10 features to look for in a reservation solution

Travel Planning desk discussion lrg

Basic features you NEED

#1 – Availability & Channel Management

Where would we be today if activity operators couldn’t manage their capacity in one central location? We’d probably still be right where we are, but we may have been turned down on overbooked tours and left disappointed – or maybe we’d be throwing our computers and diaries out of the window in utter frustration. Those would be dark, dark days….

Availability management should be your number one priority when looking for a solution for your business. It should be simple to manage, whether you’re in your office or on your way to pick up some customers (but don’t text and drive). Not only do you want to manage what your team books internally, but also what your FIT customers and your agents can book online through your website directly or through 3rd party channels such as Viator.

From simple single activities to complex products using multiple services, from ad hoc services to planning years in advance, the process should be simple, and the output should be smart and automated.

#2 – Pricing & Promotions

You want to be able to offer flexible pricing to your customer base, whether it’s wholesale pricing for your agents, or running early bird promotions to get your FIT customers to commit to booking you. Rigid pricing solutions and fudging prices or products around to suit your needs often creates a nightmare for end of day reconciliation and accounts. Besides that it provides thriving conditions for human error or even employee dishonesty (and those are not the type of thriving conditions you want).

You want the pricing structure to be smart to make it easy for anyone using the software.

#3 – Reporting & Tracking

Knowledge is power! Firstly, you want accurate Point of Sale reporting to make the daily reconciliation as easy as possible, but how about where your customers are from? Through what channels do they book or how did they hear about you? Which of your tours and trip times are most popular, and where should you open up more availability? How many people that browse your website actually end up booking a trip and how did they end up on your website in the first place? Or did they book on the third visit to your site?

Getting insight into these aspects of your business is crucial for you to run a profitable business, as long as you actually use that information and turn them into an action: advertise in these places, don’t bother running that unpopular trip to city sewers, hire staff that speak a foreign language, etc.

#4 – Payment solutions

Customers should have no issues trying to pay for your products, right? A good example is using integrated payment solutions, online as well as at your Point of Sale. Accepting all traditional credit cards, as well as the more modern payment types such as Google Pay, and AliPay or WeChat Pay to cater to your Chinese customers.  Maybe you want to take partial payments ahead of time, or use deferred payment options to charge the customer only once the activity is confirmed.

Another function to think about is the ability to charge it to an account and invoice the customer or agent for the amount owing.

#5 – One System to Rule THEM All

The great thing about living in New Zealand is that The Lord of the Rings puns will never get old. That said we should probably explain what THEM means in this context. Them bookings, them payments, them commissions, them reports, them live availability, them pricing and promotions, them confirmation and follow up emails, them gift vouchers, them pick up manifests… I think you know what we mean. Try to keep your business in one place for you to streamline your operations and save your time and money for the better things in life.

#6 – Compliancy & Covering Your Butt

With the ever-increasing laws and legislation around privacy, it’s crucial to have a privacy policy outlined on your website and be GDPR compliant. GDPWhat? If you’ve been living under a rock since May 2018, read what GDPR is here.

Besides that, anyone selling any service wants to cover their butt legally and will need Terms & Conditions. When choosing your reservation solution, make sure you can edit these to your needs.

Sweet as features you might WANT

#7 – Resource planning & manifesting

If you operate a business with boats, planes, buses or say, humans that jump out of aeroplanes, you might have the need to not only manage their capacity, but also allocate bookings or customers to a resource. Who is taking which people in their bus? Where do these people need to be picked up? Which instructor will strap what passenger on to travel at terminal velocity towards earth?

Besides the planning, you also need to communicate this to your staff and send reports to assist payroll for employees and contractors.

#8 – Tablet and Online Check ins

Could your customers get physically hurt during your activity because it’s that awesome? You’re probably going to want them to sign a waiver. A paper sheet definitely does the trick, but they can get lost, and most of all they are particularly good at piling up. Before long you’ll need storage space because you’re required to keep them for a number of years… And think of the trees!

Using tablet check-ins, or better yet getting your customers to fill out their waivers online from the comfort of their hostel bed, is the way to go! Especially now that we’re in 2019 it’s pretty much expected that all data is stored digitally. Having this as part of your reservation solution is key to your customer management. 

#9 – Gift Vouchers

You know what’s so good about gift vouchers? People buy them, gift them, and might not get redeemed, which means free money for you! Shhhhh! Don’t tell them we told you this! Seriously though, the gift of an experience is one of the best you can get, because people can buy socks at the supermarket. Offering gift vouchers that can be redeemed online provides the customer with the freedom to use it when they want, and makes the decision process that much easier for the purchaser because they don’t need to choose a date and time.

#10 – Accounts

Now for the boring, but oh so important stuff: accounts. Some reservation solutions will have built-in accounting options, others may interact with accounting software which do most of the hard work for you (examples of these in New Zealand are Xero and MYOB), and yet others may not offer anything like this and leave you to do everything manually. 

What you should look for is a solution that offers flexibility: manage your finances with integrated processes without the need for double entry and have the option to export the data to upload in your accounting software.  Or better yet, have the two talk to each other through an API.

Have you been Googling and are there (too) many solutions out there which offer the features you need and you don’t know how to choose? Have a read through our blog post on How to Pick a Reservation Solution That Works for You.

The 10 features listed here are applicable to any activity provider or tour operator, and should definitely be taken into account when choosing a reservation solution. That said, of course IBIS Technology offers all of the features listed above on a pick & choose basis. Like what you’ve read? Get in touch with our friendly team of tourism & IT geeks!

Success Story – Shotover Canyon Swing

Shotover Canyon Swing

Shotover Canyon Swing and Canyon Fox are two of Queenstown New Zealand’s most popular adrenaline activities

The Swing officially opened in 2002 with a modest crew of 4 . The next successful activity Canyon Fox opened in 2016.

Initially, the Queenstown company started with a paper-based booking system. They quickly realised that not only did they need a better way to manage bookings, but they also needed to manage their products, booking channels, handle invoicing, and do sales analysis. The staff were buried in the operational aspects of the business with manual systems that were getting in the way of the most important thing: ensuring a great customer experience.

They noticed that several large Kiwi operators were using the IBIS Tourism Management Platform. They liked the fact that it was built and supported in New Zealand.

Shotover Canyon Swing web sm 500
From the start the system addressed a number of issues.

  • Mistakes that resulted from the paper-based system were virtually eliminated.
  • IBIS Online Exchange made it possible for agents and information centres from across New Zealand to book directly with having to call for availability.
  • And now they had a system that could close off sections of a day, or a whole day to support group bookings, famils, or VIP bookings.
  • Cancellations were a lot easier and a repeating issue of double bookings suddenly disappeared.

Canyon Swing General Manager, Matt Hollyer says, “We’ve now got happier customers and better staff satisfaction because they generally only deal with happy customers, whose trip ran on schedule and whose place was secured from the word ‘go’.”