Langer concurs: “We see it all the time when looking at adventure parks. People see value in online, but they don’t manage availability properly because they don’t have the phone and online booking systems talking to each other.”
As does Checkfront CEO Jason Morehouse: “Ideally, operators should look for a system that can handle all reservations from any source, and manage the entire booking process. For high volume, time-based businesses like zip lines and adventure parks, streamlining is key.”
A huge benefit that is often overlooked is the reduced cost of administration with a capable system. Tour operators without software systems often flinch at the cost, but they’re not calculating the benefit of the reduced staffing hours required to maintain a spreadsheet or work across multiple systems.
“We take a lot more online bookings late in the evening or early in the morning,” says Smith from Arbortrek, “which reduces our late hours staffing costs.”
But online bookings are not always the best solution. Smith actually tries to push phone bookings, because his trained staff do a better job upselling customers on the phone than a passive online system can.
MOBILE IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT
Still, mobile is a must. “If clients don’t have multiple pathways to access your information and give you money, you’re creating barriers to the growth of your company,” says Smith.
According to the data of my own company, TourismTiger, the typical tour and activity operator in the United States now receives more than 50 percent of its visitors from mobile devices. Most of this increase has come in the last 18 months, and the percentage continues to grow.
All four software company representatives spoke of this phenomenon. In fact, The Flybook’s Langer says that the company has seen “triple-digit changes in the number of online mobile reservations that are occurring.”
Xola’s Rego agrees. “In 2015 it’s absolutely impossible not to have a mobile website. A high percentage of bookings come from mobile and we know that Google will hurt your website without a well configured mobile experience,” he says. “Given the high visibility of these kinds of attractions, people will see them and Google them on mobile, which makes a mobile optimized site and mobile checkout critical.
“Mobile devices have slow connections, so you want checkouts to load fast, not have too many high res images, and minimize the amount of steps in the checkout. Every additional checkout page means you have potential for a breakpoint.”
There’s a good chance your website is already responsively designed. But is your software helping or hindering you? Guests tend to feel an enormous amount of frustration poking around dated software installations. Given a choice between two tours, guests will often pick the company that makes it easiest to book.
REPORTING AND PLANNING
Reporting and planning go hand-in-hand. As Broyle says, “one of the nice things about Resmark is the extensive reporting platform that we have built in, with a ton of sales and marketing reports that allow you to look at the business in a different light. You can analyze your sales patterns by knowing exactly which day is important.”
Adventure courses can have wildly varying needs depending on the type of operation you are running. Do you have a general capacity limit that you can’t hit at any one time? Or are you a zip line operation which runs zip line tour groups at scheduled intervals?
Either way, to make a profit takes some real planning. Xola’s Rego notes that zip lines face a real tug of war. “Do you offer fewer tours and maximize the profits by selling out, or do you offer more tours and try to maximize overall revenue and then look at optimizing for profit?” he asks. “The goal of the software is to allow you to constrain, restrain, open and expand time slots easily, to flexibly meet demand and maximize profit.”