In my last post, we took a look at how tour operator marketing software can create a seamless discovery experience.
Let’s continue where I left off— Laurel’s on the Whistler Ebike website about to make our reservation.
She fills out the booking form, places the order, and pays the deposit.
Whistler Ebike immediately sends her a booking confirmation email with our digital invoice and waivers attached.
That night in our cabin, we e-sign the waivers and email them back to Ebike.
The following day Laurel received a text from Whistler Eco Tours reminding her to bring a water bottle and sunscreen to our kayak reservation that day— it’s a hot one.
We are greeted by Ash when we arrive.
He scans Laurels phone to check us in. Then he takes us to our kayaks which already have our lifejackets next to them.
We jump in and have an amazing afternoon kayaking Green Lake.
After we said our goodbyes and are back to our cabin, Laurel receives a thank you email.
She follows the link in the email that takes her to Whistler Eco Tours’ TripAdvisor page and leaves a glowing review.
Again, this didn’t happen (we are big fans of both tours though). This just shows you how smooth a guest experience can be— with the right technology. No lineups, no paper trail, no questions.
It’s all about doing more, with less. Let’s take a look at the technology that made it happen.
Payment and point of sale technology
Payments and point of sale is one segment of the best tour operator software. The goal of these systems is to automate your administration & manage your business goals.
An availability engine allows guest to book your tours and activities on your website. It keeps track of all your inventory (the tours you have available) and creates a calendar that displays your schedule. It also provides information about how many spots are left and the price. Guests can easily search for desired dates and times and reserve by filling out a form. Behind the scenes, the system logs the data and updates the tour’s availability in real time.
In the example above, Laurel booked our Whistler Ebike Tour through the availability engine on their website.
Digital invoices allow you to bill your customers online. When someone makes a booking, an invoice is created with a payment status. It can show whether the person paid online or if payment is due upon check-in.
Attaching invoices to each transaction makes it easy for you to see who has paid and who still owes. Plus, both you and your customers can access and print invoices for their records. The documents can be stored online which makes accounting at the end of the year much simpler. You can set up invoices through your accounting software or booking platform.
Laurel received an invoice upon booking in the example.
Digital notifications allow you to send your guests updates and reminders through email or text. You can set-up automated notifications for booking confirmations, payment reminders, safety and weather tips, and any other important information they need before arriving. Then you can set up follow-up reminders to ask customers for reviews and feedback once they have finished your tour.
Notifications were sent three times throughout the example to ensure that we had all the necessary information and were satisfied with our experience.
A payment processor is a third party company that you can use to accept payments. The payment processor charges you a fee for each transaction, which mostly goes to banks and card brands. Some providers offer both online (card-not-present) and in-person (card-present) transactions, while others do just one. To accept online payments, you connect their payment gateway to your website. If you are using them for in-person payments, they will provide you with hardware such as the card readers.
Payment processing was what allowed the Laurel to pay for the tour.
People depend on their phones when traveling. Which is why it’s crucial for travel brands to have mobile-optimized websites and services. Beyond that, there are many options to help make your business more mobile— from accepting waivers and payments on your phone or tablet to QR check-in codes. Some booking systems even have mobile apps so you can access your booking information anywhere you have service.
We used our phones to sign the waivers, receive notifications and check-in to Whistler Ecotours in the example.
Revenue management is sometimes referred to yield management. It’s a strategy introduced by airlines that try to anticipate consumer demand to increase profit. The idea is to charge what people are willing to pay, instead of a fixed rate. That’s why prices seem to skyrocket around Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s commonly applied to tours and activities through seasonal pricing — you charge a premium at peak season and lower your prices to the offseason. You can also set early bird discounts and drops in last-minute prices. Your booking system should offer a solution to set up these rules.
Revenue management wasn’t explicitly shown, but Whistler Ebikes could have been using high season pricing.
Waivers and risk Mitigation
Many tour and activity providers require their guests to sign waivers in order to protect their business. While very important, it’s also one of the most time-consuming tasks at check-in. Online waiver agreements allow you to send the documents to be signed as soon as a booking is created. Pair your waivers to your notifications to ensure the guests arrive check-in ready. Then if there is ever an issue, you have all of your waivers neatly stored in the cloud.
We were emailed our waivers and signed digitally signed them in the example. This helped speed up the check-in process.
Accounting and finance
Many small business owners choose to use accounting software instead of hiring a full-time accountant. The platforms help you manage everything from your payroll and bookkeeping to invoicing and budgeting. It also helps with taxes, vendor payments, and inventory tracking. If you link the platform to your bank account it can also help you track your monthly spending and cash flow.
The payment from our booking would be tracked in accounting software along with the expenses that were incurred such as our guide’s payroll.