What's an Online Reservation System and Do You Need It?
We now live in an era where practically everything is inextricable from the internet, including business. It's now crucial that every business - no matter the sector - has a recognisable web presence, because Google has replaced the phone book. Not only does internet technology help tour and activity operators get found online, it also helps them convert visits into money through online booking (or reservation) systems.
According to Wikipedia, an online booking system is "used to store and retrieve information about tour product, tour product options or lodging facility and conduct transactions for booking it."
That's a fancy way to say that an online reservation system will let you accept bookings for your services online. There are three main reasons why you should at the very least consider putting an online booking system in place:
#1 It puts you a step ahead of your competition.
There's a multitude of tour and activity operators out there who have a website and enlist on Google Places, but very few already have an online booking system in place. By having an online reservation system, you're one step ahead of the game, tipping the scales in your favour when prospects research and compare your capabilities against your competitors.
Of course, the presence of an online booking system itself is not enough to make or break the sale. You still need to make sure the other aspects of your site (like imagery, for example) are in the best shape to minimise the amount of visitors that bounce off it.
#2 It's convenient and fast - for you and your customers.
Location is not an issue, and neither is time. The virtual set-up means you won't need to wake up at unholy hours to take booking calls from potential clients halfway around the world. While you dream of being the best damn tour or activity operator there is, people are going through the process of finding your site, browsing through its content, and making a booking.
Travellers veer towards tour and activity sites that support online bookings because not only is it easy, but they usually find some great discount deals, too. They can read up on your business, look at your options, and finally make a booking without being hassled by a pushy sales representative.
#3 It speeds up your cash flow.
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. The online booking system you choose should have an "SSL certificate" on its payment page to ensure users that you are legitimate.
Online reservation systems speed up your cash flow just by being there. There's less capital outlay on your end because you don't have to hire staff to manage customers or pay rent for a physical space. Also, once customers book through it, money goes straight into your account - no lag time here.
They're also more accurate than you probably are when it comes to mathematical calculations. You can set up coupon codes and discount offers without triple-checking whether you got the maths right.
Should you have an online reservation system?
Small tour or activity operators wonder whether an online booking system is needed badly enough to invest some money in. Take time to make your decision, because it will completely change your business processes. Even though this change is for the better, it will take time to train everyone to adapt to it. Make sure you free trial a few of them, and that free trial conditions include the four "no's" (no lock in contract, no credit card required, no commission, and no set up fee) like Rezdy's does.
Then you should be able to make a decision, backed up by analytics data, on whether it will benefit your business. We recommend trying it out for a quarter at the very least - otherwise it's just not long enough to be able to catch a trend.
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Do you have an online reservation system? If so, how has it changed the way you run your business?