NEW YORK -- GoBe.com, a digital platform for tours and activities, was officially launched at a press event last week. A new division of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), the site aims to be the “the leading experiential online tour provider,” said managing director Billy Campbell at the event.
With more than 4,000 “curated” tours in 97 countries today, GoBe has a goal of more than 30,000 tours by mid-2018, all of them day trips ranging from inexpensive walking tours to lavish helicopter excursions.
The focus for now, said executives, is on consumers. However, Larry Pimentel, RCCL’s chief destination experience officer, who was instrumental in forming GoBe, said the new company has been approached by several large agency groups interested in partnerships. He also told TMR that “there could be a point where a homepage might show ABC Travel at the top but with tours and activities powered by GoBe.”
And Campbell quoted Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch as saying, “GoBe is the most remarkable platform for the sale of experiences that I’ve seen to date.”
The site has been live but last week marked its official launch. As an example of GoBe’s potential, Campbell said that a businessman and his daughter were in Istanbul with an eight-hour layover and GoBe put together a full-day tour for them. “We are getting away from travel as a commodity,” said Campbell, who once headed up Discovery Networks, the television company that operated The Travel Channel. “We believe that many destinations around the world have been underserved.”
GoBe.com offers three ways to book: group tours to iconic sites; private excursions; and tailor-made “travel creations” unavailable anywhere else. Searches are categorized by destination, interest and group requirements. There will be a “concierge” aspect to the service that will customize programs for individuals. A support team of “experts” will work with consumers to put together the bespoke “travel creations.”
The portal also searches cruise schedule itineraries, pricing and availability for a wide variety of activities. There’s a button on the home page that allows browsers to search activities and tours based on a ship and sailing date. All major cruise lines are listed, not just those owned by RCCL.
Director of marketing Jared Zech said the Grand Cayman-based GoBe.com emerged from research done by the Boston Consulting Group showing a huge untapped tours and activities market, which is now booked offline 80% of the time. He said that while the cruise industry has only 3%-4% market penetration, tours and activities comprise 9%-10% of the total travel market. In addition, cruise lines only offer shore excursions at coastal destinations, leaving out huge markets like Las Vegas.
Campbell said GoBe is in discussions with Marriott and other hotel companies to offer local experiences for guests staying at their hotels. He quoted Michael Finn, who heads Marriott Vacations Worldwide, as saying his company “is looking forward to working with GoBe.”
“There is a huge opportunity in this space,” said Zech; “the market is very fragmented.”
Pimentel said GoBe looks to be “a sort of Amazon, a housing location that makes it easy to book, click and add to a shopping cart.” He said that airlines might also get involved as passengers book their tours in flight.
Pimentel said he knows the market for GoBe tours because he sees it with his own family when they travel. "I don't want to go with a motor coach," he said. "I want to go with a private guide so we can see the culture and taste the culture, drink the culture."
Campbell told TMR there is no tour and activities site that is well known and has the trust of consumers. Zech said the business model includes “several different compensation models.”