- Helen Fraser, Ultimately Sydney
Ultimately Sydney is one of the most trusted bus tour operators in Sydney. It’s a well recognised award-winning brand (voted 2014 Tour Company Of The Year by the Concierge Industry Awards) that stands out on the market with its diverse range of products, luxury vehicles and highly experienced tour guides. It’s locally owned and operated by the tourism guru Helen Fraser. Helen knows Sydney inside and out and is infectiously passionate about delivering only the best for her customers that come from all corners of the world.
As her business was growing, Helen needed to take her administration management to the next level. After a colleague introduced her to Rezdy, she switched and never looked back. Now all her data is centralised and readily available. She no longer has to juggle multiple Excel spreadsheets to get the most out of her bookings.
Registering her products on Rezdy Marketplace has also opened up endless opportunities for Helen to offer her tours to a broader worldwide audience and increase her booking rates.
A few weeks back Helen opened up the doors of her home (and office) and was kind enough to share her Rezdy story.
H: When I left school I studied Hotel Management, with the impression that I might be running a hotel one day. I then did the usual Australian thing and travelled overseas for a couple of years, working in hotels across Canada and UK. After coming back to Australia I somehow lost the desire because working at Pan Pacific in Vancouver set the bar really high! (laughs). I decided to jump into Tourism after a brief stint in corporate. I just happened to see a tour bus drive past, quickly wrote down the number, rang the owner, and three weeks later I was driving to the Blue Mountains with a bunch of people in the car! It was wonderful. I did that for quite a few years, and then I decided I just wanted to do city tours. I took a leap of faith and started the whole thing up.
H: I think we do a pretty good job in maintaining our reputation and the high quality of our products. When we go out there and I hear positive feedback coming through hotels or agents, it gives us great confidence that we’re still seen as one of the best tour operators in Sydney. Winning awards, of course, gives us great confidence too. We’ve won a couple over the last year and that also reassures us that we’re doing the right thing.
H: During our peak season, on a busy day we could have 8 tours running in one day and be taking 20 bookings daily! It’s challenging but also exciting having so many things happening at once. We average about 4 tours a day in high season so it’s really important to stay on top of things.
I run the business mainly from my home office. I used to do all the guiding myself but have since decided to step down for two reasons: to create more work opportunities for the best guides in the industry and to focus solely on growing the business and improving our product. I now employ three full time driver guides and a part time office manager who helps with admin. In terms of our fleet, we’ve got a 14-seater van, two 9-seater vans and have also recently added a sedan limousine because we’re seeing a big demand for intimate tours for one or two people, frequently overnight travellers or business people who don’t have the time to see the city but want a more bespoke experience.
H: The constant development of technology forces you be constantly innovative in terms of your offerings. This is what’s happening in tours and activities sector in Australia right now. Everyone’s looking to do the next best thing. We’re constantly being challenged to come up with something new, creative, more interactive. It’s all about recognising what people want, and promptly making it happen.
We’re fortunate to have a variety of different experiences on offer so we’re pretty well covered. However things happen, things that are out of our control, when you need to adapt quickly. For example, the GFC affected us terribly because most of our customers were coming from America. After a steep decline in business during that time we shifted our focus to doing gourmet food and wine tours for locals, as Masterchef was on the rise and people wanted to learn where they could shop for gourmet produce and cook amazing food at home. The instant popularity of cooking shows on TV, coupled with my extensive experience in the hospitality and food and beverage industry enabled us to come up with new exciting products for the locals.
H: As Ultimately Sydney was growing, we needed to come up with something — a better solution to contain the bookings, to be able to report and record, and to just be able to click a button and have it all there. We had Excel spreadsheets and we just perused information from that. It was so time-consuming. It wasn’t always accurate. I don’t even like to think about those times to tell you the truth (laughs) I love our new booking system!
When you’re in a business that deals with a lot of enquiries from all over the world, you need to take it to the next level. You need to shift gears.
We initially tried a booking system that was still at its infancy. Around the same time a colleague in the industry mentioned Rezdy. I rang them and they were so helpful. Someone came out to see us and we did the whole installation over the phone.
It just seemed so easy compared to what we were already using and the ongoing support is what I value the most. Everybody says, “Yeah, no problem, give us a ring,” but you know, they’re not always there or they’re not always available. They have to call you back and you just want it fixed. I can’t tell you how impressive that is, both from an email perspective and phone call. It was really helpful.
In the day tour operator industry, Rezdy is the market leader for this type of software.
It’s also really unbelievable value. I would have thought something like that could cost a fortune, and it could. But at the moment we’re using Rezdy at a level that suits our business for now, and we can always upgrade as we grow. And Rezdy seems to really understand that element of business growth.
Everybody in our industry who’s using Rezdy is really happy with it, so when you’re happy with something, why change it? In the day tour operator industry, Rezdy is the market leader for this type of software.
H: Rezdy contains all the information that we need to go back to. It records everything, and books everything in advance. So it’s like a snapshot of everything past, present, and future, and we always seem to have the Rezdy window open. So it has become a vital part of our administration and a solution to most of our admin problems. It’s opened up a whole new thought space for where we can go now.
It’s just a huge weight off your shoulders to have that booking system become a big component of your admin. You don’t need to constantly learn new things, you just have to learn how to use it more effectively to get the most out of it.
H: I’m very excited that there are now more opportunities for Ultimately Sydney to connect with more resellers. We do work with the top agents but the Marketplace has so many more options now. I’m looking forward to leveraging the potential of the new Marketplace – there’s so much more room to grow now!
H: What’s really tricky in small business, especially if you’re not entirely sure how to take it to the next level, is that you do get times of the year where business is quite slow. So, you just have to take a leap of faith because it does get better.
In my case, the transition from doing the tours to actually switching to office work was something that didn’t come easy. Rezdy gave me the confidence to take that leap because it’s just set up so well and it allows me to go out there and work on growing my business.
Having a system like Rezdy gives us that extra push to take the big step forward. So I can just do it, take it to the next level and still be able to rely on it to keep it all together, because, I’ll say it again, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to focus on the growth side of things and not have to worry about that—the admin.
Rezdy gave me the confidence to take that leap because it’s just set up so well and it allows me to go out there and work on growing my business.