Online travel firm GetYourGuide raises $75 million

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Berlin-based online travel booking firm GetYourGuide has raised $75 million to expand its offering that helps tourists book activities at their destinations ranging from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to shark diving in Cape Town.

GetYourGuide specializes in so-called in-destination activities and says it is experiencing explosive growth with nearly half of the 10 million tickets ordered through its platform being booked this year.

“We are opening the next era of online travel - which is what I can do at a destination,” CEO Johannes Reck said in a telephone interview.

“We’re a new kid on the block that doesn’t sell air fares or hotel rooms. We focus on the experience.”

European venture capital investors are shifting away from price comparison sites to new areas of travel, as airline and hotel brands begin to take back control of bookings at the expense of intermediaries like eDreams, Expedia, TripAdvisor and Trivago.

The later-stage, “Series D” round was led by Battery Ventures, a technology-focused investor that was joined by all of GetYourGuide’s existing backers including KKR, Spark Capital, Highland Europe, Sunstone Capital and Nokia’s venture capital firm Nokia Growth Partners.

The funding round, which brings the total amount raised by GetYourGuide to more than $170 million, according to Crunchbase, comes at a time when some other online travel companies have hit a rough patch.

GetYourGuide operates on commission, which Reck said is a more robust model than advertising-driven price comparison sites like Trivago. He said it creates “lock-in” with GetYourGuide’s 10,000 suppliers, while its customers can get their money back if they find local prices to be cheaper.

The company provides access to more than 31,000 tours and attractions in 7,300 destinations around the world.

It estimates the size of the global market for sightseeing tours and other activities at around $150 billion - or 10 percent of total leisure travel spending. It cited forecasts that the market could be worth $183 billion by 2020.

“We think that 20-25 percent of the global market can move online,” said Reck, noting online spending is no more than 1.5 percent currently.

GetYourGuide did not disclose its financial performance, nor the valuation put on the business by this funding round, but Reck did say he wanted to focus on investing in long-term growth over achieving near-term profitability.

Commenting on a possible initial public share offer, Reck said: “We are definitely considering this - it’s the primary option at this time. But we have a ways to go before we can talk about that.

“Why not stay private for a couple more years and really invest?”

One of Europe’s most successful venture capital investments in recent years was Scotland’s SkyScanner, which Chinese online travel company paid 1.4 billion pounds ($1.74 billion at the time) to acquire a year ago.

($1 = 0.7625 pounds)

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Greg Mahlich