Being the owner of an adventure park or zipline business, there’s a good chance that in the last year you’ve received an explosion of phone calls from sales reps from myriad booking software companies all chasing your business.
As the owner of a web design business that serves tourism operators, I have conversations almost daily about this. Many owners and managers are confused or overwhelmed by the huge (and growing) number of choices available for online booking options. By my own count, there are more than 40 different options for you to pick from.
Let’s not pretend this is a fun exercise. The mere thought of software can send a shiver down the spine of even the most battle-hardened park operator. Nearly everyone has a dark corner in their mind reserved for memories of software systems that failed.
Yet, all over North America and throughout the world there are operators who are more than happy with their systems. In fact, sales and management software can be one of the best investments you ever make in your business, both in terms of extra sales and in effectively reducing admin costs.
If you’ve not joined the new wave of operators who have dumped their pen and paper or Excel spreadsheets, you might want to do so now. Visitors are becoming increasingly dependent on the option of making last-minute bookings through their mobile devices. If this is a phenomenon you haven’t noticed in your own business, it could actually be the case that you’re missing out.
To get a handle on the current state of the art, we spoke with representatives of Xola, Resmark, The Flybook, and Checkfront—four prominent companies in this space—to get their perspectives.
But first, recognize this is just a start. You’ll need to do your own research, too. ArborTrek president Michael Smith, an adventure park operator and Resmark customer, counsels operators to follow up with some of those sales reps, and to “call other tour operators, and ask them what they like and don’t like” about the software they’re using.
DEFINE THE GOAL
What are you trying to do? Ideally, operators should look for a system that can handle all reservations from any source. “Rather than focus on just finding an easy-to-use software—the things we have to do aren’t necessarily easy—just having an easy-to-use system doesn’t answer the question,” says Chip Broyles of Resmark.
Craig Langer, CEO of the TheFlybook.com, agrees, saying that the first mistake people make is to focus exclusively on the online component of their business. It’s more effective to consider the entirety of the business’ systems, otherwise “you’re adding a layer of complexity,” he says.
FOCUS ON THE OVERALL SYSTEM
All the companies we spoke with, Xola, Resmark, The Flybook, and Checkfront, aim to manage your entire booking process.
As Delamon Rego from Xola says, “Hardware integration is important to manage in-person bookings, and POS systems need to be incredibly quick to process walk-up visitors and avoid excessive queueing.”