What is an Online Booking Engine, and What Tour Operators Should Look for


June 4, 2021

6 min read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Everything is becoming digital in the tour and transport industry. The traditional pen and paper bookings are replaced by online bookings, allowing real-time reservations around the clock.

Tour and transport operators should be equipped with the best available technology to provide their guests with an exceptional online booking experience. As convenience and flexibility take center stage in the booking process, the internet booking engine is now table stakes for tour operators to streamline their booking process and drive more revenue.

What Is An Online Booking Engine?

An Online Booking Engine refers to the booking platform on your website where guests can directly book tours, activities, and transportation services.

When guests visit the website and decide to book your tours or routes, they click the Book Now button. The Book Now button is your Call To Action button that takes your guests to the booking widget or online booking engine, where they’ll complete the booking process in a few clicks. 

As the online booking engine is connected to your booking system, the guest will have up-to-date availability information. A calendar view also provides guests with a clear birds-eye view on all available dates. The booking engine allows your potential guests to select their dates, the number of people and process payments in one go.

Adding an online booking engine to your website will allow your guests to make direct bookings. Direct bookings are 12.5% more profitable than those from OTAs. With guests booking directly through you, you’ll have the whole share of the pie without having to split commissions with OTAs or third-party sellers.

What Should Tour & Transport Operators Look for in an Online Booking Engine 

Simple and Easy Integration  

Integrating an online booking engine into your website should be effortless and straightforward. If your newly introduced booking widgets can embed on your website seamlessly, you can save time and money from making extra edits and customization.

For a cohesive brand experience, ensure that the online booking engine’s colour schemes and fonts match your company’s branding.

Also, go over various options available to embed your booking engine on your website. For instance, within the Zaui system, there are a few ways to add the booking engine to your website via:

  • Embedded Button Overlay (Light frame that pops up)
  • Button (Redirect to a separate page)
  • Direct Link (Dedicated link for resharing with the commission and wholesale agents) 

With these options at your fingertips, the choice is yours in how you customize the booking engine to suit the look and feel of the website and brand.

As you evaluate reservation software and booking engines, prepare a checklist of what you need it to do for your business and your guests.

sample integration of your online booking engine to your website

User-friendly Design

Easy on the eyes is a rule of thumb for any user interface. The rule remains the same for an online booking engine as well. 

An online booking engine with an easy-to-navigate interface keeps the booking process streamlined and simplifies your guest’s booking journey. The clutter-free widget with an easy, quick booking process offers guests a frictionless user experience. In fewer clicks, your guests will finish the booking, growing your guest list and revenue.

Your tours and activities should be displayed distinctly for your visitors without any ambiguity. Guests should be able to search through it based on their interests and preferences and finally, make the bookings with ease.

Zaui’s online booking engine display options include activity-specific and package-specific, which shows all your categories. You can also choose a single category calendar view, displaying activities in a calendar view and listing activities chronologically. 

Knowing the significance of visual storytelling, Zaui’s refreshed online booking engine lets you incorporate many eye-catching images to the booking widget, engaging your guests. You can also add a detailed description that could sell your tour and other booking details, including cancellation and postponement policies.

With a clear display of available activities and a quick, straightforward booking process, it won’t take much time for lookers to become bookers.user friendly design for online booking engine

Mobile-friendly Interface

In 2017, 79% of mobile travelers completed a booking after doing research on their smartphone. And the digital trend is unlikely to change. Mobile will soon become one of the dominant mediums for booking.

As most guests use mobile for searches and bookings, the browsing experience for your guests is crucial. Creating a disruptive user experience for your guests will end up in you losing out on mobile bookings.

If your booking engine is not quick to load or cannot display booking details, the guest will likely abandon the purchase out of frustration. 

Another reason for operators to focus on mobile is that activities are mostly last-minute decisions for many travellers after they have reached their destination. As in-destination travellers rely on their smartphones to search and book tours and activities, an easy-to-use mobile booking process will help you attract and convert more guests.

Guest-centric Features

Adopting features on your online booking engine that cater to your customers will always give you an upper hand. You will have a higher conversion rate by allowing guests to book your tours in their preferred language. That’s the case with payments too. Making payments in local currency, a currency they understand, will be convenient for your guests.

Another example of a customer-centric feature would be giving your guests a sense of control by offering a self-service option for guests to edit their booking should plans change. The self-edit feature would provide them with a choice to amend their booking—changing their tour date and time, passenger totals or even pickup/dropoff location.

We have learned from the pandemic that the system needs to be adaptive to unexpected changes. If your guests want to change their trip due to unforeseen situations, they should be able to amend their booking on their own without having to call your reservations team. It would make them comfortable and save you a lot of administrative time.

Curious to know the guest-centric features offered by Zaui? Head over to our post on 4 Guest Centric Features You May Not Know.

Upselling Options

Upselling is the most effective method to increase your average booking value.

Guests who are already on your website and have already placed a product or route in their cart may want to further enhance their tour experience with additional tours. They might be willing to add more to their itinerary or products to make their tour or journey memorable.

Your online booking engine should have a feature that helps you upsell additional tours and activities. Complementing their purchase with another valuable trip will improve their travel experience and further boost your cart value.

Some of the opportunities include equipment or products such as safety gear, additional luggage, food/snacks, or even cancellation insurance. When your guests are ready to check out, relevant product add-ons on the product page or the cart page should be displayed. 

upselling option for tour operators

Secure Payment Method

It is essential to ensure a secure payment process, given that your revenues are tied directly to how your guests can pay you. A reliable and safe payment gateway for transactions will protect your guests’ data and privacy, so it is key that it is SSL encrypted and PCI compliant.

On the payment gateways and processing front, there are a number of payment infrastructures to choose from (Stripe for our Free Plan, and a wide range of the world’s top payment gateways with Enterprise). As you’re going through this process of selecting a booking engine, you may be evaluating payment processors as well. Consider the country support, processing fees, fraud and security measures, payouts, and other integration perks when selecting a payment gateway that works with your chosen booking system.

On the credit card processing side, it is also important to note the various credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Union Pay etc) that your business can accept and process. As cashless payments are becoming popular in a post-pandemic society, it’ll be increasingly important to offer secure ways to your guests to pay by their credit card or digital wallet, guaranteeing a hassle-free, contactless buying experience.

payment gateway for tour operatos' online booking engine

Social Media integration

One in five travelers uses social media to search for travel information. With 3.96 billion people active users globally, social media is becoming an integral part of a buyer’s journey.

Social media has a great influence on your guest’s purchase decision. Your potential guests may see your content on social media, perhaps engage, and best yet, if they like what you offer, they book your tours and activities. Giving them an option to make the reservation from the social media platform itself, helps you win more bookings.

Integrating booking engine to operators' website

Integrating your online booking widget into your social pages is imperative to convert your social traffic to direct bookings. For instance, you can link the Book Now button on your Facebook business page to your online booking engine. 

When guests click the Book Now button, they will be taken to your online booking engine to reserve their tours and activities.

Reach out to one of our Zaui experts to schedule a demo today to learn how Zaui online booking engine can enhance the guest experience and get you more bookings.

Zaui users, if you want to make the best use of Zaui online booking engine features to increase sales, connect with our Customer Success team today.

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