Part II: Getting Business on the Books

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Personal experience, as everyone working in outdoor recreation knows, is an excellent teacher. So, before we dive into this review, allow me to offer some words of advice based on experience. My company, TourismTiger, has more than 80 web design clients, all in tours or activities, and we work directly with all of the booking software companies mentioned in this article. Through that experience, we’ve learned a few things. When choosing the right software for your operation, be thorough. It’s not just about the cost of the software, or how well it converts, or about how convenient it is to use, or the quality of its customer service, or even how well the software integrates into your business. It’s about all of these things.

Don’t make a hasty decision about choosing this vital piece of your business operation. Do your research, ask lots of questions—and then try them out.

Now, let’s look at the different products on the market. Who’s muscling in? What are the more experienced hands doing? Time to find out.

What’s Coming In The Next Two Years?

I asked every supplier the same question: Where’s the industry going in the coming future? Here are some things to keep an eye on:

  • Optimized checkout funnels. Tiny little tweaks to a website or to a booking software can sometimes increase sales by 10 to 20 percent, so you can expect to hear a lot of noise about A/B testing. I’d personally like to see more transparency around this subject, but it comes down to what operators demand. It’s up to us as an industry to push for it.
  • Website integration. At TourismTiger, we’re pushing for this—but we’re not the only ones. The software is only as successful as the website allows it to be. You’ll see a lot more chatter about integrations, website builders, and free website services.
  • Connectivity, connectivity, connectivity. Distributors, concierges, activity desks, and destination management companies (DMCs) will start becoming much more aligned technologically, so that they can all book visits to your operation.
  • Offline features. This includes ticket creation, ticket printing, check-in kiosks, and mobile payment processing. Expect to see softwares push further and further into every realm of your business.
  • Integration with pay-per-click (PPC) and marketing channels. Use your booking software to directly connect with Facebook and Adwords PPC tools.
  • Acquisitions and shut-downs. With more than 50 different software companies still out there, the industry will continue consolidating.
  • Specific features for aerial adventure parks. Expect to see software options built specifically for your business or the industry.

Options Abound

I spoke with eight different companies that offer booking software for the aerial adventure industry. Here’s a rundown of each, in no particular order.

XOLA

Xola has long been wedded to the aerial adventure industry. It’s the official software of ACCT and has written several articles for this very magazine and its website.

Xola’s “switch experiences” screen allows guests to easily change or correct a selection.

What They’re Talking About:

  1. Connectivity. Xola offers application program interface (API) connectivity with third-party and custom-built applications to support complex business needs with extended functionality. Xola integrates software solutions, marketing tools, and leading distribution platforms.
  2. Ease of Use. High volume of walk-up traffic requires fast and easy customer interactions. Xola’s user interface has been refined over years of working with high-volume businesses to make checkout as fast and easy as possible.

Pricing: Flat fee plan or commission based, depending on the needs of your business. Flat fee plan starts at $199/month. The Flex Plan consists of a six percent commission on the sale, plus 1.99 percent credit card fee, plus $0.30 per transaction.

THE FLYBOOK

Another experienced player in the industry, The Flybook has been very busy lately, launching many new products and features.

With printed tickets, The Flybook SmartTickets helps control park flows, add key info, and offer rain checks.

What They’re Talking About:

  1. New online booking tool. Its new booking flow is more optimized for sales, is more flexible to categorize your offerings, and allows you to easily push different products, such as gift certificate sales.
  2. Performance and data dashboard. Extract useful data and compare it in a way that helps you make decisions.
  3. Smart ticketing. Tailor ticket releases to go from zero to max load in the morning without lengthy tapering because of waiver delays. Validate tickets to ensure that no one is overstaying their welcome. And more.

Pricing: Typically a per-ticket charge; contact sales for details and options.

REZGO

One of the more experienced players in the game, Rezgo was one of the first companies to connect with third-party distributors.

Rezgo’s e-commerce page shows available dates and provides details of the guest purchase.

What They’re Talking About:

  1. Point of sale advancements. Rezgo’s increased focus on offline aspects has resulted in an optimized check-in process. Examples of these aspects include integrated waivers, and advanced credit card processing facilities.
  2. Network sales features. Work with third-party marketing channels, such as DMCs, to get your product in front of activity desks and concierges and ensure that the right commissions get paid—and no money goes astray.
  3. WordPress. Rezgo’s plugin is one of the most advanced—and Rezgo has continued to make it more customizable, as well as SEO-friendly.

Pricing: Five percent commission. You choose to eat the cost or pass it to your customer.

FAREHARBOR

FareHarbor is the largest booking software company in the world for tour and activity operators. Its entrance into the aerial adventure space has been noticed by many.

The daily manifest (in this case, for resource management) helps smooth overall park management.

What They’re Talking About:

  1. Telescope: The industry’s first artificial-intelligence-powered predictive pricing tool. FareHarbor uses its anonymized data set of more than 10 billion unique data points to predict the ideal price for a specific activity.
  2. Customization. FareHarbor promises to work with you to make sure that its software fits your business.
  3. Resource management. FareHarbor offers the ability to manage and easily view complex availability requirements. For example, you might have a GoPro add-on available on three products, but have 10 GoPros total in the business. This feature ensures that you manage these resources correctly.

Pricing: Credit card processing fee, plus six percent commission added to the booking, for online bookings only.

CHECKFRONT

Checkfront is proud of its robust system, which accommodates businesses with multiple facets, such as lodging.

Operations with a more complicated mix of products, including lodging, can use Checkfront to sell them all.

What They’re Talking About:

  1. Automation of everything. Waivers, point of sale, accounting software. Checkfront wants to reduce the admin burden on operators.
  2. Website CMS. Checkfront has launched a website builder that you can use to create a website for your tour company. It is tightly integrated with its software.
  3. Further integrations. Expedia LX and Viator are the initial headliners, but that’s just the start.

Pricing: Base plan starts at $49/month.

PEEK

After buying out Zozi, Peek has consolidated its position as the #2 booking software in the tour and activity space. It places a heavy emphasis on marketing tools.

Peek’s desktop booking interface makes it easy for guests to book multiple products at once.

What They’re Talking About:

  1.  Zapier integration. Zapier is a service that allows you to connect to hundreds of softwares, including marketing and accounting tools. Peek’s integration with Zapier gives you access to all of them.
  2. Bundles. Peek now offers the ability to bundle your products and sell multiple tours in a streamlined fashion. It reduces hassle for the website visitor, with no need to re-enter details.
  3. Native waiver. Peek has an integrated native waiver application, which means no need for third party tools that aren’t designed for aerial adventure operators.

Pricing: Credit card processing fee plus six percent commission added to the booking, for online bookings only.

RESMARK

Resmark, born from an existing adventure and activity center, is one of the oldest players in the market.

Now that Resmark is migrating to the cloud, its features and dashboard can be accessed on any device.

What They’re Talking About:

  1.  Going to the cloud. Resmark has for a very long time been a desktop app, but it’s recently built a cloud version and is focusing on migrating its many advanced features to that version.
  2. Waivers. It owns WaiverSign and is building it right into the cloud app to create what is effectively a one-stop shop.
  3. Integrations. According to Resmark, it integrates more slowly with external tools, but for a reason—to make sure to integrate deeply and without bugs.

Pricing: Plans start at $249/month.

ADVENTURE OFFICE

Adventure Office, like Resmark and The Flybook, is another veteran system that is popular with those who have many components to their business. Lodging, rafting, and zip lining, for example, is a snap.

Adventure Office’s Facebook integration allows guests to book through the social media network.

What They’re Talking About:

  1. Facebook. Allow your guests to book directly through Facebook.
  2. Upsell. Adventure Office is now offering a robust upsell feature, which enables you to upsell travel insurance and other products.
  3. Custom quote requests. Don’t just add a contact form to your site. Create a customizable form that allows users to select the options they’re requesting a quote for.

Pricing: Contact sales.

Checking Out

If you’re thinking of changing software for next season, or need to implement the software for the first time, move fast—there can be many unexpected headaches. If you invest time up front, and dedicate the time to make sure your transition is smooth, your life is likely to be pain free.

Unfortunately, time and again I’ve seen operators treat software implementation like a hassle, dedicating minimum time, and then complaining bitterly when things go wrong.

Don’t be that guy. Invest the time, do your research, and talk to other operators to find out how their experience has gone. Do the work on your site to ensure a painless transition. Those are the first steps to a happy relationship with software for any aerial adventure operator.

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