Food tour in Kuala Lumpur

There is a growing interest in tours and experiences from travel booking services. This is a logical extension from booking transportation and lodging. And in some cases companies are adding peer to peer services. At the same time, new sharing economy tours and activities companies are popping up all around the world.

AirBnb jumped into this space with the launch last year of experiences and the acquisition of the peer to peer tour company Trip4Real. This June two sharing economy tours and activities companies took top prizes in the Booking.com’s accelerator program for start-ups in sustainable tourism. Local Alike, a company based in Thailand won $335k and Backstreet Academy won the top grant of  $447k. Booking.com partnered with GetYourGuide two years ago in it’s initial foray into commercial tours. The sharing economy tours is an interesting new area of investment for them.

I now count 41 peer to peer tour companies, most relatively small and new to the business. Eleven of these are new launches since 2016. Three companies closed since my review of these businesses at the end of last year, and another two pivoted to a different business model.  And Trip4Real shut down it’s website, redirecting to AirBnb Experiences now.

Closed in 2017:

  • Sherpandipity – focused in Spain
  • Guidemeright – focused in Italy
  • Guiding – focused in Eastern Europe

Pivoted in 2017:

  • Tripr pivoted to a social app to connect travelers and locals
  • Stray Boots moved out of the peer to peer model of scavenger hunts for tourism

With so many new companies launching in this space, I have to wonder what makes the new sharing economy tour businesses think they can succeed with such a crowded field. Some focus on just one country or region, often one that is underserved. That seems like a logical business model as long as you can reach tourists. But Guiding’s focus on Eastern Europe apparently didn’t work out, in spite of that being an increasingly popular but underserved region for travelers.

Farm tour and cooking experience in Penang

While researching this post I spent some time playing around on the websites of the 41 peer to peer tour businesses. There are so many interesting tours offered. You get a wide diversity of options when people have the opportunity to build their own custom tours, and this isn’t something they are doing professionally. People tend to focus on what they know well and/or what they personally love to do. While there are certainly a lot of “food tour of X city” and “bike tour of Y city” even those had interesting twists. And you’re almost certainly doing a private or very small group tour.

I got sidetracked for an hour while reviewing these businesses, and started searching for tours in the countries I’ll be visiting soon. I now have a list of options for some travels to Southeast Asia that I want to book. I’m excited for some more food tours and unique explorations of foreign cities.