Individual activities at the destination are increasingly the hallmark of a good holiday. TUI is a leading global provider of such experiences and expanded this business in 2018 by acquiring the Italian start-up Musement. Here Musement’s co-founder Alessandro Petazzi and David Schelp, Managing Director of TUI Destination Experiences, shed light on a successful partnership.

A tour of the Statue of Liberty in New York with priority boarding for the ferry. Seats to watch FC Barcelona play at their stadium Camp Nou. Tickets for the water taxi from the airport to the centre of Venice. Or an island tour of Mallorca. Just four out of around 150,000 activities that TUI currently offers and that mark one of the key trends in the tourism industry today. “After the hotel and flight business, in-destination experiences are one of the biggest selling points in tourism,” says David Schelp, Managing Director of TUI Destination Experiences. In 2018 global annual sales in tours and activities market approached 160 billion euros. The market is growing at a rate of seven per cent a year.

Now holidaymakers can book all these activities through any of TUI’s distribution channels: from the rep, at the travel agency, on the website and in the app. The acquisition of Musement, a digital platform for destination experiences, has contributed significantly. TUI took over the Milan-based start-up in October 2018. Even before the acquisition, TUI already sold around five million tours per year. “This acquisition speeds up our transformation into a leading digital provider of excursions and activities and will enable our customers to enjoy even more personalised experiences,” says Schelp.

Strong strategic partners

Alessandro Petazzi agrees that Musement and TUI are a perfect fit: “Initially we financed our growth with venture capital, and we were looking for a strategic partner,” says the manager, who founded Musement in 2013 together with his three co-founders and a team that had grown to 150 people by the time of the takeover. The Italian online platform channelled its investment into building a cutting-edge IT infrastructure, and less into customer acquisition. That customer base has now been brought to the partnership by TUI. 28 million customers travel with the Group every year, and now they can benefit from the entire universe of experience from both companies. A win-win situation. 

In addition, the two companies complement each other with their content. TUI is a leading provider of excursions in classical holiday destinations, while the Musement portfolio includes activities and tickets for all the world’s major cities. “We have strengthened our product offering significantly through this acquisition,” says Schelp. “Our portfolio now ranges from excursions in sun & beach destinations, wellness packs and adventures, to tickets for sporting events and museums, guided city tours and individual visits to sights.” Tickets for theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios, which are popular with holidaymakers, can now be bought from TUI.

»We also appeal to people who aren’t travelling with TUI but are looking for things to do in the destinations. That’s why we are opening the platform to distribution partners and other tourism companies.«

David Schelp, Managing Director, TUI Destination Experiences

Easy to book

Twelve months after the takeover, the products from TUI and Musement are available on a common platform. This creates a number of benefits for all concerned. Now holidaymakers can browse the range of excursions and activities from home and book them on the TUI and Musement websites and apps. Moreover, all TUI travel stores and many partner agencies can access the offering. And of course the products can also be bought from the rep at the destination: “Our customers can book our experiences anytime and anywhere,” says Petazzi.

Product diversity plus TUI quality

But not only are there more ways to book; the activities are more and more diverse as well. There are already around 150,000 products on offer and the number is rising rapidly. To facilitate this product growth, simple links to third-party providers are inevitable. Musement’s open platform permits fast, easy integration for partners.

TUI’s unique business model supports the product growth. “We are the only provider in the market for destination experiences that combines an excellent digital platform with fulfilment capabilities. For that we have 9,000 staff of our own in 50 countries who are there for our customers,” explains Schelp. “So holidaymakers can be sure that these excursions and activities will meet TUI’s quality standards.” That quality claim is reflected in the fact that the Group curates many of the experiences itself, applying safety and health standards that are a benchmark for the sector. And the partners working with TUI are audited regularly.

Growing personalisation

As the offering grows, so too does the challenge of reaching out to customers in the right way. “We only want to offer our customers products that perfectly suit their needs,” says Petazzi. The latest technology will ensure that out of the huge portfolio only the products with the best match will be offered to each customer. Initial tests in Scandinavia show that the conversion rates for these personalised product offerings are much higher than with classical marketing. 

Mutual learning

Both managers agree that the business side is running smoothly. “But we are also a good match culturally,” comments Petazzi, summing up his own experience and that of his co-founders, who have all stayed in the company’s management. “That isn’t always the case when a big player buys a start-up.” Musement employs people from 23 countries, and since the merger with TUI the company has been growing fast. The headcount is already 250, and by the end of 2020 the figure is expected to hit 400.

David Schelp thinks that the secret to this effective cooperation lies partly in the decision not to integrate Musement into the Group after the takeover. “We work together in areas where there are synergies, but we have left Musement their start-up mentality. That also helps us within the entire TUI Destination Experiences business.” Being fast and agile, establishing a new culture of error management, performing tests and learning from them to continually improve products – on all these fronts he sees much to learn from Musement.

The partnership between Musement and TUI has started successfully. Petazzi and Schelp have ambitious plans for the future: “We want to achieve above-average growth in one of the most exciting segments in tourism and become the world’s leading provider in the market for tours and activities.”

»Musement was a strategic acquisition on our road to becoming a digital company. The TUI brand, the Musement technology and our 28 million customers are the building bricks for the biggest digital marketplace for activities.«

Peter Krueger, Member of the Group Executive Committee, Group Director Strategy and Merger & Acquisitions