I wanted to clarify my position on online verses offline travel. In a recent Travel Weekly article I was quoted: “People are going online to shop. Travel is no different. That’s where the marketplace is going, and anyone who believes that things will originate with a phone call is completely out to lunch.”I do stand by this statement, though it was taken a bit out of context. As clarification: My belief is that offline support will continue to be a critical part of the online transaction. During a recent engagement with a large resort company, it was estimated that 80% of the consumers who telephone the call center have been online. This is no different across all segments (hospitality, corporate travel, vacation planning). The Web should not be viewed as another channel, but the ultimate channel for consumer interfacing. The misconception that all travel will be automated with no human involvement, over estimates the ability of software to emulate the human mind. In reality, complex travel purchases whether it is a tour, cruise or multi-city international business trip, will likely require human assistance for some time. The key is where the human action comes into play and how it is integrated with the online reservation process. One need only to look at he growth of call centers for giants such as Expedia and Travelocity to see that offline support is still critical for online transactions. My friend and colleague, Philip Wolf, CEO of PhoCusWright has been talking for some time about the transformation of call centers to customer care centers. It is this integration between offline and online reservations that will make this transformation possible.