According to Trackimo, a whopping 90% of tour operators are still taking reservations manually via e-mail booking requests. Reasons vary from resistance to change, dislike of technology, lack of know-how, laziness, etc but much of the reasoning can be boiled down to personal taste. Since instant booking is taking over the market as can be seen with services like AirBnB, TripAdvisor, & Google Flight reservations, we decided to weigh the pros of using live bookings vs booking requests with respects to leisure activities.

First, Let's Define Booking Requests

Booking requests give tour operators & leisure attractions the ability to communicate with guests before a payment for a tour or service is processed. Did you know that almost 32% of leisure travelers request more information from tour & activity providers after consulting their website?

In order of operations:

  • A booking inquiry is submitted by a customer directly through a business website or via third-party.
  • A host approves/rejects a booking request depending on various circumstances.
  • If approved, a confirmation email and/or payment receipt is sent to the guest(s).

  • The Business Gets The Power To Decide

    The traditional method of responding is still comfortable for many service providers like adventure operators & outfitters because they get the last say in who can or cannot participate in an offering. This can be effective when something like a skill-requirement is required to attend (e.g. advanced skiing abilities for a backcountry ski tour). This, however, does not apply to companies that use web booking systems as a purely back-end solution, meaning that not just any customers can make a booking via a company website.

    Inexperienced businesses or relatively new activity providers may also benefit from booking requests because it ensures that there is enough prep time before guests arrive. This is not to discredit web reservations but generally speaking, one may want to figure operations out before perfecting it.

    What Is Instant Booking?

    Well, you might have already guessed, but real-time reservations are the kind of bookings that don’t require any approval from the tour provider on a per-case basis. Did you know that only 46% of tour operators with websites offer the service of instant booking?

    So why do it? Well, there is a certain level of ease to this transaction as guests simply view offerings on a website, and press the “book” button to commence a purchase.

    Guests Love Live Bookings!

    With instant booking, there is only enjoyable back and forth between the company and guests. Guests no longer have to wait hours or sometimes even days for a response. Many hosts don’t respond right away and that can be frustrating for the guests to endure.

    Unfortunately, unlike websites like Airbnb that display accurate “response rates”, most companies do not disclose the average response time needed for them to reply to booking inquiries. And if they do, there’s no way of knowing if the claim is true.

    You'll Get More Bookings

    Businesses stand out in the market when they turn on instant booking. They end up getting more business this way. Many tour & activity providers find that their profit is higher with live bookings turned on, despite some inconveniences with communication (with respects to tour complexity). Experienced tour operators should try instant booking and see if profits are affected favorably.

    At the same time, it is important to recognize that competing businesses are adopting web reservation systems like never before. In 2018, 6 out of 10 people will reserve with a company that provides online booking vs a company that does not. Not because a tour experience is sub-par relative to that of a competitors, but because of convenience & the mistake of not meeting a customer’s booking needs.


    Business owners & reservation managers should not have to respond to as many requests, especially outside of regular business hours. Accounting can be automated, administrative & manual data entry can be offset to a customer, & tracking can become painless via a universal search bar.


    Much can be said about whether or not website reservation platforms are necessary but instant bookings are becoming a reality for tour & activity operators globally. We would recommend trying a platform like Agenda if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your business is at least one year old.
  • Your leisure offerings are marketable to at least 35% of the general public.
  • You have noticed a loss of bookings to email & voicemail communication.
  • Your competition & neighboring businesses have adopted online booking.

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