Chances are if you’re working in travel or tourism you’ve asked yourself ‘what is an online booking system?’ at some point. 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

OK – what is an online booking system when it’s at home?

An online booking system is a software solution that makes it simple for guests to book and pay for your tours and activities online. Some online booking systems also include tools to help you improve efficiencies and boost bookings for your business.

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

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?”. After all, phone and email bookings work just fine. But consider where and how guests are booking these days. 

As of 2020, 65% of revenue in the global travel and tourism market came from online sales channels.

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

  • Deliver an amazing online booking process 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, and
  • Gain insights into how and why guests book with you – and use this to drive new bookings!

How it works: Getting to know your online booking system

So how does an online booking system work, exactly? 

The first thing to know is that your guests will see the front-end, 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 provides all the handy behind-the-scenes information to help you run your tours or activities. 

Here’s how that looks in practice.

24/7 online booking

Potential customers could be located anywhere and be booking at any time, so being able to make 24/7 bookings 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 seamless online booking process is available for bookings right round the clock.

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

what is an online booking system without 24/7 booking?

Your central business dashboard

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
  • Access daily guest manifestos to make tour management easy
  • Assign staff and inventory for tours or activities, and
  • Produce in-depth reports about where, when, and how your guests are booking.

what is an online booking system without 24/7 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. 

You could automate booking confirmations and reminders for guests with polished, branded emails or SMS – this really helps to minimize no-shows. 

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

And some online booking systems also let you integrate with other tools and software 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?

What is an online booking system that has effortless process automation?

3 clear 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 should 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 the phone or answering emails and more time with guests and growing your business.

You’ll save yourself hassles and headaches

Double bookings? Forget ‘em! Hundreds of bookings a day? No problem! Even last-minute cancellations are made simpler through clear policies and pre-paid deposits. It becomes 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 booking system to both improve your guest experiences, and to gain more interest in those experiences. Travelers have by now come to expect a seamless online booking process, so if you don’t have the right system in place yet it’s well and truly time to consider it for your business. What’s not to love about more time, more convenience and more bookings?

Choosing the online 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 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 so you can test-drive a high-quality solution for yourself.

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.

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