; not because of clever marketing, but thanks to delivering an incredible, first-of-its-kind product."
GetYourGuide believes the introduction of its branded products will not damage its relationship with existing suppliers that provide similar products to the ones that it is going to run itself.
Reck says: "This is a natural evolution in our marketplace. By setting high standards for tours that we have developed, we’re not only raising the stakes on ourselves; we’re raising the stakes for everything available on GetYourGuide.
"Our goal is to encourage healthy competition, and we expect quality will result."
Customers can expect to see Project Incredible's tours to feature prominently in the company's various communication channels, Reck says.
GetYourGuide recently signed a deal to provide 17,000 tours and excursions in Europe to holders of Eurail passes. The discounted products are available on the multi-stop train ticket provider's website and smartphone app.
The company raised a massive $75 million in a Series D round in November 2017, bringing its total so far to $170 million. The backers included Battery Ventures – a new investor – alongside previous investors Sunstone Capital, KKR, Spark Capital, Highland Europe and Nokia Growth Partners
Tours & Activities Come of Age