Marriott buys stake in tours/activities search engine

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PlacePass lists activities such as tours of filming sites for the TV show "Downton Abbey."
PlacePass lists activities such as tours of filming sites for the TV show "Downton Abbey."

Marriott International has acquired a stake in PlacePass, as the world's largest hotel company looks to expand its presence in the tours and activities sector.

PlacePass offers listings and price comparisons for more than 100,000 tours and activities in 800 destinations. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company was co-founded in 2016 by Ethan Hawkes, a former consultant with McKinsey & Co., and Emily Bernard, former vice president at Foreign Policy magazine.

Eamples of activities listed by PlacePass are a picnic in the Grand Canyon, a tour of U.K. filming sites of the TV series "Downton Abbey," and the chance to cook pasta with an Italian chef in Italy's Tuscany region.

Marriott appears to be taking a cue from companies such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb, both of which have branched outside of their core businesses to invest in in-destination listings services.

In 2014, TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel-review site, acquired Viator, an online booking service for tours and attractions, for $200 million.

Last November, Airbnb debuted its Trips offering by adding listings of local tours and experiences in 12 cities. The company, which plans to have Trips offerings in 50 destinations by the end of the year, has added Trips to seven locations, including Paris, Harlem and Tokyo, since late February.

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