A former HomeAway executive has launched an online platform aimed at making it easier for travelers to book tours and activities during their trips.
OnceThere lets tour and rental companies promote their services on websites and apps of hotels, vacation rental sites and tourism organizations. Users can book activities in advance or on the fly.
The platform can also be used by concierges and visitor center agents to book activities online on behalf of visitors.
The company was co-founded in 2015 by John Weimer, who served as HomeAway vice president of corporate development and managing director of Asia Pacific business from 2008 to 2014; and John Spencer, a former Vignette software executive. OnceThere officially launched on Wednesday.
"I'm an addicted traveler, and the idea of focusing on the tours and activities space is an idea that had been marinating for several years," Weimer said. "This is a $37 billion industry in the U.S. alone, but it's a very fragmented space, and it's hard to find and book tours online."
OnceThere, which has eight employees, has raised $1 million from investors including HomeAway co-founder Carl Shepherd and former HomeAway chief operating officer Tom Hale.
Weimer said that most tourists wait until the last minute to book entertainment such as a downtown walking tour, bike rentals or a culinary tour. OnceThere wants to help those companies connect with last-minute planners.
"Our customers are the tour and activity providers who are pining to grow bookings online but don't have the technology," Weimer said. "Now HomeAway customers can book a tour or activity from its guest app or an Austin Visitors Center employee can book a food truck tour for a tourist standing in front of them."
On average, OnceThere takes a 20 percent cut of the ticket price. The cut is split evenly between OnceThere and the distribution partner, such as a hotel website or a visitor's bureau.
For now, the company is focusing on Texas, Florida and South Carolina, and offers 200 bookable "experiences."
In addition to HomeAway and the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, partners include the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau and Wild Dunes Resort in South Carolina.
"Every year thousands of Wild Dunes guests ask us to book everything from historical tours of Charleston to kayaks," Frank Fredericks, general manager of Wild Dunes Resort, said in a statement. "OnceThere makes it possible to instantly book all activities available to guests through a single interface."
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