Are you in the tour industry? The challenges and difficulties of managing and tracking your booking flow must be stressful. So, how do you make your life easier? Still thinking about implementing an online booking system to your website? You’re in the right place. We’re here to help you.
First of all, what is an online booking system? We have already written about it actually. It's basically a type of program that allows you to manage important dates online. Such as appointments, meetings, reservations, etc. Also, some booking systems, like Orioly, will allow you to install a scheduling tool on a website. This means your customers can manage the booking process themselves, as well as pay for an activity through a website.
The Pros and Cons of Online Booking Systems
From the 1960's, when an online reservation system first became a reality, to 2016, a lot of things have changed. And a lot of disadvantages were turned into advantages.
Considering the saying "Time is money" is true, you should be up for online booking systems. Because the greatest advantage is saving time. That is a noticeable benefit in running a business. Not only are you saving your time and energy, but also making it easier for your customers to make the decision. And thus, saving their precious time as well. When you look at all the advantages, you’ll see why an online booking system makes a perfect solution.
1. Accessibility 24/7
You’re open to your customers 24/7 because the system operates autonomously. Customers who make a decision to book a tour don't want to wait until you are in the office. This way they can book the activity on their own schedule. Statistics show that more and more bookings today are made during the evening at home online. An online booking system allows you to receive booking 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
2. Minimizing Your Workload
Processing all your bookings manually means a lot of work. A good online booking system will handle all the aspects of the booking, but often much more than just that:
- It will ensure that bookings can only be received when you have availability. So, there’s no over-booking. And no need for cross-checking of booking statuses with emails and spreadsheets.
- Send an automated email to your customers after the booking process. They immediately receive a guarantee of obtaining services.
- Also, get all the information required during the booking process. Thus, no need for you to waste your time asking for more information.
- Integrate your customized activity with promotions, bookings, customer information, and payments. In regards to promotion: it can be a powerful tool for marketing. Orioly, for example, lets you connect your FB and Twitter accounts. You can track how your social media posts have helped your business. There are also options like discount coupon codes, loyalty program, bonuses, etc. All these processes are updated in real time every time you edit something.
- Set up all your invoices, taxes, terms and loyalty programs from a central position.
That directly leads to minimizing the burden on employees and increasing their productivity.
Your booking system should allow the easy addition of add-ons. Simple as that. It’s important that you're able to offer your customers extra services. And it's then up to them to choose whether they want additional features. By adding extra perks to your customers, you can easily add extra revenue for your business.
4. Automatic Analytics and Insights
An online booking system with automatic analytics helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Determine your most requested time slots, the most popular tours, and add-ons by using an online booking system with insights. Take advantage of knowing what your customers want most. A dashboard of analytics will help you grow your business. And save you time and money on offerings that don't bring you enough growth.
5. No Commission
Commission free means shifting bookings from marketplaces to your own channel. By implementing an online booking system you have cut out the middleman.
6. Online Payments
With an online booking system, your customers can prepay for your tours or activities. This puts money straight into your account without the lag time. And helps make sure that on the day of the event you don't have to worry about payment. The old barrier in the way of online payment systems was trust, but this is no longer an issue. The risk of credit card fraud or scam is extremely low for online payment gateways. With this, you reduce manual workload even more. And you also provide an easy and safe way for your customers to both book and pay. Online reservation systems speed up your cash flow just by being there.
7. Clear Overview
All your customer data is in a structured system, in one place. You can check your reservations and availability from on any device from any location. Always know the status of your business and effortlessly manage your calendar. There's no need for the old paper book and your reception staff can easily see whether you have availability or not. Orioly makes this overview even simpler by using different colors on your calendar. Red, orange or green color will immediately tell you the level of your occupancy.
1. Internet Access
You'll need a constant access to the Internet, which could be a problem if you run tours and activities in remote areas. If you're not a fan of technology or you don’t have internet access, it might not be for you.
2. No Direct Contact With Customers
Direct conversation with customers via phone/mail has some good sides. You may gain precious and previous information that will improve the quality of their stay. Also, some customers may prefer direct, real contact.
3. Technical Problems
A software glitch can cause that the customer mistakenly buys the same ticket twice. Internet connection loss during the process of online payment can have unwanted consequences. It can leave the customer in confusion whether the payment has already been processed or not.
4. Possible Need to Grow Too Quickly
If you run a small business without enough staff members or resources, too many new customers may be a problem. Expanding your activities and growing too fast might pose a challenge for you.
5. Not Every Online Booking Software Might Be the Right One
It’s important that you find out which online booking system will suit you. Not all of them will offer you all the features and commitment. That kind of experience could be frustrating.
The numbers never lie
The statistics show that 35% of clients want to schedule appointments during non-business hours. As well as 25% of Millennials (those under 35) will only book appointments online.
Every day you receive emails about your tours. This requires you to get back to the customer often with long delays between each email. Naturally, some drop-off and you don’t hear back from them. That’s a lost booking that was yours for the taking. And like the leaky pipe over the course of a year, this can be expensive. Say you get 10 leads per day and only 4 end up booking. Even if 2 of those lost – booked with someone else – that’s 730 lost bookings per year! That’s a lot of cash.
Online travel booking has been increasing in the United States. Let's just look at the changes between the spring of 2008 and the spring of 2015. The number of internet users who managed travel reservations online increased from 40.6 million to 59.8 million.
The use of mobile devices is increasing with time. For the travel industry and tour and activity providers, this means the growing need to have mobile ready websites. And, of course, the ability to take online bookings through mobile devices.
PhoCusWright, the international travel research company, has done some interesting research. For example, the number of Americans who book travel online and on tablets increased by 40% compared to last year. They also found that those using tablets were 20% more likely to make a booking than those using smartphones.
What it all comes down to: the world is going forward, and so should you. The potential disadvantages we mentioned – you can overcome them all. Just because there’s no need for the direct contact with the customers, doesn’t mean there can't be one. You can still be open for all extra questions your clients may have. But be free to leave the office in the meantime and still get the bookings! Tour and activity providers can now stay in touch with everything concerning their business from anywhere in the world. And all thanks to the online booking system. Simply – make your life easier.