Known for its music festivals, open air nightclubs, and ideal location on the Croatian Coast, Zrće Beach attracts party goers worldwide. Near the small town of Novalja, it has become a popular summer destination — challenging Ibiza for top party spot in Europe. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Though Zrće beach has been hosting parties for over 25 years, it was largely unknown for a long time. Before this international party scene took off, Patrick Gruenbacher and Tobias Willmann saw its potential.
Meeting in a cafe bar, Patrick and Tobi started the initial concept of the ZRCE beach project. Loving everything about Zrće— the friendly people, cheap prices and prime location — they believed it would be a famous destination in the future.
“We had a good feeling about this destination and so we got together and started to make a website for it. It wasn’t ‘we want to run a tourist company’, it just came together and happened.”
With Zrce.eu, a traveler can find everything they need for the ultimate beach party vacation. Offering complete travel packages — including arrival, accommodation and festival tickets — Zrce.eu required an online booking system that could handle the different verticals they wanted to cater to. So…they found Checkfront.
From the beginning, Zrce.eu started as an online business. Using Google Forms and Sheets, the booking process was manual and time intensive. Though this worked when the company only managed transportation bookings, it wasn’t an ideal solution for the direction they wanted to go.
An online booking system would be an investment — but if they wanted to grow — they’d have to get on board with it. After comparing ten booking solutions, they decided on Checkfront because of the free trial, which allows tour operators to explore the platform for 21 days.
Patrick says, “we figured we would try it for a little while to see if it worked, but we haven’t stopped using the account since. Once it worked, our needs were more than fulfilled, and we had no reason to look for other software. That year was very big for us.”
Between the ages of 18 to 35, Zrce’s target group carries their smartphones everywhere. Patrick believes that not everyone — especially in this age group — sit down at a desktop to book a holiday. And the numbers reflect this.
Out of all Zrce.eu bookings, 80% come from mobile users and this number increases every year. Booking on a mobile device is convenient. Whether it’s during commercial time, commuting on the train or while exploring another destination, it’s easy to book with the device that’s always on hand.
Patrick and the Zrce.eu team understand the importance of having a mobile friendly website. Perfecting the desktop version is not enough because the layout design changes depending on the device. From wide scale to vertical arrangement, everything from images to text is affected.
To make planning the perfect party vacation a breeze, Zrce.eu is there to assist its guests with every step. This makes for an enjoyable and helpful experience — something they wanted to start with the booking process. Patrick says, “for the booking system, you need to make it more simple and clear as to what you offer. There’s no sidebar on mobile, you need to be very focused on what you want to show your clients.”
So to create an excellent guest experience, they looked to Checkfront for a mobile friendly booking engine. Now, mobile users can easily navigate their site and most importantly, make a booking.
At the start, Patrick and Tobi were the only two building the business. With little manpower, it was essential to find workarounds to save time. Patrick wanted to focus on improving the core of the company and manually writing up invoices took time away from this.
With Checkfront, automation was the answer. “It’s very simple, all the time you save with automation you can spend on more important things,” Patrick says.
And that’s precisely what the team did. By relying on automation — like sending confirmations, invoices, reminders and thank you messages, Zrce.eu could prioritize other business elements. Automation has given the team more time to develop the company into what it is today.
Zrce.eu preferred a fee-based booking system over commission based. It didn’t matter how small the commission percentage, it wasn’t an ideal long-term solution for them to share revenue from guest bookings with the software provider. More bookings meant more to share. And it would leave little room for growth.
More so, they didn’t want commission even if it charged on the customer’s end. In the booking process, a common reason for abandonment is a guest spotting an additional fee in the total price. Any budget-savvy consumer then makes a price comparison with the competition. For Zrce.eu, this was not okay.
So the best option for Zrce.eu was a fee-based booking system. When they first started out, Checkfront’s monthly fee was a big expense. But as the business grew, this became an affordable solution.
In the tourism industry, it’s a challenge to compete with giants like Booking.com and AirBnb. For Zrce.eu to stand out as a contender, it had to be on the same playing field. Looking up to date and professional was essential for survival.
“People are expecting to be able to book online today. You can’t say ‘write me an email’ or ‘fill out this Google form’ and we’ll send you an offer.”
Beyond that, Zrce.eu wanted to think bigger by offering more. It was one thing to have their guests book online and another to have them book everything. To Patrick, it didn’t make sense for a guest to book a festival with Zrce.eu and then go somewhere else to book accommodation.
He wanted to keep it all in one place. And if Zrce.eu offered the full experience, guests wouldn’t have to seek out the competition.
All of these extra verticals make booking a little more complicated. But Checkfront is built to handle them.
“You need to look professional for your customers and you need to offer a simple solution for customers to make a booking,” Patrick adds.
Growth with Checkfront
For any business, changing and adapting is necessary for growth. Zrce.eu chooses to work harder, think bigger and continues to expand — so they like that Checkfront is doing the same.
Finding a perfect match for a booking system wasn’t realistic, but it was important for Zrce.eu to have software with consistent updates and improvements.
Patrick says, “if you compare Checkfront now with what it was 4 or 5 years ago, it’s a completely different system with hundreds of new features. That’s what I like with Checkfront, that it’s moving in the right direction.”
Together, Checkfront and Zrce.eu work to improve the overall guest experience. From automation to mobile bookings and all the updates in between, Checkfront is the partner Zrce.eu is growing with.
Secret sauce to success
As a start-up, Zrce.eu knows all too well the challenges of running a successful business. But the threat of significant competitors snatching up potential guests has never stopped Zrce.eu from reaching their goals.
Because when you’re new, it’s essential to work hard and do everything you can to make sure your business succeeds.
“You need to think every day how you can improve the business and experience for the guests. You always just have to be a bit better than your competitors, otherwise you will be out of business.”