Tour booking engines have erupted in recent years, giving tours and activities worldwide the ability to save time while making more money.
But with a variety of online booking tools to choose from, it’s vital to list the necessary features that your business needs. Find the best online booking software is hard, therefore this list.
The online booking system you choose should help you…
Tourists are happy to book online, so your website must adapt. This means it has to be appealing, look professional, and function properly to meet all their needs.
Your booking system needs to easily link to your website. This can be done via a hosted web page that is fully customisable so that your customers don’t feel like they’re leaving the website, or by being embedded via code into your existing website.
This is so important to reduce confusion and friction for your customers’ booking process. In fact, one of our customers had this to say about Rezdy’s booking system:
“From clicking on the tour product, to finding a date of the tour, to paying, is seamless. I think it makes your customers pretty confident that you’re a good business, and then in turn saying that it’s the start of what would probably be a good tour, lesson, or rental, so it starts that process.”
Everything from browsing the tour and selecting availability to putting in credit card details and confirming the booking needs to be a seamless experience.
High resolution images allow customers to visualize what they will experience when they book with your company.
Here’s an example from one of our customers, Oxalis Adventures.
An image gallery on the booking system allows you to pick the best sights that they will see along the way, and highlight those features of your tours.
It’s also important to put up images of your team at work, because it gives your business character.
People who are looking at your Facebook page should be able to quickly and easily book a tour without leaving the site.
Here’s an example of what that looks like on your Facebook page:
Most tour companies want to appeal to a global audience, so it is important to have a booking software that can be displayed in other languages and also accommodate different currencies.
After all, you will most likely be catering to tourists, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to learn more about your offering and lock in a booking.
You should be able to customise each email that your booking system sends out, so that it matches your business’ branding.
This should include everything from your customer’s order details and booking confirmation to the emails leading up to and following your tour. Also, if you’re allowing customers to buy your tours as a gift, you should snazz up your gift card email to make it look special.
The ability to assess your marketing campaigns is wholly dependent on your software’s ability to manage promo codes and vouchers.
Having it tied to your booking system means that you can not only set up parameters for each promotion, but you can also track how many bookings you received per marketing channel.
Your booking system should allow you to slice and dice all the information you have on your orders.
Whether it’s by agent, promo code, catalog, product, or even staff members, you want to be able to analyse your business from an operational standpoint. Otherwise, how will you be able to make those key decisions to grow your business?
Automating operations tasks through your booking system makes life simpler and easier for both customers and staff.
This is a total must-have of your online booking system. Without it, why bother?
Real-time booking features allow you as an activity operator the freedom to choose when and where you will offer specific reservations.
At the same time, customers can book these tours and reserve your services when it is convenient for them, and they receive immediate confirmation of their reservation.
This gets rid of the hassle of answering phone-in availability enquiries.
Instant payment increases your validity and proves you value customer privacy and security, and at the same time allows you to get instant, guaranteed payments from your customers.
Below is an example of the various ways Rezdy’s booking software processes payments.
As a bare minimum, PayPal must be offered as a payment option. If your business is heavily weather dependent, find a booking system that allows for deferred payment processing.
It will allow you to safely store credit card details and only charge once you know what to charge – this means that if someone cancels, you can charge your cancellation fee and not have to do any refunds or chargebacks. In Rezdy, this is called Rezdy Vault.
Chances are, your days as a tour operator aren’t spent sitting in front of a desktop computer all day. You probably manage your business over your smart phone or tablet as well, so ideally you will want to have a booking system that works with ‘the cloud’.
‘Cloud’-based software allows you to manage your business remotely, while you’re on the go and working with customers at the same time.
A visual calendar allows tour and activity operators to see what their daily, weekly and monthly calendars look like at a glance. It’s an easy way to plan for staffing, additional tours and refreshments that might be needed.
Below is an example of Rezdy’s visual reservations calendar.
The fact that it updates automatically means there’s one source of the truth. This is much more efficient than going back and forth with other staff members to double-check.
Maximising revenue without overbooking is always an issue if your booking software cannot manage your resources for you. That way you will always have enough equipment and tour guides on hand to service as many customers as possible comfortably.
Your system should automatically adjust your availability every time a tour is booked, so that you never run the risk of overbooking without the resources to deliver.
Your manifest needs to be organized so that everyone is on the same page. A well-structured manifest makes sure that you know of your customers’ special requirements, who has paid for the tour and who hasn’t, and your vehicle drivers can easily pick up your guests.
Your booking system should allow you to customize your manifest based on the fields specified in your booking form.
Sending out emails and texts that are standard procedure (confirmation, reminder, and follow-up) takes up too much time. It is tedious administrative work that many booking systems will allow you to automate.
Besides automating this for your customers, your booking system should allow you to be notified in the same way when a booking is made.
Things can get confusing if communications with your customers are not stored in the same database being managed by your booking software.
You should be able to send personal-style emails in addition to automated ones, so that each staff member can easily see the latest communication that has occurred with the customer in question without having to sift through a messy inbox.
Every modern business uses more than one online service to meet their needs. For example, you have your online booking software, your email marketing software, and your accounting software. Trying to take data from one of these to another can be a painful and time-consuming task.
Make sure your booking system allows you to automate tasks between itself and a multitude of online services. For example, it can do this through Zapier, or through WebHooks.
As with any technological addition to your business, tour and activity operators might need support when it comes to their online booking system. When you are taking advantage of the many free trials out there, test out the helpfulness of their support team. Make sure you invest in a system that offers both online customer support and customer support over the phone.
Are there lots of educational resources on their website? What do past customers say about working with them? Do your due diligence because you want to make sure this relationship will last.
When it comes to your bottom line, distribution is everything.
You work with many agents who make sure your tours get booked. The problem is it results in a lot of admin work. It’s a manual process, so it takes a lot time and involves a lot of confusion.
You should look for booking systems that will manage your distribution channels seamlessly.
This means that they are integrated with online travel agencies and marketplaces so that it is easier for you to distribute your tours.
Below is a diagram of how Rezdy connects tour suppliers to agents.
The software will automatically update your availability so that there is no lag time for people booking through these OTAs. For example, Rezdy is integrated with Viator, as well as a host of other channels.
If you are interested in educating yourself on your online booking options, the information in our Buyer’s Guide to Online Booking Software Selection for Tour Operators can prevent you from picking software that doesn’t suit your tour or activity business: