Travel activity platform GetYourGuide is raising a big round, says €500M report is …

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As we head into the summer travel season, GetYourGuide, which lets people search for and book tours and other experiences in their destinations of choice from a catalog of some 35,000 activities, is raising a big round of funding, which we understand is not get closed but in the works.

German blog Deutsche Startups this weekend reported that the Berlin startup has raised €500 million from investors including SoftBank at a valuation of €1.6 billion ($558 million at a valuation of $1.78 billion at current dollar rates).

From what we understand the round is not yet finalised. A GetYourGuide spokesperson this morning said in an email to TechCrunch that the German report is “inaccurate” and didn’t involve GetYourGuide’s input. It also doesn’t indicate which part it is disputing, and concluded with the open-ended, “Beyond that, we cannot comment further at this time.” (That’s code for: “We are raising money but either some details aren’t finalised,” or “We are still working on our media strategy.”)

SoftBank said in an email to TechCrunch that it won’t be commenting for this story, but also didn’t dispute its involvement.

Notably, this isn’t the first report of GetYourGuide closing a big round. In March, Sky in the UK (via tech.eu) reported that GetYourGuide was raising $300 million and that Singapore’s Temasek was also in the round, naming another potential investor in the mix. SoftBank is reportedly making the investment from its Vision Fund. (We’ll continue to ask around.)

If/when it closes, this latest Series E would be a big leap in funding for the company, which had raised $170 million up to now. The deal would also be notable as the second big investment out of Europe for SoftBank within the space of a week. Days ago, the mega-investor — which has been taking a leading role in large growth rounds for startups globally through its $100 billion Vision Fund — put $1 billion (€900 million) into German payments provider Wirecard as part of a wider fintech partnership.

GetYourGuide was launched in 2009, and since then it has sold some 25 million tickets — a figure that speaks to a significant acceleration in its activities in the last two years. In 2017, when it last announced funding — a Series D of $75 million led by Battery Ventures — GetYourGuide had said it had passed 10 million tickets sold. (In 2017 it had 15 million active users; it’s not clear how many it has now.)

The success of Airbnb — and observations of its acquisitiveness as it continues to scale — has led to a surge of interest among investors in other fast-growing startups in the travel sector. Just last week, Selina, which runs a network of hostel-style work/live accommodations around the world for digital nomads, raised of $100 million at an $850 million valuation. Other recent fundings in the travel sector have included another travel activities platform, Klook, raising $200 million; AI-based travel platform Hopper raising $100 million; and TripActions raising $154 million.

The growth of all these has also helped to build a market and consumer demand for digital-first, new takes on travel services.

“The major trend here is that it’s not the same tourists than the tourists that you had 10 to 20 years ago,” GetYourGuide’s CEO and co-founder Johannes Reck told TechCrunch in 2017. “[Then] there were these old school tour operators. Really bad reputation. They would all show you the most touristy parts of town… Now because we have so much content around the activity and customer reviews etc it’s becoming much harder for the tour operators to do a bad job… So essentially we’re in a new age of tour supplier, all of which have really tremendous customer satisfaction.”

But at the same time, Airbnb also represents a competitive threat to the smaller fish.

While Airbnb built itself first as a marketplace for people to list and rent out rooms and homes for casual travel accommodation, in its quest to continue building out its business and grow its revenues per user by having more touchpoints with customers beyond simply providing a link to finding a place to stay, Airbnb has in more recent years expanded into more areas such as business travel and travel-related “experiences” to suggest (and sell) activities to tourists once they are staying in their Airbnbs (and even to those who are resident in cities and just looking for things to do).

GetYouGuide’s advantage up to now has been is that activity booking is currently all that it does, making it less of an afterthought and more of the primary purpose of the platform. One key question is whether a new round of funding would take it into new directions, or whether that focus will be enough for the next stage of growth.

Updated with responses from GetYouGuide and SoftBank.