Speaking at the Small Fish Big Ocean World Travel Market Pitch Night recently, as reported on Travolution, Leith Stevens (CEO of Flextrip) and Florian Harkort, (CEO of Pocket Village) gave a provocative speech saying that despite being worth £50bn every year, the tours and activities sector was 'unperforming' online. They highlighted that only a small portion of those tours and activities were booked online.
While they made many worthwhile points about integrating tours and activities with other established online booking mechanisms, much of the argument was underpinned by one presumption: that if tours and activities weren't booked online, the online systems had, somehow, failed. And it's this I want to take issue with.
People like to talk to other people about their travel arrangements. Travel is expensive, so when people are booking it they want to be able to talk to a human being who can reassure them. I'm sure we all know relatives who will print off the deal they find online and then walk into a travel agent, brandishing it.
The very fact that travel agents still exist is testament to the fact that many people would rather pay a premium (in time if nothing else) to have another person to talk to while booking their holiday.
The fact that people choose offline methods to book tours and activities is no evidence that they haven't researched and found out all they want online. It's possible, of course, that the online offering is performing exactly in the way that it should: by driving sales. Whether it happens online or offline: a booking is a booking.
So, the question then becomes: do you want your online marketing spend to be based around trying to encourage potential customers to book in a way that they don't find comfortable, or in really digging down to find what parts of your online offering are driving sales, no matter how they are made?
This is where call tracking really comes into its own. It can tell you what online activities have driven which calls, even down to the search terms used to find your site. By using call tracking to assess how customers interact with your online profile you can make informed decisions about what is and what is not performing, rather than spending your time trying to change their behaviour.