Using an online booking system offers convenience to consumers and can dramatically increase your sales opportunities. Online bookings are the number one source for all tourism bookings in Australia and consumers expect to able to search, book, pay and confirm instantly.
Booking systems are specially developed software used to manage reservations, allowing tourism operators to secure bookings from all sources, whether it comes from their website (online), direct (offline or in-person), or through online trade partners.
Many operators start out using a spreadsheet or a calendar to manage bookings, however there are many reasons why using a booking system is a huge step up from a manual system.
An online booking system allows a business to:
1. Remain open to take bookings at anytime
An online booking system allows you to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Travellers are more likely to book a tourism experience online.
2. Sell your product through multiple websites/distributors from one central system
A central booking system tracks where your bookings are coming from, allowing you to control your product inventory and eliminate the risk of overbooking. An online booking can link to a number of distribution channels such as your own website, online travel agents, wholesalers, Visitor Information Centres, concierge services, and Government tourism websites.
3. Save time by automating tasks like processing payments and confirming bookings
An online booking system allows the customer to check availability, plus confirm and pay for a booking in one transaction.
4. Streamline payments and get cash in the bank faster
An online booking system requires customers to prepay for your product up front. Without a booking system, you need to wait until your customer arrives to receive payment. Online booking systems use Payment Gateways that connect to your bank account with transactions on average taking 2-3 business days to receive payment.
5. Get smarter insights on your customers to make better decisions (and increase revenue)
Online booking systems have simple one-click reporting, giving you an instant view of revenue streams, profitability and informative insights around which third-party sites are providing the most sales. Having this data at your fingertips means you can focus on working with the right partners or can create the right offers to grow your business.
Considerations before you select a booking system
- Make a list of what you need from a booking system.
- Be clear about your key requirements and make note of the non-negotiables.
- Make sure you have considered requirements from all areas of your business such as finance, operations, ticketing, and marketing.
- Is the system suited to your category of tourism business? Does it specialise in accommodation, tours, activities, attractions or events?
- Will you be able to access it on any browser and from any device? A ‘cloud’ based system is easier to manage than something that requires specific hardware, however a ‘cloud based’ system requires a reliable internet connection.
- How does the system connect with your website?
- How easy it is for a customer to make a booking?
- How much will it cost and what is the pricing structure? Is it commission based, a flat fee or free? Don’t forget to consider extra costs such as set up fees, payment gateways or customisation.
- How will you receive payment? Is it instant, paid directly to your bank account or on account?
- How does the system protect your customers’ sensitive payment data?
- Does it offer analytic tools?
- How user-friendly is the system overall, and how much training will you need to roll it out to the whole team?
- What is the system support like and is support available 24-7?
- What integrations with third-party websites does it have – for example Bookeasy, Livn and Expedia? Does it have a Channel Management tool?
- What integrations with other systems such as financial systems or contract/waiver systems does it have?
- Can it integrate with your social media and Google maps?
Every system is different and so are their pricing structures. Costs can range from booking fees as a percentage (commissions), to monthly/annual subscription fees based on the number of bookings you receive. Depending on the system there can be set-up fees or additional costs with custom development if required. Note that there will always be separate fees for Payment Gateways – which are just like merchant fees for an EFTPOS terminal.
A booking system will become the backbone of your business and an essential operational cost. The best way to consider it is as a percentage of your revenue. As a guide, the annual booking system cost should only represent 1.5% - 3% of your total annual revenue.
Connecting to Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA)
Once you have your online booking system in place and your listing on ATDW you will be able to distribute through the Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA) a central database for live online booking inventory. The TXA gives you access to present your product through many different online website and distribution channels. For more information refer to the resources on TXA in the Industry Toolkit.