How to Choose the Best Booking Software to Boost Your Tour and Activity Business

By:

November 18, 2021

6 min read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

A booking management system streamlines the booking process and day-to-day operations, making a massive difference to your tour and activity business. An online booking system helps you replace those chaotic excel sheets and focus on delivering an exceptional guest experience.

However, the challenge is finding the right one for your business and making sure you get the best value for your money. With many booking management solutions out there, finding the best partner and platform for your business can be a daunting task.

It’s no different for those looking for a replacement for their current reservation management system. They will have to put in extra effort to get the right fit this time and avoid mistakes they made before. 

So, here we are, to make the buying journey easy for you. We map out the essential steps to take and the critical questions to ask as you search for the best online booking system for your tour and activity business.

Step 1: Analyze your Business Needs and Goals

Step 2: Find the Right Features and Prepare the Right Questions

Step 3: Evaluate Booking Systems

Step 4: Book a Demo

Step 5: Get Things in Order—Onboarding & Implementation

Step 1: Analyze your Business Needs and Goals

Map out the problems you want to solve or goals you want to achieve with booking software. Brainstorm with your team to have all the information you need to make a decision.

Tour and activity operators have unique reasons to adopt booking management software. Some of you may want to automate the booking process, reducing the workload of your small team, while others may want to cater to broader business goals. 

The first step in the buying journey is to understand the requirements of the tour business and identify your reasons for having booking software. 

If you are not happy with your existing system, analyze where it failed you and what requirements it couldn’t meet in the last season.

To help you get started with this analysis, here are a few questions to use as a checklist to identify the need for reservation technology software.

Ask yourself: What are your goals?
  • Increase online bookings
  • Boost product visibility
  • Explore third-party distributions 
  • Simplify front desk work
  • Provide payment options to customers
  • Enable upselling opportunities
  • Manage resources and inventory
  • Cut down on phone communication with guests
  • Automate guest communications
  • Get more insights into sales and product performance
  • Introduce promo codes to customers
  • Coordinate different locations and teams
  • Manage operations on the go
  • Sell to customers across the globe

💡There is an inevitable step at this stage—a seasonal post-mortem with your team to get all the information you need to make an informed decision! As they are on the frontline managing day-to-day operations and interacting with guests, they can give you a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not.

Step 2: Find the Right Features and Prepare the Right Questions

Figure out the features and functionalities you required to meet your business needs and goals. Once you know the tools you need for the booking software, be prepared with a list of questions to ask the restech provider to ensure they have the right features for you.

Now you know everything about your business needs and requirements. The next move is to narrow down software features and functionalities to help you meet those business goals.

For example, suppose you want to accept direct bookings globally and keep your bookings updated in real-time. In that case, you may need a robust booking engine that can be easily integrated into your website. 

To broaden your online distribution or partnership with other local tour operators, you should look for a system with a channel manager, which is a tool to manage various sales channels. 

Finalize the required features and prepare a list of questions for the restech provider to ensure that they have the features you need for your business. 

It is best to categorize the questions into five different segments (or more depending on your business) such as booking engine, operational, integrations & distribution, customer support and miscellaneous to cover all the aspects of your business.Here are a few of the questions to give you a head start. If you need to dig deeper into questions, download our Free Buyer’s Guide for Tour and Activity Operators.

Booking Engine
  • Can your system provide a frictionless booking process for my customers?
  • Can I see all my bookings in real-time?
  • How long does it take to set up and be ready for online bookings? 
Operational
  • Is the back-end easy to use? 
  • Do you have a Point of Sale or mobile solution?
  • What are the insights that I can collect from reporting?
Integrations & Distribution
  • What integrations have already been developed?
  • Is there a tool to manage all sales channels in one place?
  • Can I collaborate with other local operators in my area and cross-sell?
Customer Support
  • Is there onboarding provided to get my team up to speed?
  • Will I have customer support even after onboarding?
  • Do you have support documentation or knowledge resources on your website?
Other
  • Can I easily offer promo codes, discounts, and gift cards? 
  • What are the available tools for guest communication?
  • Do you have experience with clients similar to us?

Step 3: Evaluate Booking Systems

How to do research?

Visit software reviews sites online such as Capterra, Software Advice and G2

Talk to fellow tour operators locally or in social groups

Get first-hand booking experience by visiting vendors’ customer website 

As with any other shopping journey, you can start your search online. It will lead you to software review sites such as Capterra, Software Advice and G2. You will get a good picture of the features and functionalities of each system right from their customers’ perspective.

Also, have a chat with your fellow tour operators—locally, social groups, communities—to learn the pros and cons of the booking system they have in place. We recommend looking at Tourpreneur’s Facebook group or participating in one of Arival’s Events.

If you want to get first-hand experience before the demo, find out the customers of shortlisted vendors. The vendors’ websites will have a proud display of their customers. Go to their customer websites and test their booking process to understand the guest booking experience.

Step 4: Get a Demo

Shortlist a few restech providers that can meet your expectations and get a demo tailored to your business requirements

After research and asking around, you have reached a crucial part of your buying journey. Line up two or three restech providers and get on the phone with the sales representatives of shortlisted companies.

Get a demo tailored to your business to understand how the platform would work for your unique business needs and product configurations. As you get to the final evaluation stage, go through your checklist and ensure your goals can be met with the specific software. 

Also, look for standout features that could be handy as you scale. You may not need all the custom features in the beginning. But, ensure that there is scope for long-term partnership and scalability.

Keep in mind, you are looking for a long-term booking software solution. So, make sure you evaluate your options not only based on where your business is today, but where you want it to be in the future. A platform that is ready to enable your operation’s growth is ideal because you don’t want to be switching software every year after the time and money you invested in training your staff.

Step 5: Get Things in Order—Onboarding & Implementation

Include your teammate in the onboarding and implementation stage. It’s best to choose an In-House Restech Champion, a team member who works hand in hand with the customer success team of the restech provider. Make the best use of free educational resources—Knowledge Base, Webinars and How to Video Tutorials—to get the most value from your new booking system.

The onboarding process is equally important as your research for the booking software. Instead of flying solo during onboarding, include your teammates—your operations team, reservations team or ground team—who use the system on a day-to-day basis.

Choose your In-House Restech Champion—a team member who is the ultimate power user. 

This team member should be better equipped to communicate the day-to-day business needs to the system onboarding specialist. Your In-House Restech Champion will be in charge of the booking system and will be capable of training other team members joining later in the season.

To get the most value out of your booking system, dive into all the free educational resources—Knowledge Base, Webinars and How to Video Tutorials— accessible to your team. Subscribe to the company’s blogs and other marketing communications to receive all the latest product updates, features, and fixes.

Quick Recap

When it comes to technology investment in your tour and activity business, you should put a lot of thought into it. Even though it may seem hard work, knowing the proper steps will make the process easier and make you more confident in your final decision. 

Assess business needs and goals with your team, figure out the tools to achieve those goals and evaluate the restech players accordingly. Keep in mind that the restech provider will be your trusted partner while you entertain and delight your guests. 

At every step of the shopping process, you should be looking for an online booking system that can provide a flawless booking experience for your guests while driving you more revenue and lightening your workload.

To help with your search, our latest Buyer’s Guide to Choosing an Online Booking System provides some pointers for selecting the right vendor. The free ebook provides a round-up of everything you need and a checklist of questions you should be asking when you hunt for an online booking management system for your tour and activity business. 

Get Your Free Guide Now

If you are looking for a robust online booking system to create a seamless booking experience for your guests, we can help you. Talk to Zaui experts today to know more about our features and functionalities that can supercharge your business!

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