Booking online isn’t anything new.
The first hotel introduced online booking capability back in 1995. A year later, Travelocity launched as the first online travel agency. From that point on, more OTAs joined the ranks after seeing opportunity in online bookings, and reservation software popped up left and right, eventually hitting the tours and activities industry just over ten years ago.
So travelers have had plenty of time to become familiar with this innovative booking option. In fact, the stats show again and again that they prefer it. Even in our 2019 Booking Channels Report, 49.2% of bookings came directly from operators’ websites. That’s almost half of all bookings!
But if you already get reservations the traditional way — phone bookings or walk-ins — you might be humming and hawing about learning how to set up an online booking system. Perhaps you’re even thinking, “will my customers like booking online?” The answer is very likely, and I’d be willing to bet they already wish you offered this option.
And here are five reasons why:
5 reasons why booking online is better
1. They can easily compare options
Where do most travelers start their trip planning? You guessed it, Google. They will search for things to do, click from website to website, open countless tabs on their internet browser, and compare prices, availability, reviews, details, and special extras until they find the best option.
This method is far easier than calling around and jotting down notes, or worse, walking door to door looking for a tour operator that gives off a good vibe. Trust me; I’ve wasted way too many travel days myself doing the latter when I could’ve spent more time enjoying a destination instead.
Honestly, that’s probably the reason why OTAs are so popular still, even when travelers are aware that operators have to share a commission. The convenience is just incomparable. All of the information they need to weigh out their options is right there, side by side, on a single web page.
2. They can get all the information they need
Similar to how guests like comparing options online, they also appreciate being able to find all the information they need on your website. And I’m not just talking about the details in your product descriptions.
They want to learn more about your business: who your guides are, why you do what you do, and what makes your experiences unique. They also want to double-check if you have any special deals or packages available and whether you offer another activity that’s closer to what they’re looking for — in case they’re missing out.
Plus, no one likes to be a bother by asking millions of questions over the phone. Instead, people are much more comfortable skimming through the information themselves, and if they do have a random question they can’t find the answer to, not even on your FAQ page, then they can call. But only as a last resort.
3. They can book anytime, anywhere
For those planning big international trips, it can be incredibly frustrating trying to get a hold of a guest service agent in a completely different time zone. Even if they choose to book over email, they’re still limited by your business hours and could end up waiting longer than they’d like for a reply.
Whereas, if they have the option to book online, they can zip through the booking process steps right away, no matter if it’s late at night or early in the morning. Sometimes, people need more time to think before committing to a booked date, but any delay that happens on your end and not theirs only gives them a chance to change their mind.
4. They can share and store important details
There’s so much information guests have to keep track of when booking travel activities. On top of details related to the experience itself, they also have to hold onto confirmation numbers, invoices, receipts, and liability waivers. That’s a lot of important documents to potentially lose.
By booking online instead, they can relax, knowing that everything will get sent to their inbox where they can access it anytime, which is especially handy if they book far in-advance and need a reminder of the day and time, whether or not they paid, and other essential information.
More than that, they can easily forward the booking details to others in their party, including the Guest Form, and quickly schedule the booking date on their Google Calendar, so they don’t forget to show up.
5. They have control over the booking experience
Raise your hand if you’ve ever walked into a store and bought something simply because you felt guilty leaving empty-handed. You’d be surprised how much this also happens in the tourism industry. Somebody might call or visit a ticket office with an idea of what they want to do and wind up booking something they aren’t 100% sold on.
Regret is a one-way ticket to cancellation. You want your guests to be excited right after booking, like the day can’t come fast enough. And the best way to ensure they get those warm-fuzzy feelings is by giving them control over the booking experience.
Without the added pressure, they can go through all of the details themselves and keep items in the cart while they see what everyone else in their group thinks. So, by the time they hit that book now button, they can be confident they’re making the best decision.
Don’t get me wrong; you’ll still have guests who prefer to talk with you over the phone or meet you face to face. But more travelers are starting to love the convenience of booking online, so they’ll appreciate that you pay attention to their preferences while keeping up with the times.