Why we're building Booker
Hey, I'm Mike Jacobs, one of the founders of The Tourism Technology Company.
The last ten years of my life have been leading up to this moment.
Let me explain.
My first job out of high school was working at a boat-in resort called The Island Lodge. Located in the North Channel of Georgian Bay, north of Manitoulin Island, it cemented my love for rural Ontario - the windswept landscape with big rocks peeking out of the water, the deep forests and the magic of being outdoors in the wilderness.
I didn’t mind that I had to wash dishes for 100 guests every night, or change their sheets in the morning, or pick up late guests at the government dock in thunderstorms. It was great, and I loved every minute of it.
Not long after that I went back to school, traveled the world, and somehow found myself back in Ontario, working as a motorcycle blogger.
That’s right—I somehow managed to get paid (not much, mind you) to ride my bike around and write articles about great roads and routes, places to stop, sleep, gas up, eat, etc. It was an amazing gig, and I got to learn about Ontario in the most intimate way possible, experiencing it like a person visiting for the first time.
I can’t recommend this enough as a way to learn how to market a destination—because it gave me everything I needed to understand how to tell the story of these destinations. Over the next eight years I built an incredible team of marketers to work with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) to help share what I knew first hand to be one of the most beautiful and inspiring places in the world.
That team grew over the last decade to build dozens of websites, run thousands of campaigns, and spend millions of dollars helping people realize just how amazing it is to travel in Canada. We built, and managed editorial for, one of the best content marketing sites for tourism— Northern Ontario Travel—which just surpassed 4 million visitors last year.
And we couldn’t do it without the partnerships we’ve forged with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) around the province. We’re so proud of the work we’ve done together.
But after a decade of content marketing, social media marketing, building websites and custom online tools, analyzing consumer behaviour, and writing reports—something continued to challenge us in everything we do - the inability to track any of our marketing activity to a final sale.
There’s a lot we can tell - like how many people came to the website, or called or emailed a business, or submitted an inquiry through a form. How many people saw the video, or read the article and clicked through to a business website.
But we want to know for sure, and for our DMO partners to know too—so they can better help the businesses they represent to stay full, grow, and reach their full potential.
So, we’ve decided to build our own—for DMOs, and the independent businesses they serve.
Now, there are plenty of booking engines out there. Some sites like Booking.com or Expedia spend billions of dollars on marketing, essentially taking traffic away from DMOs, and charging businesses up to a 30% premium on every booking.
And DMOs have no insight in to what’s happening there—what marketing works to make people book, what traffic patterns are like—it's a black box.
On the other end of the scale, AirBNB charges almost 15% and, although that site is far better than Booking.com, it's not really built for large scale tourism businesses that see more than one group of people per night.
There are other small scale booking engines out there too—built by people who know a lot about software, but not much about the tourism industry, and don’t seem to respect the work DMOs do to help drive new customers to the businesses they serve. Those booking engines sell their software directly to businesses, but they miss out on the power DMOs have to drive consumer behaviour with their own campaigns and knowledge of the region.
We’re not looking to replace Booking.com, Expedia, or AirBNB.
But from years of working with DMOs, we’ve discovered that there are a whole lot of independently owned businesses in rural and remote areas that don’t necessarily want to have 30% of their profits funneled off by a big corporation that knows nothing about them. And they value their tourism community—they want their DMO to lead their marketing, because they have a say with their organization, and know they’ve got their back.
Booker takes a 4.96% fee on every booking—don’t worry, only 1.96% of that is paid by the business. But that fee is shared between Booker and the DMO—giving them a financial lifeline to continue their good work. They’ll have more insight into how well their marketing is working, which makes it easier to focus on increasing conversions to sales at your business.
This is how we’re giving back to the community that has nurtured our own business over the last decade.
As we’ve seen booking solutions enter the industry and either be hampered by frustrating technology, or run by giant tech corporations that are only interested in their shareholders—we’re taking a different road. The independent businesses and DMOs are our shareholders. If they’re not happy with our work—then we’ve failed.
If the Island Lodge could have had an inexpensive yet sophisticated booking engine during my time there, I know that the owner would have put all his extra time into making sure his guests had the best vacation experience possible—and he’d feel confident knowing that the technology powering the back end of his business would work without him having to get too involved.
This is why Booker is so important to me—and why we want you to be part of this journey. It's not just about making another piece of software—it's also about taking back our control of destination marketing, and finally making top tier technology available at a low cost to independent businesses.