Travellers have become used to doing things online. From researching and booking flights and accommodation to planning sightseeing itineraries and scoping out the best restaurants to visit, it’s easy to plan an entire trip without ever stepping foot in a travel agency – unless you want to book a tour. Then you’ll probably find yourself going in to pick up some brochures and maybe even chat to an agent, even if you may end up booking online.
Australian startup Tour Amigo believes it’s high time the tour industry joined everyone else in the travel space by properly getting online. While most tour providers have their own websites through which travellers can browse and book tours, there’s no well-known platform allowing travellers to compare multi-day tours from various providers in the one place. Tour Amigo hopes to be the Expedia of the tour industry.
Founder Murray Decker, a former tour guide who’s spent the last eight years travelling around more than 70 countries, originally wanted to create a type of in-flight magazine about different tour offerings before realising that an online platform would allow for more information to get across.
“The tour industry, surprisingly, has lagged behind the rest of the travel industry with the likes of accommodation, flights, insurance and hour or day excursions having all been available online for some years. Further, I couldn’t find any independent sites that reviewed the thousands of tours available, only sites controlled by sellers or the operators themselves,” Decker said.
Users are given the opportunity to rate and review every individual aspect of a tour – handy given that a two week tour includes various hotels, activities, restaurants, and so on and so forth.
Operators are charged a fee to list on the platform. Tour Amigo does not process payments but rather sends a user to the relevant tour on the operator’s own website.
“We have been responsive to operators commission-based systems, however we are establishing a standard fixed advertising fee to move away from commissions and the various monetisation systems which fluctuate between operators and do not factor in exposure and phone and email bookings,” Decker said.
“We are trying to homogenise the industry, allowing a fair and independent platform where tours are selected for their quality, reputation, and value.”
There are currently 43 hand selected tour operators on the platform, providing over 7000 tours across every continent. Tour Amigo has been live for two months, and has so far identified 16 clear sales from the platform.
While Decker’s experience in the tour industry was helpful in getting operators to come on board, he said one of the biggest challenges in the development of the platform was the fact that operators are all “at different stages of technology.”
“Ninety percent of the tour operators’ websites do not have API capabilities, meaning their site could not communicate and connect with Tour Amigo. Thus everything was done manually, standardising terms, attributes, layout, and pricing,” Decker said.
Tour Amigo’s clearest competitor is Tour Radar, which does much the same job and also allows for tours to be booked through its platform. However, Decker doesn’t see this as Tour Radar having an extra feature.
“We are remaining independent and unbiased as we’re not suggesting or promoting tours to sell. Hence our name Tour Amigo – Tour Friend. You’ll find all our features can be used without having to even become a member. The only time we ask for details is if the user is making a review and we collect their details primarily for authenticity purposes.”
Though he said he has received “several offers” of investment, Decker has self funded the development of Tour Amigo. He’s focused on building up the number of operators and user reviews on the platform, and is exploring the potential for a major partnership.