what to ask a digital marketing agency before hiring them
Advice from my 25 years as a digital marketer

Tourpreneur Profile – Digital Marketing Veteran Tom Kratsch, TRK Creative


Tom Kratsch of the digital marketing agency, Activities and Tours Marketing by TRK Creative Group sat down with Tourpreneur Host Shane Whaley, and shares some tips from his 25 years in digital tourism marketing and highlights the importance of measuring marketing performance in your tour operator business.

Tom Kratsch‘s digital marketing agency Activities and Tours Marketing by TRK Creative Group focuses on the tours and activity industry.

We are a digital marketing company focused on just activities and tours.

So we don’t work with plumbers and lawyers and doctors and all the other stuff. So we just do activities and tours and we niche down on that business. So we understand it really well.

Tom Kratsch, TRKCreative

What To Ask A Digital Marketing Agency To Ensure They Understand the Tours and Activities Industry.

Tom emphasizes the importance of doing our due diligence and vetting digital marketers.

Do they have expertise in the activity and tour market?

How do they measure performance?


Digital Marketing Agencies for Tour Operators Need to Understand How All the Booking Platforms work.

“Listen, digital marketers for tour operators have to know a lot about all the booking engine companies,” says Kratsch.

“So you may have your own website with FareHarbor or Xola built into that website.

Digital markets need to know how the booking engine interacts with your website and they need to know how the tracking pixels and the tracking codes and the measurement tracking pieces, the technology works in your website and in the booking engine companies.”


A word of warning

If you’re talking to a digital agency that doesn’t have that experience in this industry very specifically in this industry, you may be led sideways and they may not be able to help you.

Tom Kratsch, TRK Creative

This episode and interview of [email protected] is presented by Checkfront. The booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

Shane Whaley
Shane Whaley, Host of Tourpreneur interviewed over 20 tour operators and professionals at the Arival Orlando event.

More about Tours and Activities Marketing by TRK Creative

TRK Creative was founded out of  20 years of successful client marketing experience in the travel, tourism and activities industry and the passion for driving increases in guest counts and revenues for our clients. 

Our mission is to listen intensely to our clients needs and act on analysis and marketing solutions that exceed our clients expectations. 


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Links and Resources Mentioned on This Episode of Tourpreneur – the podcast for tour operators.



Interview with Tom Kratsch, founder of TRK Creative Group. Full transcript.

Speaker 1:                              Today’s episode is brought to you by Checkfront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21 day trial over a Checkfront.com.

Speaker 2:                              Welcome to the Tourpreneur podcast. Travel industry veteran Shane Whaley will take you on a journey with fellow tourpreneurs sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. And now please welcome your host Shane.

Shane Whaley:                   And welcome to Tourpreneur at Arival presented by Checkfront. Welcome to the show. Tom Kratsch, how are you?

Tom Kratsch:                        I’m awesome. It’s great.

Shane Whaley:                   You represent TRK Creative Group. What do you guys do?

Tom Kratsch:                        TRK Creative Group and Activities and Tours Marketing, we’re a digital marketing company focused on just activities and tours. So we don’t do plumbers and lawyers and doctors and all the other stuff. so we just do activities and tours and we niche down on that business. So we understand it really well.

Tom Kratsch:                        And we’re a digital marketing company. So our focus is on direct customer acquisition. So we want to drive direct guests and preferably get them to book online with our partners, with our activity and tour companies clients that we have. But we also know that there’s also offline sales. There’s call sales that are being source direct that come into a business. So our goal is to increase your guest counts and revenues by using best-in-class and strategic marketing to do that.

Shane Whaley:                   So I love that. And I follow you online and I love that you are specializing in our industry because we do speak a different language. And even when I moved to this industry from many years in the hotel industry, it’s another dialect again, if you will, with tours and activities. And I come across a lot of digital marketers out there or I speak to tourpreneur listeners who’ve hired digital marketers who may know the marketing side, but they don’t know our industry. They don’t know the landscape. How did you build up your chops in the tour and activities industry?

Tom Kratsch:                        Yeah, experience, right? So, 25 years in the travel and tourism industry, it’s been my whole career. So whether it’s been on the cruise, tour, vacation package side of the business, and we saw this 20 years ago, with hotels. So when you look at like OTAs and you look at the rise of eCommerce and internet in travel and tourism, the shifts in the focus that have come from air, car, hotel, cruise lines and the business and then how it’s shifted in the focus has been. And then tools and technology that’s driven that. And we’re seeing that shift today where activity in tours is always kind of been left. They haven’t had a venue like Arival to talk about it and focus just on that piece of the market.

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah, absolutely.

Tom Kratsch:                        And so I think there’s a lot to learn from the past with others in the business, whether it was a hotelier or whether it was a car rental company or a cruise line, for example. And that brings us to today where we are and the shift of that focus to drive direct business. And the OTA has been around for quite a few years. Expedia was one of the original ones back in the day, and Travelocity, Priceline, Orbitz, you name it. And they were all attached to the hotel business. And so they were the dog wagging the tail versus the tail wagging the dog and these kinds of things.

Tom Kratsch:                        And so I think our focus now today is helping small, medium, and large activity and tour companies really take a 360 degree view look of their business. So we do a lot of marketing consulting along with doing. We’re doers and teachers and educators in the business. And so we do a lot of consulting with our business owners and looking at all of their channels online, direct and OTA, third party resellers.

Shane Whaley:                   So what advice do you have for tourpreneurs? I spoke to many of them this week who actually said, “The reason I’m here is I want to get better at marketing. I want to hire a marketing agency. I’ve got some meetings.” And many of our tourpreneurs don’t come from a marketing background. They have a passion for breweries and wines and history and whatever it may be. What advice would you be to our listeners who want to go and speak to it? They want to go and find a reputable digital marketing agency?

Tom Kratsch:                        Yeah, I think it’s education. You don’t know what you don’t know. You may have access to your Google analytics account, but you’re not a Google analytics expert. You don’t know what all of these data points mean and how it relates to my business.

Tom Kratsch:                        And how do you measure marketing performance? For us it’s all about if you’re spending money on marketing, whether it’s online or offline, maybe Google ads and maybe Facebook advertising and maybe a brochure in the marketplace. How do you measure this? You’re spending time, energy, money, resources on all of it. And what you care about is, is anybody looking at it and if they’re looking at it, are they taking action? And the action you want them to take is to book a tour.

Tom Kratsch:                        You want to increase your guest counts and your revenues. So how do you look at that? And then how do you measure that performance? If I’m going to spend money on a brochure, I’ve got graphic design costs, I’ve got distribution costs, I’ve got energy and resources put into it. Well, you want to know is anybody seeing the phone number and calling and making a booking, has anybody visiting your URL, your domain name on that brochure, and then going to your website and making a booking. And we track all of that.

Shane Whaley:                   How does a tourpreneur know if an digital marketing agency is actually reputable and can help them? Because there’s a lot of people out there, they do a quick certification online and then suddenly a digital marketing Ninja. How do our listeners avoid that pitfall of hiring someone who may not be up to scratch?

Tom Kratsch:                        Yeah, I think it’s asking a lot of questions.

Shane Whaley:                   What kind of questions should they be asking?

Tom Kratsch:                        Exactly. So asking a lot of questions about how the digital marketing views performance. How do they measure performance? Do they have expertise in the activity and tour market? Listen, you have to know a lot about all the booking engine companies. So you may have your own website with FareHarbor or Beaker Xola built into that website. Or you may have a booking company provided website, for example. And so you need to know how the booking engine interacts with your website and you need to know how the tracking pixels and the tracking codes and the measurement tracking pieces, the technology works in your website and in the booking engine companies. And if you’re a digital agency that doesn’t have that experience in this industry very specifically in this industry, you may be led sideways and they may not be able to help you there.

Tom Kratsch:                        Or you just have stumbling blocks in figuring it out. And there’s no reason for that. There’s some really good companies, certainly there’s us, but if you use us, great. If you don’t, that’s fine. You may use tourism marketing, you may use Chris of Tourism Marketing Agency. Awesome. So that’s another, TOMIS does a great job. Those of us that are niched down in this business, I think it’s really important to find somebody that has the experience and works with the booking engine companies, understands it, along with your website, along with eCommerce. And I think it’s really important if you’re sourcing a digital agency, while you may want to use somebody local, they may not have any experience at all in the activity and tours space. They may be a do it all shop.

Shane Whaley:                   Yeah. I think a good question might be assuming the Digital Marketing Agency, how many Arivals have you been to?

Tom Kratsch:                        All three.

Shane Whaley:                   All right. Yeah, absolutely.

Tom Kratsch:                        You’re starting to get me.

Shane Whaley:                   I know. And that’s kind of my point. I think if I was a tour operator and I’m looking let’s say at how many Arivals have you been to would my question if I’m calling up. And many of them might say, “What is Arival?” Then I’d say, “Okay, time to move on.” And then people like you and you mentioned Chris, that was very gracious of you. They’re here and you’re here because you learning and you want to keep up to date with trends of the industry. And I think that is… Because this, I’m going to ask you, what is your favorite social media channel? What do you think is the most effective for tour operators? The answer that you gave me today might be different at Arival Phoenix next year, because this is how quick this industry changes.

Tom Kratsch:                        Correct? Yeah. The technology built into these platforms, whether it’s Google ads platform, Facebook advertising platform, what have you, is just moving every day. There’s something different. There’s something new. There’s new opportunities coming out with these platforms. They’re always evolving. It’s like your website, it’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing.

Shane Whaley:                   Absolutely. It’s a living thing.

Tom Kratsch:                        You can’t just set up Google ads and then not look at it for a week or two weeks, what have you. It’s not a set it and forget it thing.

Shane Whaley:                   And of course, without getting too into politics, you look at the debates right now, people are talking about breaking up Facebook. And Twitter just said, “No political ads.” So who knows where are we going to be at Phoenix next year?

Tom Kratsch:                        Yeah. And the privacy policies that are coming into play, Facebook has to ebb and flow.

Shane Whaley:                   Absolutely.

Tom Kratsch:                        These kinds of things.

Shane Whaley:                   Great. Where can people find out more about your company?

Tom Kratsch:                        Yeah. You can go to TRKcreative.com, our website, TRKcreative.com or you can certainly just email me [email protected] so just shoot me an email.

Shane Whaley:                   Fantastic.

Tom Kratsch:                        That’s a good way to find us. Yeah.

Shane Whaley:                   Thanks for giving us some of your time. You’ve been very busy. Lots of meetings this week, so thank you for giving us some of your time today.

Tom Kratsch:                        My pleasure. It’s been awesome.

Speaker 2:                              Thanks for listening to the Tourpreneur podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is Tourpreneur.