Kayaking.org wants to become the Expedia of Kayaking. This week the company released a new kayak booking system with an interesting twist. Site visitors enter details about their kayaking trip and a real person calls the tour companies and books the trip. This high-touch, customer-centric approach is what Founder Morgan Linton is hoping will make them stand out from the crowd.
There are centralized hubs online for booking just about everything travel-related from hotels and flights, to restaurants, performances, etc. – but where do travelers go if they want to book kayaking tours or rentals? Booking things like canoes, kayaks, and sailboats typically involves visiting a handful of websites and calling companies individually. In fact, the current experience is similar to using a phone book only slightly more complicated in many cases since you have to search for the phone number on each company’s website. It’s as if Web 2.0 completely skipped this niche and left it in the dark ages of Web 1.0 accessibility.
Kayaking.org founder Morgan Linton ran-into this problem first-hand when he moved to Los Angeles. “I was in a new city and I wanted to book a kayaking tour near my home. The only way I could effectively do this was to visit each individual kayaking tour company website, find their phone number, and call each one to request availability information. That’s when the idea came to me,” says Linton whose team has spent over eight months redesigning the site and deploying the booking system.
“The idea was simple – let’s do for the kayaking world what Expedia did for the travel world,” says Linton. The new booking system looks and feels a lot like the familiar forms you’d find on Expedia, Travelocity, and other travel booking sites. Kayakers can enter the city they are visiting, what dates they will be there, and whether they are looking for tours, rentals, family kayaking, or kayaking events.
Now here’s the twist that Linton thinks will make all the difference. “I’m a big fan of Tony Hsieh and the approach he took with Zappos. We want to take a page out of Tony’s book and absolutely delight every single one of our customers.” To this extent Linton has done-away with the standard booking process and instead employed real people who call tour companies and book trips for site visitors. The best part is, they do it all for free. “We don’t charge the site visitor a dime. Our revenue comes from the tour/rental company only after the tour is booked.”
“There are millions of kayakers all over the world. Many of them would love to go kayaking when they visit a new city. This makes the experience the same as when they book a flight or hotel through a high-end travel agent,” say Linton who quickly made his mark in the Kayaking niche after buying Kayaking.org in an auction back in 2008. “We’re pioneering in a space that’s been stagnant since the late 90’s, it’s a bit like creating the future, and we love every minute of it!”