An increasing number of travellers want to book tours and activities online, although 83% of tour and activity companies still work with traditional methods for their daily management (Phocuswright, 2016).
This means two things. Firstly, if your tours and activities are available online, you have a clear advantage!
Secondly, if you haven't yet made the move online, now is the ideal time to catch up. As there is such a great range of booking software providers to choose from, it's easier than ever to weigh up your options and choose a solution that really meets your needs.
At TrekkSoft, we've found that tour and activity providers receive up to 40% more bookings after implementing an online booking system. Here are the questions you should weigh up to get similar results for your business.
1. Does the software provider specialise in your industry?
There are many booking software providers out there, but many of them don't specialise in the tour and activity industry. Be wary of choosing a provider that has a different focus than your company, even if the price is temptingly low (or free).
As a starting point, it's wise to rule out companies that focus on restaurant or accommodation reservations. You want to be supported by a team that understands your industry better than all others. And luckily for you, there are several high-quality booking systems that have extensive experience of the tour and activity industry.
2. What are the costs involved?
- Does the cost reflect the quality of features?
- Is there an extra charge for onboarding, support, or to get your website up and running?
Bear in mind that you get what you pay for - many low-cost and even free solutions on the market tend to have a very limited feature set and minimal level of support. You will likely find that a paid system is worth the investment, especially if you want your software provider to help with running day-to-day administration and set your business for growth.
Paid systems are generally accompanied by top-tier features and support. A high level of support should be especially the case with the onboarding process, but also throughout customer journey. You also want to be supported by a team with years of experience in helping businesses like yours grow - if that is your goal.
Some booking software providers may have an extra charge for training and support, but this isn't the case for all of them. Providers like TrekkSoft believe in a free and personalised onboarding experience as well as ongoing support. If this is important to you, why not introduce yourself to our team?
3. What are your priorities for this stage of your business, or which features really matter?
Before signing up for any trials or demos, decide which features matter to you and your business.
Here are some features you might prioritise in your booking software research:
- A website builder lets you build a new and booking-optimized website from scratch.
- Resource management prevents overbooking by updating all of your resources in real-time. This matters if your business has limited resources (e.g. kayaks) or available places (e.g. on a tour) that need to be properly allocated.
- A mobile app allows you to manage your business any time, anywhere, on any device.
- A multi-currency and multilingual system lets you attract customers from all over the world without any limitations.
- An add-on feature lets your customers select extras during the booking process to increase their basket value and create a more personalised experience.
- A payment gateway feature offers a low rate for processing payments worldwide.
- Real-time booking means that you are always looking at the most recent availability of your tours.
- An online POS desk enables you and your agents to sell your tours on any tablet or laptop with a user-friendly system.
You might also ask yourself:
- Do agents sell your tours, or do you want them to in future? A software provider like TrekkSoft can facilitate this, especially if they offer an online POS desk for your agents to use.
- Do you want to build a partner network and cross-sell with other tourism providers?
It's also vital that your team is on-board with your software choice, and that the features help you to all work happily and effectively.
4. Will the booking system give your customers what they want?
How do your customers like to book? It's vital that you choose a booking system that provides them with a streamlined and user-friendly booking and payment process. Ideally, your booking process should be as simple as possible, with as little steps possible.
5. Is the backend easy to use?
After a quick onboarding process, it should be easy for you and your team to get a real-time view of your bookings, check or adjust your inventory, and view reporting and analytics.
- Is it a system that you can quickly get to grips with?
- Is it a sysytem that your team can get used to quickly?
- Will you have a dedicated account manager who can show you the ropes and answer any questions?
6. Does the software integrate with your other favourite tools?
If you're a happy Google Calendar or iCal user, does your booking software offer a calendar sync so you can see your availability where you want it?
If you distribute your tours on marketplaces like Musement and Viator, does the booking software offer an integration so you can view all your bookings in real-time in one place?
What about Google Analytics, Joomla, Wordpress and so on? These are some of the intergrations we offer at TrekkSoft and having your favourite tool integrated can help you stay on top of things, especially during the upcoming busy summer season.
7. How do you currently sell your tours or activities?
When choosing an online booking solution, consider your current process. It's likely that it works fairly well for you, but you're now looking for the most efficient way to take your business online and use more advanced features.
Choose a booking system that takes your company to the next level. The best way to do this is to choose a provider that specialises in software for your industry, like TrekkSoft does for tours and activities.
8. Is the software provider interested in marketing your company?
The best booking software providers have a selfless interest in helping you take your business to the next level.
- Is their experience relevant to you?
- Do they care about you as an individual?
- Do they feature their customers on their blog?
- Do they offer a range of free resources like webinars and events?
- As their customer, would they give you a shout-out on social media?
- Do they offer a space for you to network with your peers, ask any questions, and get personalised answers from experts, such as the TrekkSoft LinkedIn group?
9. Is the company growing fast with the industry?
The tour and activity industry is going through exciting changes and expanding fast.
When looking at a prospective booking software provider, ask yourself how quickly the company is improving and expanding their software feature set.
- Are they partnering with marketplaces to increase your distribution opportunities?
- Are they acquiring other software companies to enhance their software further?
- Will they grow alongside your business?
10. Do you get on well with the team?
It's also not always about choosing the biggest brand. Often, it's more important to choose a company that can provide you with a one-on-one friendly and experienced approach.
TrekkSoft was founded by adventure and travel professionals, and our team lives and works in the heart of Europe's tour and activity industry. To many of our customers, this level of understanding is incredibly important.
Having an affinity with the team behind your booking software is such an advantage for your business.
11. Does the company have social proof and credibility?
You want to choose a software provider that is credible and secure. As well as looking at review websites like Capterra, you could look on the provider's blog for case studies of happy customers.
- Do these reviews resonate with you?
- Can you relate to the tour and activity companies sharing their story?
If a similar company to your own has benefited from the software provider, then you may do as well.
12. Does the software provider offer a free trial offer with no expectations?
It's worth testing out several respected booking systems and seeing which features you really get on well with.
- Which booking system will make your life easiest?
- Which features are you reluctant to give up?
- Which company has the customer support team you can best relate to?
- Which software provider offers the best additional resources to develop your business and marketing skills, for instance webinars, ebooks, events, or a blog?
Even if it's time-consuming, it's worth the effort to research and trial the different options out there. By doing so, we're confident you will end up with a booking system that's best for your business, as well as a team that is delighted to guide you along the way.
As part of your booking software research, why not arrange a call with our team in Switzerland? We'd love to hear about your business.
Written by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy is Head of Content Marketing at TrekkSoft. She tries to read a book a week, travel solo every month, and share ideas on lucyfuggle.com. You can usually find her in Switzerland's Berner Oberland.