Travelocity, the Web-travel retailer, ended its offline experiment in staffing box offices and kiosks in Vegas for show-ticket and attraction sales, and agreed to sell the business to Entertainment Benefits Group for an undisclosed amount.
Travelocity declined to detail the reasons for selling its Travelocity on Location offline business and Travelocity on Location website, saying the enterprise "continues to be a great business, but as we considered our long-term objectives, it no longer fit into those plans."
In 2004, Travelocity bought the offline box-office business, plus ShowTickets.com, from All State Tours for some $25 million. That's not a miniscule transaction. For comparison's sake, Travelocity parent Sabre bought the travel-agency back-office system TRAMs for $22 million two years later.
Travelocity's aim when buying All State Tours in 2004 was to enhance its ability to sell show tickets, attraction passes and other extras in Vegas which consumers might not have purchased online.
With the announcement this week, Enterainment Benefits Group states it agreed to buy more than 30 Travelocity on Location venues and the accompanying website and will rebrand them as Tickets & Tours and ShowTickets.com, respectively. The retail locations include locales on the Strip and off, including the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, the Stratosphere, the Las Vegas Convention Center, and McCarren Airport.
Under terms of the transaction, Entertainment Benefits Group has a multi-year agreement to provide content for Las Vegas activities to Travelocity.com. The deal is exclusive -- or not exclusive -- depending on whom you talk to.
So, what led to the transaction? Did an online travel agency face unexpected challenges in operating a brick-and-mortar business? Was it because of the poor economy and Las Vegas' nosedive? Was it too difficult for Travelocity to compete with local ticket sellers?
"This decision seems to me Travelocity going in the opposite direction from the move to make more of the local services purchased at the destination an integrated part of the OTA overall offer," says Joe Buhler, principal, Buhlerworks, which specializes in tourism marketing. "Why sell the business and not actually acquire EBG itself? These are also the types of services people will buy on mobile devices in the future. Maybe the Las Vegas-specific economics came into play as this doesn't seem to me a strategic move to expand the range of services."
Meanwhile, Expedia.com continues to operate its offline show-ticket business, Expedia Local Expert.
Expedia operates these ticket desks at 74 locations in hotels and at attractions in 11 markets, including Las Vegas, Orlando, San Diego, Hawaii and Mexico, the company says.
Expedia built its locations through the acquisition of Activity World in 2004, Premier Getaways in 2005 and Activity Hut in 2006.