Updated November 2022 -If you’re working in the travel and tourism industry, your job has most likely been impacted in some way by modern online booking systems.

In just a few years, these systems have utterly transformed how tourism bookings are accepted, managed, and maximized. Online booking systems have also saved thousands upon thousands of admin hours for tour and activity operators. Game-changing is not an overstatement when it comes to describing online booking software.

What is an online booking system?

An online booking system is a software solution and reservation system that makes it simple for guests to book and pay for your tours and activities online. Some of these systems also include reporting software for tour operators and other user-friendly tools that help you improve efficiencies and boost bookings.

The online booking system concept has been around for years, but it’s rapidly become a necessity for tourism operators.

purpose of online booking system

The purpose of online booking systems

If you’re not already working with one, you might be wondering, “Why do we need an online booking system? Don’t phone and email bookings work fine?”. But consider where and how guests are booking these days before jumping to any conclusions.

Guests are now starting to expect tour and activity businesses to accept online bookings. Not offering this important service can discourage guests from booking. To put a number to this fact, over 50% of travelers worldwide would prefer to place a booking online rather than through another channel. Having an online booking system is also particularly crucial for attracting younger demographics.

The key purpose of an online booking system is to help capture that growing demand, with the ultimate objective of bringing in more bookings for your business. Of course, there are a few other advantages of an online reservation system:

  • Deliver an amazing user experience for your guests
  • Improve the security of online payments for your guests
  • Easily capture guest data to help with other business areas, such as tour management and marketing
  • Offer promotions and special pricing to boost bookings in quiet times and off-seasons
  • Gain insights into how and why guests book with you – and use this to drive new bookings!

Key features of online booking systems

how does an online booking system work

So how does an online booking system work exactly?

The first thing to know is that your guests will see is the front-end booking website, which provides a polished and intuitive booking process to guide them through booking and payment. Meanwhile, you’ll have your own VIP access to the system’s back end via your business dashboard, which streamlines all the handy behind-the-scenes information to help you meet your business needs.

Here’s how that looks in practice.

24/7 online booking

Potential customers could be located anywhere and be booking at any time, so a booking platform that can take bookings 24/7 makes a whole lot of sense. Who doesn’t want bookings while they sleep? All you need to do is add your tours or activities, set pricing, and choose if you’d like to take bookings on your own website and through other distribution channels. Then you can relax, knowing your online reservation system is available for bookings right around the clock.

You can easily add a booking widget and booking form to add to your booking page on your existing website. Some online booking systems even provide a tool to build your own branded, mobile-responsive website with a click or two.

Streamlined dashboard for reporting and sales

Your dashboard is where all guest bookings and guest data will be available to you and your team in real-time. You can even capture phone and walk-up bookings in the same system, so it’s all in one place. No more manually updating spreadsheets – just smoothly synced data!

Depending on your choice of online booking system, you’ll be able to:

  • Embed an online booking widget on your website
  • Gather details about your guests and bookings
  • Capture important data about guests’ allergies or dietary preferences
  • Manage bookings easily, including over multiple sales channels such as Expedia and TripAdvisor
  • Take credit card bookings and manage payment processing
  • Access daily guest manifestos to make tour management easy
  • Assign staff members and inventory for tours or activities, and
  • Produce in-depth reports about where, when, and how your guests are booking.

Effortless process automation

Prepare to take up a new hobby or two, because an online booking system can free up hours of standard admin time in a tour or activity business. 

Using automated booking confirmations, you can provide consistently excellent customer service with polished emails or SMS notifications. In addition to improving brand awareness, this handy tool also helps to minimize no-shows.

what is online booking system

You can also automate follow-up requests for guests to leave you a glowing review, to spread the word on social media about your amazing guest experiences.

And some online booking systems also let you integrate with other tools and software providers use an API or plugin to automate marketing, digital waivers, bookkeeping, and a whole range of other processes. Why do the tedious jobs when tech can do them for you?

Benefits of using an online booking system

There are countless benefits for a tour or activity operator using the right online booking system, but here are the three major advantages that no business owners can’t ignore.

You’ll save serious time

The right online booking system can help you significantly cut down your workload and improve general time management. Automation and integrations are here to help, so you can spend less time on customer support and more time with guests and growing your business – in normal business hours.

You’ll save yourself hassles and headaches

Double bookings? Forget ‘em! Hundreds of appointment bookings a day? No problem! Even last-minute cancellations are made simpler through clear policies and pre-paid deposits. Live scheduling software makes it a cinch to manage staff, inventory, and guest information in one central place.

You can boost your bookings

This is the vital reason most tourism operators now use an online booking system: it can lead to more business. You can grow your customer reviews, use in-built analytics to advertise more accurately, get paid for bookings faster, and expand your network for growth selling via Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

Put simply: you can use your online scheduling to improve your guest experiences, and to gain more interest in those experiences. By now travelers have come to expect a seamless online booking process supported by a book now button and a navigable website. So, if you don’t have the right type of booking system in place yet it’s well and truly time to consider it for your business. 

Choosing the booking system that’s right for your needs

There are many different online booking systems available to choose from, but they won’t all offer the same ease of use or functionality. Here are a few essential features to look for when choosing an online booking system:

  • Tools to take and boost bookings directly on your own website, as well as through other sales channels
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
  • A mobile app for online appointment management on the go
  • A payment gateway for easily managing payments online
  • A smooth guest experience 
  • Flexible month-to-month pricing for easy budgeting
  • Great support that’s readily available

Capterra compares different online booking systems so you can assess the different features and benefits of each solution. And, be sure to take advantage of Rezdy’s FREE 21-day trial or request a demo.

If you enjoyed this article then make sure to follow the Rezdy blog. There are a lot of marketing tools and tour operator tips designed with businesses like yours in mind.

Be sure to also check out our latest Youtube video that explains the details and the benefits of an online booking software for tour operators.

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