Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com Cloud based software for tour & activity operators Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:22:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Structuring your tour or activity to increase online bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2014/08/structuring-tour-activity-increase-online-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2014/08/structuring-tour-activity-increase-online-bookings#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 02:32:58 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=10080 Part of your objective as a tour operator is to make sure that your potential customers understand exactly what you offer and can get all the information they need from your website.  Making it easy to understand what you sell will also help increase online bookings.  In order to achieve this objective you need to be able to clearly communicate your offering in a consistent and structured way. Many operators say that their products are simply too complex or complicated to describe on the web.  This may just be a lack of understanding of what you need to communicate to the customer.  When a customer visits your website, they need to know three simple things:

  1. What tours and activities do you offer?
  2. How much do your tours and activities cost?
  3. How can I purchase your tours and activities?

Your goal is to make sure the customer gets this basic information.  Should you choose to expand on the descriptions or add more photos, that’s completely up to you, but as a start, you need to be able to answer these three questions.

Now that you have a good idea of what questions you need to answer, organize your tour and activity information into the following basic structure:

  • Name of your tour or activity: This should be inspiring and yet descriptive.  For example “Half Day Culture Tour of Oxford” is much relevant then “Tour of Oxford”.
  • Location(s): Make a note of all the locations that are visited during this tour or activity. This should including the address or geo-tag for each location.
  • Short Description: This should be no more than 200 characters or about one long sentence describing the tour.
  • Long Description: This is the full description of the tour including highlights, locales, and the sights.  This description should be written in a manner relevant to your audience and in a style that is fit for the reading level of the customer.
  • Itinerary: This is a logical event or chronological break-down on the tour or activity.  If you offer multi-day tours for example, your itinerary should be broken down into days with highlights or significant events noted for each day.
  • Available Days/Unavailable Days: These are the departure dates or days of the week that the tour or activity is available.
  • Things to Bring: Items that the customer should bring with them on the tour or activity.
  • Pick Up/Drop Off Locations: This are the locations where travelers will be picked up and dropped off after the tour or activity.
  • Inclusions: List all the things that are included in the tour and activity.
  • Exclusions: Note all the things that the customer might think are included but are specifically NOT included in the tour.
  • Tour Specific Cancellation Policy: If you may have a standard cancellation policy for your business, then this policy would be specific to the tour itself.  Generally this is an optional item and is only really required if the cancellation policy for the tour or activity varies from your standard policy.
  • Tour Photo: This is a photo that represents the tour. It should be something distinctive that gives the customer a sense of what the tour is all about. For example, if the tour is in a horse and carriage, you might have a photo of the horse and carriage as opposed to a scene of the city or location.
  • Additional Photos: The more photos you have of your tour or activity the better.  Remember that your potential customers are looking for an experience, so the photos you provide will give the opportunity to imagine themselves experiencing your service.

At the end of the day, your goal should be to have a spreadsheet or a series of documents that are all structured the same way.  When it comes time to loading your information into Rezgo, you will be thankful you took the time to organize your data beforehand.

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Manage Your Online Tour Reseller Bookings with Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2014/08/manage-your-online-tour-reseller-bookings-with-rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2014/08/manage-your-online-tour-reseller-bookings-with-rezgo#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:57:07 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8658 Work on what you love and leave the boring stuff to Rezgo

If you are a tour or activity operator and you are already working with an online tour reseller such as Expedia and Orbitz, you already know that the booking notification system in place with these partners is pretty simple.  Essentially, when these companies sell a tour on your behalf, they send you a pre-formatted email that contains all the information about the booking.  But, managing availability and updating your inventory and reports in not that simple.  Now, however, there is a way to automate the management of these third party bookings that reduces your administration and improves the accuracy of your inventory management.

Some time ago, we developed an import mechanism that allows operators to forward their Expedia notification emails to a special Rezgo email account that would read the email, pull out all the important information, and create a booking automatically.  The system has been quite successful and as a result we have expanded the number of partners supported to include Orbitz and EBG.  We also plan to include additional partners in the future.

Before you can use the email import feature, you will need to be working with one of the supported partners.  For information on how to sell through online partners, take a look at this article about “10 Tips to Sell Tours Online through Resellers“.

Once you are working with one or more of the partners, you can set-up your tours and activities so that the imports will work properly.  The first thing you need to do is make sure that you have enabled booking imports in your Rezgo account.  You can do this by checking off the online tour resellers that you work with in the Email import section of the General Settings.

import emails and bookings from viator, expedia, orbitz, and ebg

Once you have selected your partners and you have updated your import email address, you need to add the specific product codes that each partner uses to your products.  You can do this by editing the tour options that you sell through these partners.  Look for the section titled Option Distribution.

tour operator channel management with Rezgo

 

Once you have added the codes, you can start to forward the booking emails that you receive from your partners directly to your custom Rezgo importer email address.  Rezgo will look for the important customer information in the email and create a new back-office booking in the system for you.  When the booking is created or if there is a problem with availability, Rezgo will send an email back to you to let you know the status of the booking.  For tour operators and activity providers that sell a lot of tours through online tour resellers, this feature alone can save hundreds of hours a season.

If you have an online tour reseller that you work with that you think should be added to Rezgo, just let us know and we’ll take a look at integrating them into the channel manager.

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Get a flat rate U.S. tour operator merchant account with Moolah http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/get-flat-rate-u-s-tour-operator-merchant-account-moolah http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/get-flat-rate-u-s-tour-operator-merchant-account-moolah#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:13:51 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9995 We know that payment processing is one of the biggest hurdles for any small business, especially a tour operator or activity provider.  We’ve partnered with Moolah to bring U.S. based companies a full featured tour operator merchant account with no monthly fees and pay as you go pricing.  Best of all, Moolah uses the Authorize.net payment gateway so there is no extra integration required with Rezgo and you get a full featured merchant account and payment gateway without the additional costs.

2.89% + $.029 per transaction

No signup fees, no monthly fees, no minimums

If you are U.S. based tour operator or activity provider and you have been considered getting a merchant account but have been reluctant because of the extra monthly costs, this is a great opportunity to take your business to the next level.  For less than the price of a PayPal Pro account, you get a real merchant account, next day bank deposits, the power of the Authorize.net payment gateway and virtual terminal, and personalized service from Moolah customer support.

Visit the Rezgo Moolah partner page for more details about signing up for a Moolah merchant account powered by Authorize.net.

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Mobile booking engine included in Rezgo 6 http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/mobile-booking-engine-rezgo-6 http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/mobile-booking-engine-rezgo-6#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:09:20 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9975 Customers are increasingly booking their tours and activities on a variety of devices.  It’s for this reason that Rezgo 6 was designed with a mobile first strategy.  What this means is that the online booking engine provided as part of the Rezgo tour management suite is designed to work on a variety of mobile devices from smartphones to retina display laptops and desktops.

Mobile first strategy

When we first designed Rezgo, the Internet was a very different place.  Home internet was much slower, computers were not as powerful, monitors were much lower resolution, and smartphones were only just becoming a reality.  The first generation of iPhone, for example, was only release a week before Rezgo was launched.  Who would have guessed that in 7 short years, smartphones like the iPhone and others would account for over 20% of total Internet traffic.

When it came time to rebuild Rezgo for the future, we decided to take a mobile first strategy and design the system from the ground up with mobile in mind.  We did this because we know that as tour operators and activity providers, you are always on the move and rarely at a desk behind a computer.  We want to make sure that you can manage your business and that your customers can book with you, no matter where they are or what device they are using.

Responsive by design

Devices now come in a variety of different sizes.  A responsive website adjusts dynamically to fit any screen while changing to allow the best possible user experience for the customer.  The benefit of a responsive design is that you, as a tour operator, need not do anything to support these various devices, the mobile booking engine automatically detects and then adjusts itself to provide the interface required.  Rezgo 6 uses the latest responsive technologies in order to scale fluidly and dynamically for all screen resolutions.  Best of all, Rezgo 6 is does not conflict or interfere with your existing design or layout and will adjust automatically to your design.

Custom mobile design

Rezgo 6 includes a new customization option designed to allow you to extend your brand to your customer’s mobile experience.  The mobile site template, which can be managed in the Templates section of the Settings, allows you to create a mobile specific template that is only displayed when the customer views your website on a smartphone or small aspect screen.  Tablets such as iPads or Samsung Galaxy Tabs will show the full website in responsive mode.

Your website itself may not be responsive and, as a result, it may not scale or change properly in order to fit on a small screen.  By using the mobile site template, you can show your customers a mobile specific site that does not use your full website design.  Ideally, you will want to use a design for your site that is responsive already.

 Get mobile ready

Now that Rezgo 6 is fully mobile ready, you will want to consider your own website.  Is your existing website mobile friendly? If not, then you will want to consider building a new site using a responsive design or consider creating a mobile template that can be used with your Rezgo mobile booking engine.  Event if you don’t have a mobile template, you can always use the default responsive template provided by Rezgo.  In either case, getting mobile ready should not be difficult or expensive.  The Rezgo mobile booking engine is included in your account at no extra cost.

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Know your customers better with a tour operator crm http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/know-your-customers-better-tour-operator-crm http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/know-your-customers-better-tour-operator-crm#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:35:20 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9973 Your customers are an important part of your business.  Not only are they your primary revenue source, but they are also an important referral source for new customers.  With Rezgo, you can manage all your customer information and booking data in one place.

Leading edge CRM features

Like many of the leading CRM tools on the market, Rezgo provides many great features for managing customer information.  But unlike standalone CRM software,  the Rezgo tour operator CRM is fully integrated with the booking system.  Customer information is automatically added when they book a tour or activity through your Rezgo powered booking website or you can add the customer data through the point of sale.

contact-card

Capture leads & customers online

Customer interactions are captured through the online contact us form, the booking engine, and through the back-office point of sale interface.  See all the interactions you have had with a customer by adding comments to their profile.  You can even see all existing bookings, messages, and comments for customers in one place.

Make bookings for existing customers

It’s now easier than ever to make a booking for an existing customer.  If a customer calls you up to make a booking, find their customer profile and click on the “Create New” booking button.  The customers billing information will be added to the booking automatically once the tour and option are selected.  This is a particularly useful feature if you need to re-book a customer.

Export customer data with ease

There are lots of things you probably want to do with your customer data.  Downloading your customer data in a simple and universal format is important.  Get access to your customer data whenever you need and download it at your leisure.  You can download single records, all records, or just selected records.

True all-in-one solution with no compromises

The Rezgo tour management software combines all the features you need to manage your tour or activity business more effectively.  A powerful online booking engine, sophisticated channel management, and leading edge tour operator CRM.  Although there are many great CRM tools on the market, none have the deep integration with your booking engine.  Make the right choice for your tour or activity business and choose the best tour operator CRM available.

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Build a complete tour booking website with Rezgo 6 http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/build-a-complete-tour-booking-website-rezgo-6 http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/build-a-complete-tour-booking-website-rezgo-6#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:56:57 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9875 When we launched Rezgo in 2007, the web was a very different place.  We had made the decision then to offer the Rezgo tour booking website as an add-on to an existing website, primarily because we didn’t think it made sense for a tour management system like Rezgo to also be a content management system.  What we have found over the years however, is that there are many different types of operators and their web needs vary greatly.  In an effort to help those operators who are looking for an all in one solution to their website needs, we have added a new feature to Rezgo 6 that allows you to add additional pages to your Rezgo tour booking website.

The Custom Pages, located in the Template settings section allows you to add as many pages as you like to your Rezgo booking website.  This is particularly useful if you want to manage additional content but you are not using a content management system for your regular website.  The new pages that you create will all use the same main website template, so you don’t need to worry about styling or adding any special html to the pages in order to have them fit in with your web design.

add-custom-pages

The page builder uses a very flexible editor that allows you to upload images and even files such as CSS and Javascript to your Rezgo site.  File uploading even includes connectors to both Dropbox and Google Drive, making it simple to copy files from your existing cloud storage accounts.

create-page-editor

 

If you are using the default responsive template, there is no need to worry about whether or not the pages you create are mobile ready.  All custom pages are automatically responsive by design.  Each page has its own custom address and can be linked to directly.  Give the custom pages a try and let us know what you think.

 

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Business rules and tour operator yield management with Rezgo 6 http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/business-rules-tour-operator-yield-management-rezgo-6 http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/business-rules-tour-operator-yield-management-rezgo-6#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:36:21 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9867 One of the most powerful features of Rezgo is undoubtedly the Rules.  With the rules engine, you can manage availability, pricing, cut-offs, group restrictions, and even create promotional codes.  One of the issues with a feature like this though is that it can be a real challenge to make it easy for tour operators to understand and use.  With Rezgo 6, we’ve completely revamped the interface for rules in order to make them easier to create and more powerful.

IF… THEN…

The core of the rules engine is the concept of IF certain criteria are met, THEN trigger this action.  Currently, this means having to select from a variety of criteria and then selecting a variety of outcomes.  The issue is that even though that’s how the system works, it isn’t really clear. With Rezgo 6, you select specific IF criteria when you create your rule.  Once you are happy with your criteria, you select the actions that are THEN triggered by the rule.

if-then-rulesYou can choose from a variety of criteria that will trigger your rule. For example, you can choose to trigger a rule based on the booking date or today’s date, the day of the week, the number of passengers, a promo code, or inventory items.

if-then-rules-2

 

Once you have selected your triggering criteria, you can tell the rule to take certain action.  These actions might include changing availability, changing prices, or even changing the cutoff of a tour.

True tour operator yield management

With rules you can change your pricing and availability based on any number of criteria and have these changes occur automatically throughout the year.  For example, if you are a seasonal business that has a fairly defined high, low, and shoulder seasons, you can define pricing and availability rules that take advantage of these peaks and valleys in order to maximize your profits.  During your busy season, you can automatically adjust your pricing up and in the low season adjust your pricing down.  Do you have days that are busy than others?  You can even adjust your pricing automatically based on the day of the week.  Set your weekend pricing higher in order to take advantage of greater demand.  The beauty of rules is that you can set these pricing adjustments at the beginning of the year and they will automatically take effect based on the dates you specify in the rules.  There is no need to worry about whether or not the system is offering the right price.  Once you create your rules, you can sit back and relax as the system makes the adjustments for you.

One inventory item but many rules

The problem with many basic booking tools or scheduling software is that they rely on a calendar approach to set availability.  This usually means that when a tour or activity is scheduled for a year, the system actually creates 365 individual instances of the tour in the calendar.  This can make adjusting pricing and availability across multiple days very challenging.  With Rezgo, you create a single instance of your tour or activity and then use rules define when and how the tour or activity is available or priced.  If you decide to make a change or adjust a date range, the rules will automatically adjust the tour or activity in real-time.  This means that you can have multiple pricing and availability rules affecting the same inventory item at the same time.

rules-inventory

 

Although this may seem like it might be difficult to visualize, let along manage, Rezgo 6 has a handy availability view that allows you to see all the rules that are affecting your tour or activity on any given day.  True tour operator yield management combined with granular availability control, available only with Rezgo 6.

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New Responsive Rezgo Front-end Booking Engine Live in Beta http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/new-responsive-rezgo-front-end-booking-engine-live-beta http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/new-responsive-rezgo-front-end-booking-engine-live-beta#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:20:07 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9845 We have just released the new responsive booking engine live in Beta for you to try.  Like the Beta administration system, the new front-end is a complete rebuild of the Rezgo booking engine.  This new version of the booking engine is built using a fully responsive design that will automatically adjust based on screen size.  The booking engine is also designed to work better with your own site template, javascript, and css.

Some important to keep in mind as you get to know the new responsive front-end:

  1. Your template has been ported
    We have migrated your existing template to the Beta system so you can modify it at your leisure.  Making changes to your Beta template will not affect your existing template.  If you decide to make changes to your existing website, those changes will not be reflected on your Beta booking engine.
  2. Styling the booking engine
    The Beta booking engine has it’s own stylesheet that can be controlled separately from your template.  These styles are different from the old Rezgo stylesheet, so you will need to make the changes to this stylesheet separately if you want to fine tune the layout and design of the booking engine.
  3. Large images are important
    The new booking engine emphasizes large images.  The small thumbnail image previously used on the existing booking engine has been removed and replaced with a new image gallery that supports 720p HD images.  Your existing images have been imported and converted so you may notice that your smaller images look a bit strange as they have been placed on a black background.  You should take the time to upload high resolution images to your tours in order to take advantage of the new image gallery and retina supported responsive design.
  4. New SEO Page Title and Descriptions
    We’ve added a new SEO section to the tour details that allows you to specify the page title and meta-description as it would appear in Google.  If you aren’t sure about what to put here, don’t worry, it will auto-populate with your tour name and a truncated version of your overview.

We will be refining the front-end over the next few weeks in preparation for the live release.  If you have any feedback, please feel free to send it through the feedback link on the Beta admin.

UPDATE: As of July 14th, the dev team is addressing an issue that causes the booking to fail after the order summary page.  This will be resolved in the next update to the Beta.

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Rezgo 6 Beta Now Live http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/rezgo-6-beta-now-live http://www.rezgo.com/2014/07/rezgo-6-beta-now-live#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:05:28 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=9817 The latest version of Rezgo is now live in Beta for all existing members.  This new version of Rezgo is a complete rebuild of the system and features a long list of improvements and changes that should make your management experience better and more efficient.

To access the Beta, go to the Rezgo login page as normal.  On the login page, you will see a button that will direct you to login to the Beta.  Log into the Beta using either your username or email address associated with your user account.  While Rezgo 6 is in Beta, you will still be able to login and manage your business using the existing Rezgo administration system.  The Beta is connected to your live data, so if you use the Beta, keep in mind that changes that you make to your tours, bookings, rules, etc. will be reflected in your account.  There are several features that will not become available on your web booking engine until the Beta is made live.

During the Beta period, we would love to hear your feedback about the new platform, both bad and good.  We are looking to improve your experience with Rezgo and to make it better for you and the other operators that use the system.  To that end, please try to be as detailed with your feedback as possible.

Here are a few highlights to consider as you navigate Rezgo 6:

  • Dashboard now shows sales trends, latest bookings, messages, saved searches, and upcoming tours.
  • Settings now include more templates for the white label, emails, and vouchers.
  • You now have the ability to add additional pages to your white label (this will be fully functional when Rezgo 6 is live)
  • You can set your own security policy to enhance the security of your accounts.
  • Booking management has been completely revamped.
  • Inventory now includes automated labelling when tours are booked.
  • Additional custom field types have been added. (this will be fully functional when Rezgo 6 is live)
  • Reports have been completely revamped and allow for customization of both criteria and display.

Rezgo 6 has been in development for almost a year.  As you can imagine, this has been a massive undertaking for us and we are happy that we can finally present it to you.  Our goal is to provide you with the best possible online booking engine for tour operators and activity providers.  Enjoy the Beta and don’t hesitate to use the built-in feedback mechanism to let us know how we can improve it for you.

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Rezgo Forum on Getsatisfaction.com is Closed http://www.rezgo.com/2013/11/rezgo-community-getsatisfaction-closed http://www.rezgo.com/2013/11/rezgo-community-getsatisfaction-closed#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 19:36:54 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8865 Sniff sniff.  It is with some sadness that we let you know that the long standing Rezgo community on Getsatisfaction has closed permanently. <single tear drop flows down cheek>

Earlier this month you may have noticed that the Rezgo community on Getsatisfaction closed down.  Unfortunately Getsatisfaction.com was no longer going to be upgrading the features of older  communities like the Rezgo community and as a result, the Rezgo community would have become less and less relevant over time.  We made the decision to shut it down to avoid having the community become stale and orphaned.  Don’t worry though, we have a back-up of all the excellent feature requests, ideas, and answers.

I don’t know if you had a chance to participate in the Rezgo Getsatisfaction site, but if you did, you will appreciate how seriously we take customer feedback and engagement.  I hope you’ll engage with us on the Rezgo support site and on the Rezgo Facebook page.  Each category on the support site has a question and answer section that allows you to post public questions that can be answered by the Rezgo team or by other engaged users.  I encourage you to post your public questions directly on the support site and keep the conversations going.

Thanks again for being part of the Rezgo community and I look forward to interacting with you in our other customer support venues.

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What the heck is the Rezgo Webhook? http://www.rezgo.com/2013/10/rezgo-webhook http://www.rezgo.com/2013/10/rezgo-webhook#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 23:39:26 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8798 Over the years we’ve collected a lot of great suggestions for features from customers.  Customized emails for example has been a perennial hit on the Rezgo community forum, as has integration with email marketing apps like MailChimp and ConstantContact.  When we looked closely at these features though, we saw something else.  We saw an opportunity to build out a feature that could empower our customers to do all of these things and more in a way that made the most sense for them.  So we developed a webhook.  “What the heck is a webhook?” I hear you ask.  Well, to put it simply, the Rezgo webhook is a way to push booking data from Rezgo into another system that has been programmed to accept it.  It is different from the regular API in that the regular API is request based, meaning that you have to request something from the API in order to get a response.  In the case of the webhook, when a booking is made in Rezgo, Rezgo sends the booking data to an endpoint without being prompted to do so.

So how does this make your like easier?  It means that you can now build out smaller more discrete applications that do very specific things with that booking data.  For example, when we built out the webhook, we needed an application that we could use to test against.  We decided to contact a third party developer through Elance to build a WordPress application that we could use to test the webhook API.  What the developer created, I think, is a great example of the kinds of apps that are useful to you.  The WordPress app that the developer created is called “Custom Emails for Rezgo” and when installed on a WordPress site, it allows you to send custom email messages to your customers when they make bookings on your Rezgo site.

Here is a diagram that helps to explain how the Webhook works in the case of custom emails.

Rezgo webhook custom emails when online booking is made

 

1) When a customer makes a booking on your Rezgo booking website, Rezgo will send the customer a confirmation email that includes a link to their online receipt and some basic information about what they booked.  This email is mandatory for the customer since it contains payment and billing information.

2) If a webhook notification has been set, Rezgo will also send a webhook notification to the endpoint URL that is specified in the webhook settings.  In this case, it would be the endpoint URL specified in the Custom Emails for Rezgo plugin.

3) When the plugin receives the webhook notification, it looks at the message and extracts all the pertinent information from it.  In the case of the Custom Email plugin, the script looks at which tour was booked and when and selects from a list of custom notifications that have created.  It selects the one that matches the tour booked and sends the message to the customer.  This message can contain whatever information you choose and can be in TEXT or HTML format.  You can even specify a custom message for not only each tour but for each option.  A record of the notification is stored in the log and can be checked periodically in case there is a problem.

An Ecosystem for New Apps

Our long term hope is that the API and now the webhook will spur the development of other applications that you can use to simplify and automate your business.  We know that we can’t be all things to all people, and we think this is another way we can help to make it easier to extend Rezgo in directions we haven’t thought about.

To learn how to create a webhook notification, refer to this support article.

To download and try out the Custom Emails for Rezgo WordPress plugin, visit the plugin page on WordPress.org.

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Add Taxes & Fees to Your Tours http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/add-taxes-fees-to-your-tours http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/add-taxes-fees-to-your-tours#comments Wed, 31 Jul 2013 12:09:13 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8664 Many operators need to add taxes and fees to their tours in order to collect them from customers.  Some operators include these taxes and fees directly into the price of their tours and others prefer to itemize these costs for the customer during the booking process.  With Rezgo, you can add any number of taxes and fees to your options and display them for your customers during the booking process.

In most tour operator systems, taxes and fees are set-up at the business level which means that all tours or options are subject to the same taxes.  For most tour operators, however, this is not how taxes and fees are collected.  For example, an operator that provides a packaged tour that includes a meal may have to charge a different tax rate then they do for their non-meal inclusive offering.  In some cases, certain activities require an additional fee that is not required when booking another activity.  It was for this reason that we developed the taxes and fee system in Rezgo to handle a tour by tour taxes and fee structure.  Each option in each tour can have it’s own tax structure.  This means that when a customer books multiple tours, the tax amount payable will be calculated based on each tour booked.  The resulting tax revenues collected are reported separately in the revenue report for easy export.

Add taxes and fees to your tours and track the fee revenues easily with Rezgo

 

Taxes can be bundled together and added to other tours.  Change the order of taxes and fees by
dragging and dropping the fees into the right order.

 

Per Person vs. Per Booking

One popular request from Rezgo members was to include the ability to charge flat fees per booking.  For example, charging each passenger that books a $5.00 Land Use or Park Fee.  Some operators wanted to charge a flat per person booking fee or just one flat fee per booking.  Both of these scenarios is now supported with the added benefit that this fee can be taxable or not depending on where you place it in the list of charges.

Taxes

A tax is usually a % that is added to the booking and calculated on the sub-total and any other taxable fees.  Taxes are shown in a separate column in your revenue report and an total tax column for reporting purposes.

Fees

Fees may be either a % or fixed amount and is charged on a per person or per booking basis.  Common fees might include a booking fee (such as passing on the Rezgo transaction fee) or a land use fee that is a fixed amount charged per person.

Simple for Customers to Understand

The most important part of the new taxes and fees system, however, is not just the set-up in your Rezgo admin, but how the fees are presented to your customers.  Since you can now label the fee anyway that you like, you are free to be as descriptive as you like with the fees.  Each fee is displayed on its own line and with its own separate calculation making it simple for your customers to understand exactly what they are paying.

Make it simple for your customers to know what taxes and fees are being paid during the booking
Enhanced taxes and fees support is available in both the Rezgo white label as well as the latest version of the Rezgo WordPress plugin.  For more details on how to add taxes and fees to your options, check out this video:

Alternatively, you can read the following support articles:

Add New Taxes and Fees
http://support.rezgo.com/customer/portal/articles/1244551-add-new-taxes-and-fees-to-an-option

Add a Tax and Fee Bundle
http://support.rezgo.com/customer/portal/articles/1244650-add-tax-and-fee-bundles-to-an-option

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Support for Asian Tour Operators with PesoPay and Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/support-for-asian-tour-operators-with-pesopay-and-rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/support-for-asian-tour-operators-with-pesopay-and-rezgo#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 13:10:55 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8652 We are very excited to be able to offer support for PesoPay, a division of AsiaPay.  The integration with PesoPay allows tour and activity operators based in the Philippines to accept real time credit card payments from their customers.

PesoPay and Rezgo support online payments asia

Tour and activity business in the Philippines can contact PesoPay to apply for a merchant account in order to receive credit card payments.  Once approved, your business will be issued a merchant ID that is entered into Rezgo in order to connect your Rezgo booking system directly to your PesoPay payment gateway.

When a customer books on your Rezgo booking website, they are presented with a credit card payment form that is integrated directly into the booking form.  During the booking process, the customer credit card is sent to PesoPay through a secure connection and the results of the transaction are sent back to Rezgo in real-time.

The entire process is PCI compliant so you don’t have to worry about security or compliance.

AsiaPay supports tour or activity businesses located in Hong Kong, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, or Vietnam.  To find out more about PesoPay, you can visit the PesoPay website at http://www.pesopay.com.

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Resell Tours through Orbitz & Manage the Bookings in Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/resell-tours-through-orbitz-manag-the-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/resell-tours-through-orbitz-manag-the-bookings#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 12:26:58 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8654 Import Orbitz bookings directly into RezgoIf you are planning to resell tours through Orbitz (or if you already do), the updated booking email import feature will help make your life a lot simpler.

When Orbitz sells a tour on your behalf through their website, you’ll receive an email from Orbitz with details of the booking.  The booking email contains the name of the tour that was booked, the primary customer’s name, the date of the booking, and the number of guests booked.  Normally, if you want to add this booking to your tour operator software, you would have to manually add this booking through your back office or point of sale.  Although the Rezgo point of sale is very efficient and it only takes a minute or two to create a new booking, it can still take a lot of time to input in bookings if you receive many of them from Orbitz.

Resell tours through Orbitz and manage your bookings in Rezgo

Example of a booking notification email from Orbitz.

Once you have activated Orbitz email imports in your Rezgo Settings and set the “Item Name” that Orbitz uses to identify the specific tour, you are ready to begin forwarding emails to your custom Rezgo email address.

Resell tours through Orbitz and import booking emails into Rezgo

Select Orbitz in your email import settings.  
You will forward your Orbitz booking emails to your “Import Address”.

The email import allows you to import the Orbitz booking notifications by forwarding them to custom Rezgo email address.  Once received, the email is stored in your Rezgo Messages.  The import scans through the content of the email and pulls out the relevant booking information.  Rezgo then creates a new booking in the system and sends a notification email to your email address to let you know that the booking was successfully (or in some cases unsuccessfully) created.  The associated Rezgo Message will also show the results of the import, for your reference.

The message will show the results of the import including the corresponding booking number.

The successfully imported email will show the details of the booking.

As soon as you receive an email notification from Orbitz, you can forward it directly to your Rezgo email address and continue with your day.  There is no need to worry about missing out on valuable information or potentially forgetting about a customer.  The best part is that all your bookings will be in one place and you can run reports whenever you need.  Bookings generated through the email import will be tagged with the “orbitz” referral ID, so you can track bookings and verify them against your Orbitz reports.

If you are interested in finding out more about reselling your tours through online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and Viator, check out 10 Tips to Sell Tours Online through Resellers.

 

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Use Rezgo with Stripe to Accept Online Bookings & Payments http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/use-rezgo-with-stripe-to-accept-online-bookings-payments http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/use-rezgo-with-stripe-to-accept-online-bookings-payments#comments Thu, 18 Jul 2013 17:54:14 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8629 Use Stripe with Rezgo to process online bookings and real-time credit card payments.Every once in a while we come across a software or service that really catches our attention. Stripe is one of those services. As an online bookings platform, Rezgo has to integrate with many different payment systems in order to facilitate local payments for tour and activity operators all around the World. There are, however, a lot of payment systems that we would love to integrate but simply can’t because they are not developer friendly. Stripe, on the other hand, is extremely developer friendly and offers a variety of integration methods.

Easy Set-up

The first major benefit of Stripe (besides the ease of integration) is that it has a very fast sign-up and verification process which means that businesses in the U.S. or Canada can set-up an account in minutes instead of days (or sometimes weeks) and start processing credit card payments right away. We signed up for an account, verified it, and turned it live in less than 15 minutes. For many small businesses, this could mean the difference between accepting credit cards or not.  The only piece of banking information you will need is a check with your account numbers, this is used to verify your bank account that is attached to your Stripe account.  Once you have created your Stripe account, you can attach it to your Rezgo account.

Simple Pricing

As you can guess, Rezgo is a big fan of simple pricing.  Unlike a traditional merchant accounts and payment gateways that may have a multitude of charges, Stripe only charges 2.9% + $.30.  This is similar to PayPal’s fees and include everything, even American Express fees which are traditionally 3.5% or higher.  Although you may be able to get a much lower base transaction fee directly from a merchant processor, you will probably find that your average transaction fee is much higher at the end of the month once you factor in premium card charges, international fees, and currency charges.  Not to mention, merchant processing statements can be very hard to figure out.

Includes Everything

Another bonus of Stripe is that it includes pretty much everything you’ll need to handle payments online and in the real world.  Because it is so developer friendly, there are mobile apps now that support Stripe and integrate with your account.  One of the first is Pay Pad, which allows you to manage your Stripe account on your iPhone or iPad and even allows you process credit card transactions.  There is sure to be much more in the way of integrated applications as Stripe gains popularity.

 Fast Payments

Finally, for those who are not fans of having your money sitting around in a PayPal account, your funds are transferred to your bank account every 7 days.  Although this is not as fast as a true merchant account, which tends to do nightly deposits, it is much more efficient than having to initiate a transfer each time you want to move money from your online payment system to your bank account.  You set up your receiving bank account when you verify your account.

Using PayPal only? Consider Adding Stripe

If you are in the U.S. or Canada and you are using PayPal as your online payment system.  I highly recommend you consider adding Stripe for accepting credit cards.  Although PayPal is a great payment solution, the standard offering is an off-site payment which means that your customers complete payment on the PayPal site before returning to Rezgo.  Our statistics show that although PayPal is one of our most popular payment options with tour and activity operators, it is actually the least used payment option.  Over 75% of all bookings through Rezgo are made with a credit card.

[tagline_box link="http://www.stripe.com" button="Sign Up for Stripe" title="Customers Prefer Credit Cards" description="Sign-up for a Stripe account & start accepting credit card payments fast."][/tagline_box]

 

 

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Rezgo Celebrates 6 Years & 1,000,000 Guests http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/rezgo-celebrates-1000000-guests http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/rezgo-celebrates-1000000-guests#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 13:36:04 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8589 Rezgo is six years old and we couldn’t have done it without all our incredible tour and activity members. We also broke a significant milestone by reaching 1,000,000 guests booked with tour and activity operators who use Rezgo. It’s not just the number that is important, but the data that is associated with all those transactions. The beauty of being able to aggregate all that data means that we can analyze trends and report them back to you and to the industry in general. Just to be clear, we don’t use any private data, so no need to worry about personal information ending up in a report. We only use aggregate data.

In honour of our birthday, we’ve put together this interactive infographic that provides a bit of insight into what those 1,000,000 guests have been up to.

Rezgo tour and activity operator providers have serviced over 1,000,000 customers Worldwide

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10 Tips to Sell Tours Online Through Resellers http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/10-tips-to-sell-tours-online-through-resellers http://www.rezgo.com/2013/07/10-tips-to-sell-tours-online-through-resellers#comments Tue, 02 Jul 2013 14:58:19 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8509 I sometimes get asked from tour and activity operators…

“How do I sell tours online through Expedia or Orbitz?”

or

“Do you connect with travel agent systems like Sabre?”

First of all it’s important to understand that the tour and activity segment is not as mature as the hotel segment.  Online reservation systems like Rezgo don’t connect to GDSes (Global Distribution Systems) like Sabre, Amadeus, or Travelport.  Not because we don’t want to but because these organizations have to see the benefits of opening up to live availability systems like Rezgo before they will invest the time and energy to making connectivity possible.  When that day comes, of course, you will want to make sure you are ready. Connectivity aside, there are still ways that you (as a tour or activity operator) can work with these well known online brands.  Here are some tips on getting yourself ready to enter a business relationship with the big players in online travel: 1. Get insured – All of the major OTAs (online travel agents) require that their supplier partners be fully insured.  This means business liability insurance that covers injury and loss.  The OTA will require that they are named as an additional insured on the certificate.  This is to protect the OTA from someone injuring themselves on your tour and then turning around and suing the OTA.  Without this insurance, it will be next to impossible to form a relationship with any of these companies. 2. Have something interesting to offer – In almost all cases, OTAs are looking for something different and unique to offer their customers.  In the case of Viator for example, they will only work with a few select suppliers in each destination.  If your tour or activity is similar to one that they already offer, it will be unlikely that they will want to do business with you.  You’ll need to make sure your offering is unique, interesting, and lucrative for the OTA.  Take the time to visit each site and look at what tours or activities are already offered in your destination.  If you find that there is clearly an opportunity for your to offer something new and exciting, then go for it. 3. Get your content ready – Although the OTAs will most likely rewrite the content you provide them, you need to be able to provide them with descriptions, itinerary information, things to bring, etc.  Pretty much all the fields in Rezgo are fields that are required by all the major OTAs.  There is a reason why those fields exist.  If and when they are ready to work with you, you should be able to point them to your Rezgo account so they can get whatever content they need directly from your site. 4. Invest in great photography – When it comes to tours and activities, pictures are worth more than a thousand words.  In a sea of products, your amazing photography will help to differentiate you from your competition.  Not to mention, if you offer an OTA partner some really nice high quality photos, they may be more inclined to feature your products (all things being equal). 5. Get some professional video – If you have budget to put together a promotional video of your tour, I recommend you go for it.  There are several providers of video production that offer packages specifically tailored to tourism businesses.  For more details about getting started with a video distribution package, talk to the fine folks at ITS Video. 6. Show direct sales success – If you are expecting distribution to save your business, then don’t waste your time trying to connect.  Distribution in the tour and activity space accounts for less than 12% of total bookings.  That means that you need to be generating 88% of your business through direct sales to your customers.  If you are not already working on driving more direct sales to your customers, then you need to focus on that first before worrying about distribution. 7. Remember that you won’t own the customer – One thing that many suppliers don’t realize is that they don’t own the customer in the case of distributed bookings.  The OTAs make it very clear in their agreements that the suppliers are not allowed to solicit business from customers that are referred to them through the OTA.  Things means that, in many cases, the suppliers are not allowed to email them after the tour or activity or reach out to them for reviews.  If you’re not okay with this level of customer ownership, then you’ll want to rethink whether distribution is for you. 9. Set up for free sale or block allocations – The OTAs are not currently set-up to handle live availability requests.  This means that if your tour has a limited capacity, you may have to accept a request for a booking and either agree to or reject requests when they come through a distribution channel.  The issue is that live availability, especially for limited capacity tours or activities, are crucial to a good customer booking experience.  Currently, on most OTA sites, if the booking has to be confirmed, the customer will make the booking and receive an email that says that the booking needs to be confirmed by the supplier.  If the supplier cannot provide the tour, the booking is canceled and the customer has to book something else.  Needless to say, this is a pretty lousy experience if it happens to a customer.  Your best bet is to either accept all bookings from OTAs as confirmed (freesell) or set up a block allocation with the partner.  A block allocation would mean guaranteeing a certain number of spaces on your tour for the OTA. 10. Be patient - Building a relationship with a large company can take time.  Be patient as you go through the process with them.  In some cases, it can take months for your tours or activities to show up on an OTA site.  You must be able to maintain your business in the meantime through direct sales. Once you are ready to take the next step and consider reselling through these well established brands, you’ll want to submit your application.  To save you the time and hassle of trying to find the links yourself, I’ve gathered them in one place.  Be sure to bookmark them or just bookmark this post for reference later.  Of course there are many other resellers out there.  If you know of one and would like to add it, please feel free to leave a comment.

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Tour Operator Mobile & Online Payments with PayPal http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/tour-operator-mobile-online-payments-paypal http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/tour-operator-mobile-online-payments-paypal#comments Fri, 21 Jun 2013 18:41:23 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8567 You’re getting yourself prepared for the season.  You’ve got your website set up, you’ve printed your brochures, your Rezgo online booking system is almost ready and you’re wondering how best to handle your online payments.  If you’re new to online payments and you’re not sure how much volume you are going to do OR if you expect to handle payments in person and you want to consolidate your payments into one system, then you may want to consider PayPal as way to manage your online payments.

use paypal to manage online payments

In the last year or so, online payments and mobile payments have become increasingly popular.  Although PayPal has been around for a long time, it was primarily used for online payments, especially those through auction sites like eBay or through small business websites.  Their seller and buyer protection mechanisms are quite strong and their brand is well recognized.  But most recently companies like Square have popped up to handle in-person and point of sale purchases through a mobile device.  The service, as great as it is however, doesn’t support e-commerce purchases, which leaves a disconnect between online payments and in-person payments.  In fact, we’ve received many support emails and questions about whether Rezgo supports Square.  As much as we would love to support Square, the issue is that Square does not support e-commerce transactions or have an API that can be integrated.

PayPal identified the opportunity to bring the two sides of the payment equation together and provide both online payments (through their traditional offerings) and point of sale payments through their PayPal Here program.  The program provides you with a credit card swipe that attaches to your iPhone or Android device.  For now the program is only available to the U.S. and Canada currently, but PayPal is already accepting interest from the U.K. and Australia as well.

If you are looking for a single merchant that can handle your online payments through Rezgo as well as swiped credit card payments from live customers, you may want to take a closer look at PayPal.  You can find out more about how Rezgo integrates with PayPal.

You may find these other articles about online payments interesting as well:

 

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You Should Have a WordPress Booking Engine for Your Tour or Activity Website http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/wordpress-booking-engine-tour-activity-website http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/wordpress-booking-engine-tour-activity-website#comments Wed, 12 Jun 2013 11:04:06 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8544 There are a lot of reasons why I really like WordPress.  As a former developer (I don’t write code much anymore) I spent a good portion of my time building content management systems for business users.  In fact before we developed Rezgo, we had developed a module based content management system that was quite sophisticated and extensible for its time.  Part of the reason why we stopped building our own proprietary content management system was because platforms like Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress were really starting to pick up steam and, frankly, they were better in many ways than what we could develop ourselves.  Not to mention, third party developers were creating all kinds of really great plug-ins and add-ons for these platforms.  What we have now, after ten years of WordPress, is an incredible ecosystem of plug-ins, including the Rezgo WordPress booking engine, that make WordPress, in my opinion, the best content management system for tour and activity operators.

Drive online revenues with a WordPress booking engine

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/64060016@N03/5964629989/

Open source with lots of commercial support

Businesses are always a bit skeptical about things that are free or open source.  For many applications, that may be the case, but for a small business website, it isn’t as important.  One of the reasons why WordPress has taken off is because, despite the fact that it is open source, there is a ton of commercial services that support it.  There is an entire ecosystem of WordPress developers, designers, integrators, and consultants ready to provide you with technical services if you need it.  There are even companies like WooThemes that have built their entire business on building WordPress themes and applications.

Easy to use out of the box

Even if you choose not to use a designer or developer to help you with your WordPress install, you can do most of it yourself through your web hosting company.  Many popular web hosts provide one click installs for WordPress.  Bluehost, for example, has out of the box support for WordPress and makes it incredibly simple to get a site up and running.  For many small businesses on a limited budget, using the standard theme with a nice custom header image will result in a website that is, in my opinion, better than most out there.

There are also a ton of getting started resources and training videos.  The WordPress site itself has a getting started section designed for those who have never used WordPress before.  If you are going to use WordPress, I recommend you spend the time to go through the tutorials, it is well worth it and you’ll feel really good when you’re done.  WP101 has an excellent series of WordPress tutorials.  Some are free but most require a small annual subscription.  It’s well worth it if you are new to WordPress.

Search engine benefits

A key reason for the success of WordPress as a platform is the way in which links and content are created within a site.  WordPress websites, when using search friendly permalinks, are automatically search friendly and easily crawled by the major search engines.  Because of the way WordPress is designed, website owners tend to be much more engaged with creating content and making tweaks to their website on a regular basis, which also helps to keep the site updated and fresh in the eyes of Google and the other search engines.  There are also a number of incredibly powerful SEO tools that are available that help you to optimize your WordPress site.  One of my favorite plugins is Yoast WordPress SEO, which automates a lot of the SEO functions for you and makes the process of optimization fully integrated into your WordPress experience.

Fully Integrated Booking Engine

Of course one of my big reasons for liking WordPress is our Rezgo Online Booking plugin.  In just over two years, the Rezgo WordPress plugin has become the most popular way to integrate Rezgo into a website.  We’re seeing almost 60% of traffic coming from API calls that originate from WordPress based websites.  The benefit of integrating a booking engine like Rezgo directly into your WordPress site is that you benefit from having all of your tour or activity content on your site versus having it hosted only on the white label Rezgo site.  Unlike javascript or iframe based booking engines that don’t provide any search engine benefit (and pose a potential security risk), a fully integrated booking engine provides you with a seamless customer experience while providing you with all the search engine benefits of hosting the content on your own site.

Although we have seen some amazing WordPress integrations lately, even the standard out of the box installation adds a huge amount of credibility and professionalism to a tour operator website.

Social by nature

We can’t forget about the social web and how important it is to share content.  WordPress is particularly well suited for this.  When you combine the fact that WordPress was and still is a platform for blogging or content generation in general, with the ubiquity of RSS (really simple syndication), it is a small publisher’s dream machine.  Producing good content is something I recommend you do as part of your overall social media strategy.  It helps to establish your expertise and also helps to attract customers who might be in the early stages of planning their trip.

Follow these simple steps to to improve your SEO, write great content, use WordPress to get it on the web, and use plugins that support social sharing, like JetPack, and you will be well on your way to increasing your traffic and most likely your conversions as well.

 

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Using Analytics to Increase Online Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/using-analytics-to-increase-online-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/using-analytics-to-increase-online-bookings#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 11:27:39 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8535 Analytics are an important tool for helping you determine who your website visitors are and why they are coming to your website.  But did you know they can also help you increase online bookings for your tour and activity business?  Without some form of analytics, the chances are you are missing out on valuable data that you can use to determine what content is most important to your online visitors and how best to drive them towards online booking.

increase online bookings by using analytics

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/titanas/8352719853/

 What are Analytics?

If you are like most small business owners, your first question is probably “What the heck are analytics?”.  To put is simply, an analytics program is one that tracks activity on your website, analyses it for you, and then presents the results in a human readable format (most of the time).  Analytics programs and services usually use a small snippet of javascript code that is placed on your website to track visitors to your website.  This code is something that either you or your web designer usually has to place on your website.  If you are using a content management system like WordPress, there are plugins that you can use to simplify the process.  In all cases, however, you still have to copy and paste the code snippet from the analytics provider and paste it into your site somewhere.

At Rezgo, we use a variety of analytics tools to measure and compare visitor information.  For our marketing website and support sites, we use a combination of Google Analytics, Alexa Pro, and HitsLink.  All three services offer slightly different information and it’s nice to be able to compare the results against each other (for verification and validation purposes).

Which Analytics Provider Should I Use?

There are many analytics providers, but by far the best and most comprehensive is Google Analytics.  It is also a free service, so the cost benefit is pretty clear.  The only downside to Google’s offering is that it can be quite daunting for a non-technical person to understand all the features provided in the service or, for that matter, what to do with the information once you have it.

Another good choice, that is relatively inexpensive for a small website owner, is HitsLink.  The HitsLink dashboard is much easier to read and provides snapshot data in an easy to understand way.  You still have the ability to dive deeper into the data if you like, but the basics are there, in your face without being overwhelming.

hitslink is a web analytics service that can help increase online bookings

One of the nicest features of HitsLink is the simplicity with which they have integrated the conversion tracking and ecommerce goals.  The javascript code, for example, can be easily added to your Rezgo account.  The best part is that the ORDER TOTAL values and ORDER ID fields are automatically updated by Rezgo with the correct values, so you get up to the minute details of conversion values in your dashboard.

When you set-up your account on either Google Analytics or HitsLink, be sure to add the analytics code snippet to all pages on your site include your Rezgo account.  You can always refer to this article if you need help adding analytics code to Rezgo.

What should you look for?

1. Search Terms / Keywords – Chances are when you take a look at your reports, you’ll find that a high percentage of traffic is coming from Google.  How those customers find your website and what search terms they are using will give you a good sense for what your customers are searching for in the major search engines.  You may find that you are ranking really high for a completely unrelated term and, as a result, you are getting a lot of traffic to your home page but those same visitors are leaving right away.  This will be reflected in your bounce rate.

2. Bounce Rate – This value tells you what percentage (on average) of your visitors come to your site, views only one page, and then immediately leaves again.  The goal is to capture that visitor and have them look at other pages of your site.  If the visitor is truly interested in your tours or activities, they will most likely visit other pages on your site looking for information that is important for them.  When they do leave your site, you will want to know where, since you may want to find a way to change the content on that page to be more engaging or reduce the likelihood of that page being a major exit page.

3. Exit Pages – These are the pages from which your visitors exit your site.  Understanding where your customers are leaving can give you a good idea about how to keep them from leaving.  Take a look at your top exit pages and see if you can determine why someone might leave your site from that page.  If your home page is top exit page, that may be an indicator that the visitor you are attracting is simply not interested in your tours or activities.  If your top exist page is a tour page, then perhaps your tour or activity is not being described in the best way.  Perhaps, you don’t have a clear call to action on the page for them to continue, in which case, the visitors next best option is to find a competitor that does have a clear call to action.

4. E-commerce activity – Whether you use Google or HitsLink, both will provide you with information about your conversions and where those customers came from.  You will be able to see if customers came through Google or another search engine, or if they were referred by another website.  The bottom line is, take a good look at where your sales are coming from and what you might be able to do to increase your e-commerce activity from those sources.  You may also be able to determine what groups are not converting by looking at regional breakdown of customers.  Combining your analytics with targeted advertising campaigns may help to increase your conversions for regions where your conversions are currently low.

5. Mobile vs. Desktop – You will want to keep an eye on the devices that your customers are using to view your site.  Tour and activity websites tend to have a higher mobile viewership than other segments of travel, primarily because travelers tend not to use their laptops when traveling.  A traveler in a destination looking for things to do is more likely to use a mobile device to search for and book a tour or activity.  On average, according to StatsCounter, about 14.62% of web traffic is viewed on a mobile device.  Rezgo analytics report mobile viewership at over 27% for the same period.  Understanding how your customers are viewing your content can help you determine the best way to get them to book.  If your main website is not mobile friendly then it may be turning a large percentage of your customers away before they even get consider doing business with you.

What’s Next?

Once you have had a chance to review your analytics, you can begin to make changes to your site in order to improve conversions on your site.  If you are just beginning or have just installed your analytics code, you will need to wait some time to gather enough useful data before taking action.  I recommend you give yourself at least a month before making any meaningful changes.  Why?  Because ultimately, you don’t want to start making changes when you don’t have enough reference data to compare against.

After you have gathered enough usage data to start to view trends in your data, then you can do things like change content, navigation, and landing pages in order to increase or decrease certain metrics.  But we’ll save that part for another article.  For now, get familiar with your analytics tool of choice and watch.

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Is Outsourcing Your Tourism SEO Killing Your Traffic http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/is-outsourcing-your-tourism-seo-killing-your-traffic http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/is-outsourcing-your-tourism-seo-killing-your-traffic#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 21:32:39 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8524 Manage your tourism seo so your website is open for business

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4427310974/

One of the most common questions I hear from tour operators is “I have created my site, now how do I market it?”.  For many business owners, the expectation is that once a website is built, people will naturally come to the site and start booking.  Unfortunately, if your site is not well optimized and you don’t have a lot of content, your potential customers are not going to be able to find you online.  Luckily having a Rezgo booking engine can help a lot because the tour details pages are search optimized, however, having a well optimized booking website is only one part of the solution.  So, many businesses outsource their tourism SEO to a freelance or the cheapest SEO resource they can find on online.  The problem is that these resources don’t know tour and activity businesses as well as the owner and as a result, they may do things that can negatively affect a site’s rankings.  If you are currently outsourcing your SEO, here are three things you can do right now to make sure your traffic is not being affected as a result.

1. Write your own content

Have you ever read some of the content written by an outsourced SEO firm?  You would probably cringe if you took the time to read what is written for some clients.  You know your business and the experience that you have with your customers better than anyone.  If you are not a writer, I’m pretty sure you can find someone close to you who can write and who can help you craft your content in a meaningful and relevant way.  Your customers will be judging you based on the content they read on your site, make sure it is well written and authentic.

If you are a reseller or tour aggregator, don’t copy and paste generic tour information on your site.  Not only does it make your site look and sound like every other reseller of the same tour, but it may also affect your rank if there is an issue with duplicate content.

2. Stop spammy blog comments

You know the ones.  Those comments on your blog post that sound generic and have absolutely nothing to do with your content.  These comments are generally created by SEO firms that are trying to build back-links to their clients websites.  The problem with this approach is that the comments are so easily identified as spam, that most of them get caught by tools like Akismet and don’t even make it into the site.  The other issue is that if the comment does make it on the site, people have come to recognize these comments are irrelevant and not useful.  If the visitor ends up clicking on a link in the comment, it may be totally unrelated to what they were looking at, that they exit your site right away.  This will only increase the exit rate on your website home page and may impact your overall rank.

The better option is to find blogs that are relevant to your destination or your type of tour/activity and post long form and relevant comments on posts that are actually related to your business.  Usually, when you write a lengthy comment, it’s acceptable to include a single link back to your site at the end.

3.  Learn basic online marketing

Learning to do online marketing will be one of the most valuable skills you develop for your business.  Even though it may not be a skill you currently have, this is an area that you can learn and apply as you grow and develop your business.  Basic online marketing is not expensive, which means that you can save money that can be applied to other areas of your business.

The challenge for many small businesses, however, is that online marketing is intimidating.  The reality is that online marketing is not complicated and can be done well by most anyone who has the time and desire to market their business online.

If you do decide to outsource your SEO to another company, make sure to do due diligence on the company.  Check their references and, if appropriate, talk to some of their customers.  Work with the company to put together a campaign that works for you and set clear milestones and deliverables.  Remember that it’s your business reputation on the line, not theirs.

It’s your business after all

In the end, you are the probably the best person to market your business, whether you want to or not.  Take some time to learn some online marketing and social media techniques.  If you haven’t already done so, take a moment to download the free Social Media for Tour and Activity Operators E-book, it has a great strategy for helping you figure out how to market your business using social media and content marketing.  If you end up using an outsourced SEO, be prepared to manage them well.  It’s up to you to keep your website open for business.

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New Rezgo Open Source and WordPress Online Booking Plugin Available http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/new-rezgo-wordpress-online-booking-plugin-and-open-source-app-available http://www.rezgo.com/2013/06/new-rezgo-wordpress-online-booking-plugin-and-open-source-app-available#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 15:56:54 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8531 Rezgo WordPress Online Booking

I’m very happy to announce that we have officially released a new version of the Rezgo WordPress Online Booking Plugin and a fully updated version of the open source booking engine.  The new versions are a result of major updates to Rezgo that were recently released.  The WordPress plugin and the open source booking engine both support the new multi-booking functionality as well as provide an improved search functionality and enhanced security.  You can read more about the recent release in this announcement.

Rezgo members who have customized their websites with the open source booking engine will find improvements including many fixes to bugs that have been documented since the initial release of the code.  We recommend that you download the most recent version when convenient.

Here is a quick summary of the change log for version 1.7

  • Brand new shopping cart interface allows many items to be booked at once.
  • New XML commit request supporting multiple items.
  • New anti-spam measures added to contact form.
  • Inconsistent date labels have been changed to “booked for.”
  • Some share links removed from item details.
  • Fixed a bug causing the search date range to produce inconsistent results.
  • Many bug fixes and performance improvements.

You can download the latest version of the Rezgo WordPress Online Booking Plugin on the WordPress site.

You can download the Rezgo open source booking engine from SourceForge.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please let us know by submitting a ticket.

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5 Terrible Website Design Mistakes That are Hurting Your Tour or Activity Business http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/5-terrible-website-design-mistakes-that-are-hurting-your-tour-or-activity-business http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/5-terrible-website-design-mistakes-that-are-hurting-your-tour-or-activity-business#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 14:23:10 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8514 So you’ve done everything right.  You have a website, an email address with your domain (not just a gmail account), an online booking engine (for example Rezgo), and you’re starting to see some traction.  But your site just doesn’t seem to be converting customers the way that you had hoped.  Well, it could be that your site is suffering from some of these website design mistakes.

This website suffers from every terrible website design mistake in the book.

If you’re interested in looking at some truly awful websites, head over to Websites From Hell.

1. Splash page or fancy flash intro

This is a bit like asking someone to stand and watch an advertisement before they can enter your front door.  Do you really want to force your website visitors to look at a splash screen first before they can click through to your site?  No, if you have a splash screen or some kind of splashy flash intro, get rid of it.  Remember that Flash also doesn’t work on most mobile devices, so you are already alienating 25% of your web visitors.  You can read more about why splash pages are bad in this article from Devin.

In the same vein as the splash page/flash intro, do not auto load music in the background when a customer lands on your site.  Nothing is more annoying then to hear music blasting when none was expected.  If you have a music background, remove it asap.

2. Overly complexificated navigation

I realize that’s not a real term, but you get the point.  On of the most common errors with websites is creating a navigation menu that is overly complicated.  Keep your navigation simple and consistent throughout your site.  A common convention is to place your main navigation menu in the upper right hand side of the site.  A standard menu for a tour/activity business might include:

  • Home
  • About Us
  • Our Tours (link to your Rezgo site)
  • Blog (if you have one)
  • Contact Us
  • Booking Terms & Conditions

Do you really need more than that?  If you do have a lot of pages on your site with rich information, then that’s great.  Just remember that your customers are going to be looking for specific kinds of information on your site.  Make sure that the critical stuff like your tour information and pricing is easy to find.

3. Buried or hard to find contact information

Even if you don’t want your customers to pick up the phone and call you or send you a letter, it’s important to let them know that they can.  Your website should provide your customer with all the information they need to make a purchasing decision and as long as you live up to their expectations, chances are they won’t have a reason to pick up the phone and call you.  Adding your contact information to the footer of your website is a good idea, since that is a common place for customers to look if they are close to the bottom of a page on your site.

4. Bad color choices and hard to read fonts

Your content is only going to be interesting and persuasive if your visitor can read it.  One of the most common mistakes with web design is sacrificing readability for layout or design purposes.  If you have a dark background, use a light easy to read font.  If you have a light background, use a dark font.  Pretty straightforward right?  You’d be surprised how many sites I have seen with dark backgrounds and green or red colored fonts.  Remember the old adage, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  If your site is suffering from a colored font overload, simplify it now.  Not only to high contrast easy to read and attractive color schemes enhance the look of your site, it makes it easier for your customers to actually read about what you offer.

For more information about fonts and readability, I highly recommend this post from Ben Hunt.

5.  Clutter

Images, videos, and text are all great things to have on a website.  But, they have to be organized in a way that make sense for your customers.  Jamming everything onto the page without any consideration for layout or whitespace will only make it hard for your customers to scan your page and find what they need.  Avoid cluttering up your site with ads or images that are not directly relevant to the customer experience.  I recently had a tour operator ask me if they should have a banner ad on their site for a potential affiliate partner.  My answer was “No”.  Why? Because all you are doing when you add distracting media to your site is giving your potential customer an excuse to leave your site.  Once they leave, the likelihood that they will return is greatly diminished.  Keep your content pages clean and well organized.  With Rezgo, your tour detail pages are always consistent, so you don’t need to worry about them, but the pages on your regular website should have a form and structure to them that make the customer experience consistent from page to page.

Think like your customer

Imagine yourself as your customer.  When you go to your site, how hard is it for you to find the information that you need?  Obviously, it’s going to be difficult for you to go through this process in an unbiased way.  Your best bet might be to get a friend or colleague to do this for you.  But take the time to do an honest evaluation of your site and how effective it is for your business.  Remember that, according to Google, 82% of leisure travelers start their holiday research online.  The chances are very good that a customer’s first experience with you will be your website.  Now is your chance to make sure you are putting your best face forward.

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3 Simple Steps to Increase Tour Operator Profits http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/increase-tour-operator-profits http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/increase-tour-operator-profits#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 13:24:01 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8500 Generating revenues with your tour or activity business is one thing, but making a profit is something different.  You’re probably in business because you love what you do and because you want to be able to keep doing it for a while.  Making a healthy profit from your business gives you the freedom to grow your business at your own pace and to make decisions and even mistakes from time to time without having to worry too much about the bottom line.  Whether you choose to take your tour operator profits out of the company or re-invest them back in to the business to fuel growth, the point is that you can’t do either of these things if you aren’t actually generating a profit.

These 3 tips will help you increase your activity provider or tour operator profits

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7658159678/

Here are 3 things you can consider doing today to increase your tour operator profits for the long term.  You may even find that these tips help to improve other areas of your business including your brand equity and credibility as well as your perception in the marketplace.

1. Stop competing on price

There will always be someone more desperate than you who will sell their tours or activities for cheap just to get the business.  You may be tempted to lower your prices or to cut your margins just so you can compete.  Don’t do it, this type of competition is a fast track to the bottom.  You are far better off differentiating your tours or activities from your competition and even raising your prices.  Once you stop the obsessing over low prices, you can focus on other more important things like providing the best possible value for your customers.  Here’s a quick calculation:

Tour A = $120
Cost = $80
Gross Profit = $40
Profit Margin (Profit/Cost) = 50%

Increasing cost of Tour A 10%

Tour A = $132
Cost = $80
Gross Profit = $52
Profit Margin (Profit/Cost) = 65%

So by increasing your tour by 10%, you have increased your profit margin on your tour by 30%.   For a traveler who has already paid hundreds or thousands of dollars on airfare and hotel or who have committed to visiting your destination, the prospect of spending (in this case) an extra $12 per person for a unique experience is not going to be a deal breaker.  In a best case scenario, assuming you are differentiating your tours and providing good value for the price, you shouldn’t see a dramatic decrease in your conversion rates.  Even with a decrease in conversion rates of say 30%, you can still expect to generate more profit then with your previous pricing model.  The additional perk is that you will have more margin to play with in case you want to offer one-time specials or promotional codes.

Remember that increasing your prices requires you to have a unique service offering that delivers high value to your customers.  Offering the same or similar tour or activity to your competitors at a higher price simply won’t work.  Once you break yourself of the habit of always lower your prices or competing on price, you’ll find that you have more freedom and energy to build other areas of your business.

2. Focus on overall profit not on actual revenue per customer

Let’s face it, not everyone is going to love your tour and when they don’t, they may be vocal about it.  I’m not advocating cow towing to review trolls or people that complain for the sake of complaining, but when a customer has a truly bad experience on your tour or activity, don’t be afraid to make things right.  This may mean offering them a complimentary tour or activity on another date or a refund.  They will remember the incredible customer service they experienced and that may be enough to turn a negative review into a positive one.  In today’s world of mediocre customer service, differentiating yourself with a superior customer experience can go a long way to increasing your word of mouth marketing and your brand credibility.  If you’ve already done the work to increase your profitability, then being able to offer this kind of higher level customer service won’t cost you anymore and will actually drive more business.

3. Ditch the paper & pen and get with a program

One of the biggest steps you can take to increasing your profitability is putting your administration on auto-pilot.  The first step is taking the leap from paper and pen to a tour and activity operator software like Rezgo.  The next step is simplifying your offerings in order to avoid things like “schedule clash”, offering many tours on the same schedule but only ever being able to offer one.  Simplifying your offerings doesn’t mean decreasing the value of your offerings.  The easier it is for your customers to book and pay with you online, the less administration you need to worry about.  Remember that according to Google, 86% of  travelers plan their travel online, so making sure you are online and can be found is a big plus.

If your tours or activities are less than $200 per person and are easily booked online, you can expect a lot fewer phone calls.  Spending less time on the phone on each sale will also free up your time for other things like improving your website SEO and driving more customers online.

What have you got to lose?

At the end of the day, you won’t know what money you’re leaving on the table if you don’t try to change things up.  You can always make small incremental improvements in your business in order to increase your profitability.  Just remember, that you need to put some metrics in place in order to measure your success.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away, a profitable business takes time to build and grow, you’re in this for the long term.

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5 Simple Tips to Improve SEO for Tour Operators and Activity Providers http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/improve-seo-for-tour-operators http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/improve-seo-for-tour-operators#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 04:25:33 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8491 As a small tour operator or activity provider you have your work cut out for you.  Like many small business owners you probably wear many hats and have to handle a lot of the marketing yourself.  Here are five simple things that you can do to improve SEO for tour operators and activity providers like you.  Don’t think of these tips so much as search engine optimization techniques but more like good practices for maintaining your site and making it more relevant for your customers.  Remember, Google and the other search engines are often refining their search algorithms to prevent spammers, who use over optimization, from showing up in search results.   The best way to maintain a high search rank and remain in the search engines’ good books is to provide relevant content to people searching for your tours or activities.

Kitsap Tours is a great example of a tour operator who is effectively using a blog to connect with customers.

Kitsap Tours offers unique and interesting tours of Seattle, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic peninsula.  Kitsap Tours has a popular blog which Jean Boyle, the owner uses to educate and connect with potential customers.

1. Be more niche

Let’s face it, you’ll never be able to compete against Expedia or the other large tour resellers.  What you can do, however, is out niche them.  You have the opportunity to clearly define your offerings in a way that the big players can’t.  Use your uniqueness to your advantage.  If there are ways to make your tour or activity even more specialized, then you might want to consider them.  Providing a specialized offering means that the content you create for your tour descriptions and website content in general, will be more relevant to customers searching for your particular tour or activity.

As a specialized operator, you also have the ability to become the expert.

2. Use high quality unique descriptions for your tours and activities

Your tours or activities are what people are looking to book.  Provide a long and well written description of what the customer will experience. Neil Patel explains in this article that longer content tends to rank better in search engines than short descriptions.  Since you are taking the time to create a site for your customers, why not take the extra time to fully describe the tour or experience they will have.

3. Make a video of your tour or activity

There is a lot of data to back up that videos can increase conversions on online sales.  With Rezgo you have the ability to add videos as well as photos in your media gallery.  This is a huge plus for your customers because they can watch a video during the booking process and really get a sense for what they will experience on your tour or activity.  If you are using a professional tour video service like ITS Video, you will want to consider hosting a copy of your video on YouTube as well for search purposes.

4. Write Interesting Blog Posts

This may sound like a really daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.  Just imagine the kinds of things that you talk about with your customers when they are on a tour with you and write about those experiences.  You may even know of local vendors or partners that you want to promote as part of your own business.  This type of writing emphasizes that you know what you are talking about and that you know your destination.

Don’t just blog for the sake of blogging though.  Write with your customers in mind.  This is a great step in differentiating yourself from your competition and especially the big tour and activity resellers.  Google also ranks content attributed to frequent authors higher in search results, so don’t forget to set up your author profile in your Google + account.

5.  Connect your tour pages to your blog posts

When you write those great posts about your destination or experience, don’t forget to link to your tour pages.  You may even want to integrate your tour directly into the blog post somehow, perhaps describing a restaurant, attraction, or important site that might be visited during the tour.  Consider doing a short video interview with a guide or yourself talking about something the customer might see or experience.

If the video you create is relevant to a specific tour or activity, you can even re-use the video on your tour page as well.  This is a great way to re-purpose your content and drive maximum value for your efforts.

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Multiple Bookings and More with Rezgo v.5.4 http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/multiple-bookings-and-more-with-rezgo-v-5-4 http://www.rezgo.com/2013/05/multiple-bookings-and-more-with-rezgo-v-5-4#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 19:18:02 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8301 Rezgo supports multiple bookings per orderOn Thursday May 9th, we released the latest version of Rezgo.  Due to some unexpected issues with the live version, we had to roll back to the previous version shortly after releasing the update.  We have now resolved all the outstanding issues and have re-released the new version.  I’m really excited about the features of this latest version. In addition to the new features, we took a lot of time going through and addressing bugs and other fixes. Although this is one of our biggest releases with over 130 individual updates, features, and bug fixes, you shouldn’t notice too many changes in the interface. Many of the changes we have made are designed to improve your experience with the system and make things smoother for you, your staff, and your customers. We know you’re really busy, so we’ve made the changes as seamless as possible.

Bug fixesThe biggest update and the one I am most excited about is the support for multiple simultaneous bookings. On a regular e-commerce site, you might call this feature a “shopping cart”. In a system like Rezgo where customers are booking tours, activities, or events that have live availability and a unique configuration, a shopping cart is just not suitable. We’ve chosen to use the word “Order” to represent a single transaction that includes multiple bookings.

The multiple booking functionality allows your customer to book different tours (or options) at the same time in one checkout process (or order). The customers credit card is charged once, saving you credit card fees on multiple transactions. Unlike a traditional shopping cart however, each booking can still be managed separately. This means that if a customer needs to cancel or reschedule a specific tour or activity booking, you can do that without affecting the other items in the order. The booking management experience is almost the same (with a few improvements of course). If you are using WordPress, please note that the updates won’t appear on your WordPress plugin until the latest version of the plugin has been released. Don’t worry though, the code is backwards compatible, so existing sites shouldn’t have any issues.

The best way to check out the changes is to experience them yourself. When you get a chance, go to your Rezgo white label site and check out the changes.

As in any major release we expect to see some feedback from you. Remember, if you have any questions, comments, or if you experience any issues don’t hesitate to let us know.

If you are curious to know what went into v.5.4, here is the change log:

Changes/Updates:

  • Brand new shopping cart interface allows many items to be booked at once.
  • New XML commit request supporting multiple item.
  • Mobile checkout page card number label changed for readability.
  • New anti-spam measures added to contact form.
  • IP capture added to card token process.
  • Geo-Tags can now be removed from tours.
  • Site Importer has been removed.
  • Inconsistent date labels have been changed to “booked for.”
  • Booking payment status options have been moved for ease of use.
  • Payment status criteria added to booking search.
  • Voucher PAX labels now have “x” marks.
  • New instructions added to credit card options in settings.
  • New voucher codes now just contain numbers.
  • The interface for adding contacts to bookings has been changed.
  • New address interface for attached bookings.
  • “Book Now” label setting removed.
  • Some share links removed from item details.
  • Slightly updated mobile voucher.
  • Company profile state field can be significantly longer.

Bug fixes:

  • Tickets printed with a background are corrupted.
  • Some confirmation emails from vendor bookings show supplier contact info.
  • Some vendor bookings are showing the wrong currency on receipts.
  • Custom form single quotes not displaying properly.
  • Search date range producing inconsistent results.
  • Line items with special characters can’t be saved or removed.
  • Username check on signup is not working in webkit.
  • Rule cutoff doesn’t work when set to “0″ days.
  • Exported booking report isn’t showing custom fields.
  • Image captions with single quotes are getting escape slashes.
  • Decreasing price points using rules produces inconsistent results.
  • Rezgo Google analytics are conflicting with some e-commerce analytics.
  • “Starting From” field in inventory editor breaks if letters are entered.
  • Ref ID can’t be combined with promo codes in the URL.
  • Date format on some reports is inconsistent.
  • Booking POS date search is broken on some browsers.
  • API access page sometimes displays inaccurate results.
  • Some support links for PayPal no longer work.
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Maximize Revenues with Prepayment of Online Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/04/maximize-revenues-with-prepayment-of-online-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/04/maximize-revenues-with-prepayment-of-online-bookings#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 15:53:14 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8252 credit-card-securityOne of the biggest challenges for small tourism operators is ensuring that they get paid in a timely manner.  For many operators, cash at the door is a common payment method.  But there are obvious downsides to being dependent on a cash only business.  With the growing popularity of online bookings, taking payment in advance via credit cards or PayPal can be a great way to maintain a positive cash flow and even reduce no-shows and cancellations.

Some business owners, however, are reluctant to accept payments in advance.  Some of the reasons I have heard include cancellations due to weather, inability to meet tour minimums, or costs of credit card payments.  My response, when faced with these reasons is simple, “Do you expect your tours to cancel more than 50% of the time?”.  Invariably the answer is “No”.

If you run your business with the expectation that your tours will cancel due to weather, that you will not meet your minimums, and that the costs of accepting credit cards are too high, then you are focusing on the wrong areas of your business.  The better option is to look at what your average cancellation rate is, over the course of your season, and base your payment structure on that.  If, for example, you only cancel 10% of the time, then why not accept payments in advance and worry about refunding the 10% when it happens.  The benefits of having the cash in the bank for the other 90% of your bookings is pretty compelling.

The costs of accepting prepayments via credit card are obviously higher than for accepting cash on site.  But if you consider that your no show and cancellation rates will generally decrease with prepayments, the difference in additional revenue generally outweighs the cost of accepting the credit card payments. Did you know that the more money you process through your merchant account, the better your rates become?  So, if you only process a small percentage of your bookings through a merchant account, your rates are going to remain relatively high.  If you process the majority of your revenues through your merchant account, quite often you can negotiate a better rate with your merchant provider.

Here are some good rules of thumb when deciding whether or not you should take full payment at the time of booking:

  1. Tours and activities that cost less than $250 per person are more likely to be impulse purchases which means that customers are more likely to pay for these tickets with their credit card.  Tours that are more than $250 may still be considered impulse purchases if they are done shortly before the travel date.
  2. Tours that are in high demand or short supply.  Customers want the comfort of knowing that they have paid for something and that it is confirmed.  Just taking a reservation without any form of payment leaves the relationship incomplete.  If there is no payment, there is generally no commitment.
  3. Cancellations and refunds are the exception not the norm.  Many operators have told me that they worry about having to refund customers if they have to cancel a trip.  Why worry about this?  In our experience the average cancellation rate is about 2%, which means that only 2 out of 100 trips gets cancelled.  Make sure you have a well explained and visible cancellation policy so customers know what they are getting into when they book.
  4. No shows are a problem.  If you often have no-shows because you don’t take payment with your bookings, then prepayment is an excellent way to reduce your no-shows.  As with previous examples, customers are much more likely to commit and show up if they have paid for the tour.   No show rates virtually eliminated when you implement prepayment for your bookings.
  5. You have many staff all handling cash and need more control.  Prepayment and specifically payments via credit card can help to eliminate handling cash payments and make your tracking your bookings and payments easier.  Using Rezgo, for example, gives you the ability to track which agent added a booking and what transactions where applied to the booking.

Take a look at how you are currently accepting payments from your customers.  If prepayment is a good option, then to accept prepayments in Rezgo, you’ll need to have a merchant account with a payment gateway.  You can find a list of merchant partners on our Accept Online Payment page.

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Keep it simple and increase online bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/04/keep-it-simple-and-increase-online-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/04/keep-it-simple-and-increase-online-bookings#comments Wed, 17 Apr 2013 23:25:58 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=8248 One of the benefits of working with hundreds of operators from around the World is the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t work in terms of structuring tour and activity offerings to increase online bookings. In the world of physical goods, a product’s attributes and availability are pretty much fixed. For services however, the experience that a potential customer might have including variations for the service are only limited by the tour operator’s imagination. But is it a good idea to try and offer more just because it looks good on your website?

For many operators, the lure of generating more revenue by offering a more complex or multiple tours may seem attractive. After all, instead of offering just one type of tour, why not offer two or three tours? The problem is not so much whether or not you can offer a variety of tours, the question is whether or not you should offer several tours. Here is a scenario, for example, that I have seen many times:

The first scenario I like to refer to as “Bigger than I am” syndrome. In this scenario, a tour operator (usually a sole operator) may have one vehicle that can carry a certain number of passengers. Instead of offering just one tour, the tour operator will offer 3 tours, each one is different. The catch however is that that the operator can only run one tour a day. When a customer books one of the tours for a particular day, the operator can no longer offer the other tours for that day. Any other customer who books a tour for that day doesn’t have a choice in terms of the tour they can take, they can only take the tour that was booked by the first customer.

Although initially it looks like the operator is offering three tours, in fact the operator is only running one tour. The problem with this structure, however, is that it causes a lot of extra administrative and schedule stress. The operator has to manage inventory across three offerings even though they are only really offering one a day. Realistically, if you as an operator have trouble trying to manage the availability of your offerings, the chances that a tour operator software will do it for you is equally unlikely.

A better option to the scenario described would be for the operator to offer different tours on different days of the week based on popularity. For example, if the operator knows that the weekends are busy, then offer the higher revenue tours, since it will likely result in a better margin. On slower days of the week, offer tours that are less expensive in order to reduce your costs and increase your margin on slow days. These might be tours that you can offer specials or discounts on as well. When the tour schedule is set-up in this manner, the operator can change the days of the week that a tour is offered without having to worry about blocking out availability on other tours offered on the same day.

Another common scenario is “Whatever you want” syndrome. In this scenario, the operator will customize their offering based on the customer’s needs. I’ve had a lot of conversations with operators where I have asked “So what tours do you offer?” and the operators have replied “We don’t have any set tours, we build them for the customer based on what they want”. That may work for a high end tour operator building a one week luxury package to somewhere exotic, but for a tour or activity operator doing a guided tour of a destination, it’s a recipe for administrative hell. Most travelers select a guided tour because they want to learn about a destination or experience something specific. If they already knew what they wanted to see and experience, chances are they wouldn’t have to pay someone to show them around. The other issue is that if you don’t know what you offer and you can’t describe it, then you will have a very hard time selling it. Choice is good, but too much choice will make the booking process cumbersome for your customers and result in lost opportunities.

The way out of “Whatever you want” syndrome is to be very clear about what it is you offer. Take the time to package it up, describe it, price it and market it. Once you start selling it and generating bookings, then you can use feedback from actual customers to fine tune the experience. Some operators I’ve talked to say that the reason why they provide a custom service is because they don’t want to be cookie cutter. In reality, you don’t have to be custom to avoid being cookie cutter, you just have to provide a service that is unique in the marketplace.

Remember that customers booking online have generally already decided where they want to go and they are now looking for things to do while they are in their destination.  If they are new to the area, they will most likely be looking for tours or activities that are reasonably reliable and scheduled.  If your tour or activity is well described, provides the customer with all the information they need to make a solid buying decision and is available during their trip, then the chances are good that they will book with you.  As soon as you make the booking process cumbersome or raise any flags that may require a phone call or separate email, your chances of losing the sale increase exponentially.   Keep your tour and activity products simple, well explained, and easy to book and you’ll see greater success and increase online bookings.

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Securing Your Online Booking Engine http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/securing-your-online-booking-engine http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/securing-your-online-booking-engine#comments Thu, 28 Mar 2013 23:23:26 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=205

Your online booking engine has to be secure.  If you are currently requesting credit card information on a page that is NOT secure, you are in violation of your merchant agreement and could face severe penalties if you do not secure it. Let’s take a look at some simple precautions you can take to ensure your booking website is secure:

  1. Secure certificate: Your booking website should be protected with a secure certificate.  If you are using a web host, you can ask them to set one up for you for your booking page.  In general, secure certificates cost between $99-$499 per year.  Set-up will also run about $100.  Rezgo, for example, uses a much higher level of security and there will not be any additional cost associated with this.  If you install the WordPress plugin on your own website, then you will be required to set-up your own certificate if you want to handle the payment processing on your own site.  If you have your own website but are using Rezgo as your tour reservation system to handle your online bookings, then you won’t need to purchase your own secure certificate.
  2. Use a payment gateway: If you plan on accepting payments online from your customers, then use an approved payment gateway to process your credit cards in real-time.  Using a payment gateway instead of taking credit card information manually or over the phone reduces your risk of credit card theft and ensures that your customer data is secured.  A payment gateway is particularly well suited to operators who sell vouchers for their tours or activities.  Specialist operators who sell high priced packages that require a deposit may not need a payment gateway because they tend to receive payments in steps.  Integrating a payment gateway can be tricky business and will require a developer if you plan on doing yourself.  If you are using a web booking system like Rezgo, they will probably support some or all of these popular gateways.  This alone, could say you $1500 – $2500 in development fees.  But what about hosted payment pages such as 2checkout, Paypal standard payments, or bank specific payment pages?  These options are reasonable alternatives to fully integrated solution but can actually be much more cumbersome from an administrative standpoint and tend to have a much higher booking abandonment rate than integrated payment solutions.  If the booking solution you plan to use only supports hosted payment pages, you may want to consider looking for a package that supports a more robust payment integration.  Rezgo for example only supports fully integrated payment gateways in order to maintain the integrity of the customer experience and increase your brand credibility.
  3. PCI Compliance: Even if you don’t plan on using a payment gateway, you should ensure that your website is PCI Compliant, which means that your site is scanned for vulnerabilities and checked to ensure that known security issues are addressed in a timely manner.  If you plan on integrating a payment gateway, you will be required to be PCI compliant before your gateway is activated.  If you use your own website and booking page, then you will be responsible for PCI compliance.  If you use a web-based tour/activity booking system that is PCI compliant such as Rezgo, it can save you about $500 per year in compliance scanning costs.  If the tour operator software you are using is not PCI compliant, you may want to consider switching to a booking system that is PCI compliant.

Questions to ask your developer or web booking software vendor:

  1. Is the booking process secured with a high encryption secure certificate (256 bit or higher)?
  2. Are you directly integrated with payment gateways via secure APIs?
  3. Is the system PCI compliant?
  4. Do you store the CVV2 data or send it via email?

If the your current web booking software vendor answers “No” to questions 1-3 or “Yes” to question 4, you should consider switching to a secure platform.

Security and credit card safety are no laughing matter and your failure to protect your customers’ valuable personal and payment information can result in severe penalties.  By ensuring that your booking website is both secure and credit card safe is not difficult nor does it have to be expensive.  By partnering with the right software partner (one who clearly understands the importance of PCI compliance and security) you can be sure your booking process is safe and secure.

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Is Rezgo the Best Tour Operator Software for Your Business? http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/rezgo-best-tour-operator-software http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/rezgo-best-tour-operator-software#comments Wed, 27 Mar 2013 20:04:08 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=1282 I am often asked whether Rezgo would be the best tour operator software for a particular tour operator’s business.  The answer to that it really depends on whether or not your business is a traditional in-bound/out-bound tour operator who bundles airfare, hotels, and other products together and sells them as a package or whether you are an in-destination tour & activity provider that sells, for example, bicycle tours, attractions, bus tours, sightseeing tours, river rafting, aerial tours, and a host of other similar services.

If you are a traditional tour operator that is focused on packaging, then Rezgo is probably not a fit for you.  Rezgo does not support GDS connectivity and doesn’t work with accommodation product. There are a lot of systems out there that support traditional tour operators.

Rezgo is really good at tours and activities

If you are a tour operator who sells services like bike tours, whale watching, river rafting, zip-lining, guided hikes, and the like, then Rezgo is a really good fit for your business.  Rezgo is designed to help tour operators to  sell their services directly to travelers.  Rezgo has a whole host of features that are optimized for schedule based daily or half day activities.

Here are the top 10 ways Rezgo can help your tour or activity business be more successful:

  1. Set-up your seasonal, year round, high/low season, and promotional availability and pricing.
  2. Customers book based on your availability, no more overbooking or manual confirmations required.
  3. Accept bookings 24/7 through your private label booking website.
  4. Allow your customers to book using a mobile optimized booking engine.
  5. Build customer confidence by providing a safe and secure shopping experience.
  6. Process payments in real-time using any of the 20+ payment gateways supported by Rezgo.
  7. Add bookings into your own point of sale interface
  8. Automatically send confirmation emails to your customers which include links to a secured receipt and printable booking voucher.
  9. Check-in customers using your mobile phone or the web
  10. Print up to the second guest lists and reports

If you are looking for the best tour operator software for your tour, activity, excursion, or attraction business, give Rezgo a try and see just how much more efficient your business will be.

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Increase Online Bookings with Business Verification Services http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/increase-online-bookings-with-business-verification-services http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/increase-online-bookings-with-business-verification-services#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 10:58:46 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=124

There are many business verification and validation services that offer certified seal/mark programs that help to establish your online credibility.  In some cases, these validation services also double as PCI compliance scan providers.  In almost all cases, a secondary benefit of the programs is an increase in trust and credibility with customers that can help increase online bookings for your business.

Here are some helpful tips on increasing and maintaining trust with your customers:

Set-up your Privacy Policy – How you handle your customer’s sensitive private information is critical to creating a trusted relationship with your current and potential customers.  It is critical that if you commit to setting up a privacy policy that you understand the requirements and act on your policy when necessary.  Betraying customer trust by not complying with the terms of your own privacy policy can be even more devastating to your credibility then not having a policy in the first place.

Display your association seal or certification mark - Unlike travel agents or tour operators that must be certified or belong to an industry association, small destination based operators are not generally required to be part of a large certification body like IATA, ACTA (in Canada) or ABTA (in the U.K.).  These organizations, by virtue of their industry brand, are comforting to the consumer because they know that they are protected, to some degree.  Belonging to these organization is an expensive proposition however and requires, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars in bonds.  Destination operators can build trust by making it known that they belong to a business organization like their local Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Association, or the Better Business Bureau.  Many of these organizations will have a badge that you can place on your site that links back to your listing on their website.  Obtaining this badge may take time because it will involve a verification process, but it is worthwhile to consider. Here are a few sites that provide Business Verification seals:

Too many seals can seem disingenuous to the consumer.  Choose the ones that you think will add the most value given the cost and stick with them.  Part of the effectiveness of the seal is the length of time you have been validated.

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Credit Card Best Practices for Tour and Activity Businesses http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/credit-card-best-practices-that-reduce-charge-backs-for-your-tourism-business http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/credit-card-best-practices-that-reduce-charge-backs-for-your-tourism-business#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 15:26:03 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=122

As a business that accepts credit cards you stand the risk of having a charge back filed against your merchant account.  A charge back is request made by a consumer to the credit card company claiming that they either did not receive the goods for which they paid or they requested a refund which you never provided.  In either case, it is up to you to defend your position and prove that you provided the services that the consumer claims they never received.  The good thing is that for tour and activity operators, charge backs are relatively rare because most bookings for tours and activities happen within a few days of the “booked for” date.  As more and more customers book in advance however, this may change and following good credit card best practices can reduce your chances of getting hit with a charge back.

You can significantly reduce your costs, chances of fraud, and charge backs by following these ten simple rules:

  1. Post your refund / cancellation policy and make sure that the customer must agree to them before purchasing a ticket or making a booking.  Although this is not bulletproof, it does put the requirement on the customer to have to physically acknowledge and agree to your booking terms and cancellation policy before sending you their credit card information.  With Rezgo for example, the customer must check the box acknowledging that they have read your terms and conditions.
  2. Post a warning on your booking page that lets the customer know that you are logging their I.P. address and information in order to reduce fraudulent transactions and to ensure a safe and secure booking environment.  With Rezgo this is automatic and all IP addresses are stored with the booking for security purposes.
  3. Tell your customers what name to expect on their credit card statement. This is important if your website name differs from your company name.  If the customer does not recognize the name of the statement, they may charge back on impulse because they don’t recognize the transaction.
  4. Keep your customers up to date with the status of their booking.  If you can, publish the customer’s receipt to the web so the customer can view it at anytime.  If the status changes, make sure the updates are published to the customer’s version of the receipt.  When your customer books through Rezgo, for example, the receive an email with a link to an online receipt.  This receipt is updated in real-time when you make changes to their booking.
  5. Collect CVV2 numbers during the payment process.  For online bookings, the CVV2 number is used to ensure that the person entering the card information has the card present in front of them.  The CVV2 number is not embossed on the card so if the card number is stolen, chances are the holder will not have the number.  If the holder has stolen the card then the CVV2 will be present and this may not be effective.  Rezgo automatically collects the CVV2 data if you are using an online payment gateway.
  6. Use AVS (Address verification service). This is often provided with the payment gateway that you use.  If you are a U.S. or Canadian merchant then generally AVS will only work for addresses in your native country, so you need to be aware that the fraud prevention may not work for foreign cards.
  7. Require a contact phone number and make mention that you may require a phone authorization for bookings over a certain value.  This can then be used to contact the customer in the event that you are unsure about the validity of the booking.  A quick phone call could save you a lot of money and grief with the merchant provider.
  8. Be cautious of bookings from known free email services. This one is a bit tough to control because of the number of users of free email services.  If you are unsure about the booking, send an email or call the customer directly.
  9. Be cautious of orders from developing countries. Although the country of origin is not always an indicator of fraud, the majority of fraudulent transactions seem to originate from a certain group of countries.  Remember that we are not necessarily looking at the billing address of the booking but rather the country of origin of the IP address for the order. Known credit card fraud hot spots include:
    • Romania
    • Indonesia
    • Singapore
    • Ghana
    • Ukraine
    • Uganda
    • Nigeria
    • Hungary
    • Belarus
    • Estonia
    • Latvia
    • Lithuania
    • Slovak Republic
    • Russia
    • Yugoslavia
    • Macedonia
    • Philippines
    • Thailand
    • Malaysia
  10. Offer exceptional customer service. The majority of charge backs are due to a poor customer experience.  If you provide your customers with a high quality experience and good value for their booking dollar then your chances of having a customer charge back is greatly reduce.

 

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Online Booking System Security for Tour and Activity Businesses http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/online-booking-credit-card-security-for-tour-and-activity-businesses http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/online-booking-credit-card-security-for-tour-and-activity-businesses#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 10:57:08 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=120

Online booking system security should be taken very seriously.

PCI Compliance stands for “Payment Card Industry” Compliance which are a set of security standards development by the credit card brands (Visa and MasterCard)  to protect customer credit card data.  You have probably heard in the past about systems being hacked and credit cards numbers being stolen by cyber thieves.  The PCI Data Security Standards were developed in order to ensure that merchants complied with certain security requirements or else face stiff penalties should something happen.

PCI Compliance is important to the tour and activity operators because there is a time between the booking and the delivery of the service where the credit card needs to be stored in order to process the booking once the service is delivered or shortly before.  This however is not allowed in a PCI Compliant environment and as such, you may be at risk of being fined should someone get a hold of your customer’s credit card data.  The important thing to remember here, is that the standards don’t just apply to your website but also your business in general.  Storing credit card numbers on paper in an unlock filing cabinet is just as a big a no-no as storing them on your reservation system.

Depending on the number of transactions you expect to do, your merchant level will differ and your requirements for compliance will change.  In general though, there are two parts to the compliance process:

  1. PCI Compliance Scans: This involves having a PCI Approved scanning vendor (for example TrustWave) run regular vulnerability scans on your server or website to ensure that meets minimum requirements.  Rezgo, for example, is scanned on a daily basis by Norton and quarterly by TrustWave.
  2. Report on Compliance: This is a report that you submit to your merchant processor (or acquirer) that states your compliance with the standards.  The report is a set of pre-formatted yes or no questions that you answer and submit (generally online).  If you should fail any of the compliance questions, you will need to adjust your policies to ensure that you can correct the failure and re-submit the report.

Unless you are doing more than 6,000,000 transactions per year, then both the scan and the report can be completed through an online service provider like TrustWave.  If you do more than 6,000,000 transactions then you will require a QSA (Qualified Security Analyst) to do an on-site audit of both your facilities and your server hosting environment.  Needless to say, this level of compliance is quite expensive.

In general, in order to be compliant, you need to:

  1. Ensure your website is properly secured. If you are using Rezgo, this is taken care of for you.
  2. Protect cardholder information by encrypting it and NOT storing it after processing.  Rezgo handles this for you.
  3. Have up to date anti-virus on all your computers.
  4. Make sure everyone in your business has their own administrative account to your reservation system.  Rezgo allows you to have as many administrative accounts as you require, at no extra cost.
  5. Make sure credit card information is only made accessible on a need to know basis.  If you are using a payment gateway with Rezgo, the credit card information is never shown.
  6. Make sure your administration system has proper activity and security logging.  Rezgo includes this reporting and logging by default.
  7. Regularly test your security systems to make sure they are working and compliant.  Rezgo does this for you so you don’t need to worry about it.
  8. Maintain a security policy that addresses your security.

In reality, a security policy is simply a document that outlines what you do and why when it comes to security.  In the event of a security issue, your policy would provide guidance to you.  Feel free to use the Rezgo Security Policy as an example when creating your own.

Note about Rezgo and CVV2 Numbers

You may be tempted to use a online booking system that either stores the CVV2 or emails it to you when a booking is made.  It is important to know that this is in direct violation of PCI regulations and you may be at risk of fines and processing prohibition should your provider experience a security breach.  If you need to process credit cards using your terminal, you must ensure that your terminal allows for Card-not-present transactions without CVV2.

 

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Applying for a tourism merchant account http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/applying-for-a-tourism-merchant-account http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/applying-for-a-tourism-merchant-account#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2013 10:56:11 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=118 Unlike what you may think, applying for a tourism merchant account is not an overwhelming one.  Getting yourself ready to accept credit cards means ensuring that you have certain things in place when you talk to your preferred payment processor.  It is a good idea to know what to expect during the application process and what information you will need to have handy in order to get through the application process.  Another good idea is to make sure that your bank or merchant processor can support one of the many payment gateways compatible with Rezgo.

BEFORE YOU APPLY

  1. Make sure you talk to your bank and get the name of someone at the bank who can speak on your behalf.  If you don’t have a regular customer service representative, you may need to speak to bank manager.  Setting up a merchant account is just another banking relationship, if you have a good relationship with your current banker, chances are good that they will act as a reference for you.
  2. Get at least three business credit references from vendors you work with or other businesses with whom you have done business.  The merchant processor is looking for relationships that you have with other companies, so the more you can provide the better.
  3. Get your bank statements in order.  The merchant processor may need to see confidential bank information.  This is normal and not a surprise, since they are banks themselves.  If you have them handy, then you can fax them or provide them to the representative when you meet with them.
  4. In some cases, for example if your business is new or young (less than 3 years), the merchant processor may need to do a credit check on you.  Just be aware that they may ask for this and be prepared to provide the information if required.
  5. Make sure to tell the merchant processor that you are applying for an e-commerce account.  If not, they you will get a regular merchant account for your in-office bookings.  You will need the e-commerce account in order to take online bookings.
  6. Since you will be accepting credit cards online, you need to have your secure booking form set-up and viewable.  The merchant process will need to be sure that your website is PCI Compliant and properly secured. Sometimes, the merchant process will issue you the merchant account but will not authorize online payments until your site is ready.
  7. You will need to have your privacy policy and cancellation/refund terms clearly viewable on your site.

DURING THE APPLICATION PROCESS

  1. Your merchant processor of choice will generally send you an application form, a price sheet outlining the rates they will charge you, a pre-authorized debit form for depositing and withdrawing funds from your bank, and a merchant agreement.  All of these documents need to be signed and faxed back to the merchant processor.
  2. You will be asked what kind of business you are in.  This is because certain types of businesses are considered higher risk then others.  If you are a tour operator who primarily sells tickets same day or just prior to the tour then you shouldn’t have too many problems.  In addition, if your ticket prices are generally low (for example $50-$100) and you do a high volume of ticket sales then your perceived risk is lower.  Processors will have an issue if you sell high priced packages that are 6 month or a year in advance of travel.  In this case, you may have to come up with a deposit.
  3. The processor will ask how long it takes for you to deliver the service to the customer.  Understand that the greater the time between booking and delivery, the higher the chance of charge back.  If you can avoid charging the customer, but authorize the card instead, the greater your chances of approval.

YOU GET APPROVED, NOW WHAT?

Once approved, you will want to contact your booking engine provider and give them the credentials for your payment gateway.  Your booking engine company will then be able to send payments directly to your e-commerce merchant account so you get paid in real-time.  If your account is pending because your site is not yet finished, make sure you get your site live as soon as possible so you can start accepting bookings and payments.

YOU GET DECLINED, WHAT TO DO?

It’s not the end of the World.  Simply put, your type of business may be too risky for the processor.  If that’s the case, I recommend you evaluate your payment policies (if you have one) or develop a payment policy that is more in-line with the expectations of credit card processors.  For example, you may only accept a small deposit and charge the full amount after the tour is taken.  Perhaps you send regular invoices to the customer which they pay online themselves.  This way, the customer pays on a regular basis.  The other option is to use a service like PayPal Website Payments Pro if you are in Canada, the U.S., or the U.K.  The platform is built on Paypal’s highly success web payments system but emulates the payment gateway so it can be integrated more closely with your online booking engine.  Be forewarned however, that even though you may get approved, they may hold your funds if they see transactions that ring their alarm bells.

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Travel and tourism payment solutions for Tour or Activity Businesses http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/travel-and-tourism-payment-solutions-for-tour-or-activity-businesses http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/travel-and-tourism-payment-solutions-for-tour-or-activity-businesses#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 10:53:45 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=116

There is no doubt that credit cards are a major part of e-commerce.  The question is whether or not you should or need a travel and tourism payment solutions for your tour or activity business .  There are a number of pros and cons to accepting payment by credit card, whether or not you choose to accept payment by credit card will depend on your comfort level with the terms of accepting credit card payments.  Here are some pros and cons of accepting credit cards:

PROS

  1. Impulse purchases – Customers can pay right away.  This works particularly well if you are able to deliver a real-time response with a ticket or voucher.  The impulse purchase is also particularly good for on-location purchases or purchases that are relatively low value ($200 or less).
  2. Security & Credibility – Customers have come to recognize that credit card payments come with many customer protection mechanisms.  Although this may not be an advantage to you as a merchant, the increase in security means that customers are generally more willing to pay via credit card because of the consumer protections that are in place.
  3. Currency Conversion – This may not seem like an advantage, but the burden of currency exchange is carried by the customer in credit card purchases.  This means that you can charge in your base currency and the customer is responsible for the conversion amount.
  4. Upselling & Upgrades – Customers paying with credit cards are more likely to upgrade their purchases because they are able to spread the re-payment out over a longer period of time.
  5. Faster payment – In most cases, you are able to get access to your funds quicker then other methods.  For example a foreign check may take 30 days to clear your bank whereas the funds from a credit card purchase may be available within 24 or 48 hours.

CONS

  1. Credit Cards are Not Cheap – Despite what many merchant providers will tell you, accepting credit cards is not cheap.  Travel, especially, is considered a high risk category because of the time between the sale of the ticket and redemption of the service.  This increased risk means that many travel companies, even if you are a small tour or activity operator, have to pay 3-5% per transaction.  On top of the service fees, you can expect to pay a per service fee (usually $.10 – $.25) and monthly statement fees ($10 – $50).  You will need to take these costs into account when you price your products both for off-line and online sales.
  2. Protection for Consumers but Not Merchants – When there is a dispute between a consumer and a merchant, the card companies tend to favor the consumer.  In most cases, with a charge back, for example, you (as the merchant) must prove that you delivered the service or product and back up your claim with documentation.  This guilty until proven innocent approach to charge backs can be a real challenge for small businesses, especially if you rely on pre-payments for the purposes of securing services for your customers.
  3. Deposits & Rolling Reserves – It can be very difficult for travel companies and tour operators to secure merchant accounts without large deposits or rolling reserves, sometimes in excess of 30% of transactions.  I know of one tour operator who was approved for a merchant account but with a $30,000 deposit.  I don’t know about you but most small businesses don’t have $30,000 in cash lying around to drop into a trust account.
  4. Increase Security Requirements – There are a lot of things that come along with having a merchant account including PCI compliance and secure certificates.  These increased security requirements can cost anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars depending on your volume of transactions.  If, for example, you handle over a $1 Million in e-commerce transactions, you must undergo a much more stringent PCI compliance process which costs $10-$15,000 annually.  If you don’t undergo these processes and your data is compromised, you are subject to fines amounting to the tens of thousands of dollars.  On the plus side, Rezgo handles almost all of these PCI requirements for you, saving you thousands in technology costs.

The good news is that there are hundreds of thousands of other small businesses out there that accept credit card payments.  I recommend that you talk to your colleagues in the industry and find out who they use for processing.  In addition, I recommend you talk to the preferred merchant providers that we work with at Rezgo.  Each country has its own rules and although there are dozens of sites on the web that can provide you with application forms, it is the experience of fellow business people that mean the most.  If you are a member of Chamber of Commerce, business association, or industry association, find out if they have a partnership with a merchant processor.  Quite often you will receive preferred rates through an association membership then if you just walk in and ask for a merchant account.

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10 Steps to Getting Ready for Online Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/10-steps-to-getting-ready-for-online-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2013/03/10-steps-to-getting-ready-for-online-bookings#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2013 19:44:53 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=1331 checkmarkAccepting online bookings doesn’t have to be a complicated or overwhelming process.  The Rezgo tour operator software is designed to make it easy for you to start accepting your bookings online.  We take care of all the security, hosting, domain name management, and credit card integrations so you can focus on what you love.

This 10 step guide on getting ready for online bookings will walk you through all the things you should have ready so that when you create your Rezgo membership, you’ll be ready to start accepting bookings from your customers:

1. “About Us” Information

This is usually a paragraph or two about your company and might describe when you started your business, some recognition you’ve received, and aspects of your business that make you unique.  Customer usually read this page in order to get an idea of who you are and whether or not you are legitimate and trustworthy.

2. Booking Terms & Conditions

Your booking terms and conditions are essential.  Your customers must accept your terms before they book with you.  The Booking terms should include your customer service policy and cancellation policy.  When customers complete their online bookings, for example, they must check a box that says they accept your terms and conditions.

3. Base Currency

Decide what currency you plan on doing business in.  Although you may want to make it easy for your customers and list your prices in other currencies, you may only be able to receive money in one currency depending on your credit card payment gateway.  Remember that foreign exchange can be expensive, so be sure to decide well before you display your pricing online.  Once you set your base currency and start receiving online bookings, you will not be able to change it.

4. Accepted Payment Methods

How do you plan on receiving payment from customers? The most effective and efficient method for payments is a credit card payment gateway.  Your payment gateway will allow you to accept Visa and Mastercard payments in real-time.  Although Paypal, check, and cash on arrival may be options as well, they tend to result in higher abandonment and “no-show” rates.

5. Tour Description, Itinerary, Schedule

Gather all your tour information together.  If you offer a number of tours, you may want to start by listing only one or two of your tours.  You will want to have your long description, your itinerary and schedule, exclusions, inclusions, things to bring, and any other information you have available.  You may already have this information available as part of a brochure or flat-sheet.  There is no need to write anything new (unless you want to), just re-use what you already have.  The nice thing about using the Rezgo system is that if you need to update your information later, you can do so very easily.

6. Photo of your Tour

A photo of your tour will go a long way to making the experience seem more tangible to your customers.  Images are an important part of the selling process online.  If you only have one photo available, that’s okay, but try and find additional ones that you can add later in order to enhance the product display.  Photos and videos can really help increase your online bookings.

7. Tour Options

Does your tour have different departure times, or do you offer variations of your tour.  You will want to make note of how you differentiate your tours within the Rezgo system.  The most common way of differentiating the tours is by departure time, for example a 12:00pm tour versus the 3:00pm tour.  Although both are variations of the same tour, they may have different availability and pricing depending on what is included.

8. Tour Availability

How many seats do you have available for your tour and when do you run the tour.  If you’re tour has only one or two departure dates then you will need to set your availability start and end dates to the date of departure.  If, however, your tour is available everyday from some start date to some end date, then you would set your availability start date and end date separately.  Remember that you can always set exceptions (such as black out dates, etc.) using rules later.

9. Pricing

What are the prices for your tour.  Do you offer adult, senior, and child pricing? Does your pricing change throughout the season? I recommend that you decide what your base price for your tour will be.  This should be the price you most commonly charge for your tour.  You will set this price as the starting price for your tours and you can always apply exceptions to your base pricing by using rules later.

10. You’re Ready to Get Started!

Once you have all your information in place, you are ready to get your site set-up.  Go to http://signup.rezgo.com/ and create your account.  Once you have created your account, take a look at the Getting Started Video Series for details on how to get your account up and running in no time.

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5 Easy Tips to Increase Your Tour Sales with Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2013/01/5-easy-tips-to-increase-your-tour-sales-with-rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2013/01/5-easy-tips-to-increase-your-tour-sales-with-rezgo#comments Fri, 04 Jan 2013 15:20:26 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=1228 Having an online booking engine for your tour and activity is only one piece of the puzzle.  In order to increase sales, you need to build trust and make it easy for your customers to booking with you.  Here are five simple things you can do now to increase sales of your tour or activity services using Rezgo:

1. Keep Your Brand

When customers are on your website and looking for their next amazing tour, activity, attraction or event, they want to feel that they are on a trust worthy site. One way to build trust is to keep your brand the central focus during the booking process. Here are 3 things you can do to keep consistency with your marketing site:

  1. Use the Rezgo WordPress plugin on your WordPress powered website
  2. Use the Rezgo private label booking engine with your design
  3. Use your own web address

2. Sell the Experience Not the “tour”

Customers are looking for an experience that they will remember for years to come, and not just the features of the tour. Ensure that when you are writing your descriptions in Rezgo that you use descriptive and emotional language as well as the standard “features”.

Tell them the effect that viewing a museum will have on them. Compare these two descriptions:

  1. “Spend 30 minutes in Ye Old Museum where 40 different old things reside”
  2. “Be swept back in time at Ye Old Museum where 40 different exhibits will let you feel what life was like in the days of old”

As you can see, the second description is much more inspiring.

Pictures and video are a must.  Did you know that 65% of all people are visual learners? This means when they can “see” an experience, they will be able to imagine themselves participating in the experience, which will lead to more sales.

Rezgo has incorporated a photo and video gallery that when used correctly is sure to increase your sales.

3. Give Incentives

Everyone wants a deal, with the economy rebounding, people want to travel, but a little incentive would definitely help. Rezgo has a built in “Promotion Code” system that gives you the ability to generate coupons for your consumers. These coupons can be used in your Google Ad-word promotions or you can feature a banner on your site that states “Use Promo Code: ONLINE to save 15% while booking online”

There are many ways that you can use the promo codes, but the fact remains, customers like to feel that they are getting a special deal. It is also helpful if you put a time restriction on the promotion, for example: “Use Promo code: SUMMERSALE before July 31st and save an additional 25% on all tours!”

4. Accept online payment

When a customer is online and looking at your tours, make it easy for them to book and pay you in real-time.  If you accept credit cards for your business now, it is generally not an issue to get an e-commerce capable account so you can take online bookings.  Connect your Rezgo account to one of over 20 different global payment gateways.  Your customer payments are processed in real-time and deposited directly to your bank account.  Customers that use online payment experience the lowest cancellation and no-show rates.

Find out more about accepting credit cards with Rezgo

 

5. Link to Sell

The more inbound links you have connecting to your booking page means that your tours are likely to be found through search engines.  Use our “book-now” button generator to link your tours where ever they are mentioned on the Internet

Let Us Know

Have you found an interesting way to increase your sales in Rezgo? Share your ideas with the community!

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Combine In-Destination Marketing with Mobile Booking http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/combine-in-destination-marketing-with-mobile-booking http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/combine-in-destination-marketing-with-mobile-booking#comments Mon, 29 Oct 2012 16:44:59 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6532 In the past, I’ve written about how to best leverage rack cards and brochures to increase bookings and track ROI.  With the recent release of the Rezgo Mobile Booking Engine, I wanted to revisit in-destination marketing and provide you with some tips on how to use your brochures and rackcards to promote your tours and activities and increase your exposure and, consequently, your mobile bookings.

According to PhoCusWright research, over 30% of visitors who search for things to do in a destination use rack cards or brochures.  In addition, 20%+ of visitors who are checking out your site are doing so on a mobile device.  For many operators, advance bookings such as those generated through a regular website are generally made 7 to 14 days before the travel date.  But a lot of operators who offer tours with limited availability still have seats available for sale the day before or even the day of the tour.  This is where rack cards can be particularly powerful.  If combined with a promotion that is only available on the brochure, the rack card can drive potential visitors directly to your mobile site in order to check availability and book your services.

Don’t forget a call to action

The best way to drive a customer from your rack card or brochure to your mobile booking website is to use a call to action.  While they are looking at the brochure, make it easy for them to hop on to your mobile website and search for updated pricing or your schedule.  This is especially true if the customer is looking at your brochure outside of regular business hours.  They may want to make a booking for the next day but can’t because your regular website is not mobile friendly.

Create incentives to book right away

If you already have a customer’s attention with your brochure or rack card, give them a reason to book right away.  Offering a deal that is only promoted on your brochure or rack card is a great way to drive a customer to your mobile booking website and an excellent way to actually track activity.

Use QR Codes in a meaningful way

There has been a lot of debate about just how useful QR codes are and whether people actually use them.  I would argue that in many cases the QR codes are not used because there is no indication what the QR code is for.  If you are going to place a QR code on your rack card or brochure for example, make sure to include a call to action and embed a promotional code in the URL that you encode in the QR code.  This way when a customer scans your QR code, they are taken to your mobile booking website with the promo code already enabled.  This saves the customer having to type in the promo code and provides them with promotional pricing right away.  But don’t just rely on the QR Code, make sure the URL that you embed in the QR is also visible so that those customers who do not have a QR code reader can still type in the address in their mobile browser.

Track and measure results

Although rack cards and brochures are excellent for increasing awareness of your business, they can also be used to track booking sources.  Work with your local destination marketing company to see if it is possible to add different promotional codes to your rack cards depending on where the card is distributed.  This is a great way to determine source of bookings and the effectiveness of certain locations.  If not, add a custom form field that asks where they found the rack card or brochure.

If you want your in-destination marketing and your mobile strategy to be effective, you have to make sure they are working together.  When someone is looking at your brochure or rack card in their hotel or at the local tourism office, you have a small window of opportunity to convince them to take your tour or activity.  By following these simple strategies you stand a better chance of converting the customer by provide them with an incentive, making it easy for them to book, and providing a high quality experience.

Do you have any suggestions on how to combine in destination marketing with mobile?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.

 

 

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Get Yourself Ready for Mobile Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/get-yourself-ready-for-mobile-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/get-yourself-ready-for-mobile-bookings#comments Fri, 26 Oct 2012 15:34:07 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6480

 20% of visits are mobile

As of September 2012, over 20% of visits to Rezgo powered websites have been from mobile devices including the iPhone, Android phones, iPads, and other tablets. This number is up from 12% just the year before and we expect to see mobile bookings  increase to over 30% by this time next year. What does that mean for your tour or activity business? It means, you need to be making sure that your mobile customers can view your website and book your tours and activities easily over their mobile device.

Before you get started

The beauty of the Rezgo mobile booking website is that there is nothing extra you have to do to get it working for you.  Before you start pointing customers to your mobile site though, you will want to make sure that your About and Terms content is up to date.  The Rezgo mobile booking engine will display this content to your customers in a mobile friendly display.  In addition to this content, make sure that all your tours have nice thumbnails and that your tour content is up to date.

QR Codes on your Marketing Material

We have updated the “Link to” functionality to include a QR that will take visitors directly to the tour details page for specific tour or activity.  If you offer multiple tours, you can include a QR code for each of your tours on your rack card or brochure.  This is a great way to minimize the clicks required to search and book your tours.

Drive mobile engagement with QR codes

Save the QR Code to your computer and then use it in
your marketing materials such a brochure, rack card,
business card, or printed advertisement.

Detecting Mobile with a Static Website

The simplest method for ensuring that your customers are viewing your site with a mobile device is to detect whether or not the person is using a mobile device and redirect them to a mobile friendly page.  The benefit of this method is that the customer will view a mobile friendly site right off the bat, instead of having to hunt around for a link to a mobile site on your regular website.  The drawback, is that if your website is static and you don’t have a content management system such as WordPress, you will have to maintain two different websites, one for desktop browsers and one for mobile browsers.

Using Rezgo, however, means that you get a complete mobile enhanced website without any extra work or expense.  Detecting and redirecting a mobile customer is as easy as placing this javascript in the header of your home page:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
<!–
      if (screen.width <= 699) {
             document.location = “http://frontend.rezgo.com”;
}

//–>
</script>

In this example, the javascript looks to see if the screen width is less than 699 pixels and if it is, it redirects the customer to http://frontend.rezgo.com. In your case, you will want to replace the URL with the address of your Rezgo booking website.  Since your Rezgo site will automatically detect the mobile device and display the mobile interface, the customer will see the mobile interface right away and be able to book on their device.

Using WordPress and Mobile

If you are using WordPress and you want to redirect customers to your mobile booking engine, you can install one of these plugins:

Simple Mobile URL Redirect – This is an extremely simple redirect plugin that allows you to detect for mobile devices and redirect customers to a specific URL. In this case, you will want to point your customers to your Rezgo booking website. By doing so, your customers will always go to your website first before being redirected to Rezgo to handle mobile visitors.

WordPress Mobile Re-direct 1.0 – Similar to the previous plugin, this one will redirect the user using either javascript or PHP.  The configuration is also very simple and allows you to specify either a javascript or PHP redirect.  The URL should be your Rezgo booking website address.

Once you have either of these redirection methods set-up on your website, you’ll be able to redirect your customers to your Rezgo mobile booking website.  Your customers will then be able to browse, check availability, book, and pay on their mobile device.

Supporting mobile customers has never been easier.

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Rezgo Enables Mobile Booking for Hundreds of Tour Operators http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/rezgo-enables-mobile-booking-for-hundreds-of-tour-operators http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/rezgo-enables-mobile-booking-for-hundreds-of-tour-operators#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 22:23:47 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6490 “With the release of the Rezgo mobile booking engine we have made over 4,600 tours & activities bookable through mobile devices.”

Rezgo announced today the official release of the Rezgo Mobile Booking Engine for tour and activity operators.  The mobile booking engine is fully integrated with the Rezgo tour operator software and automatically displays a touch friendly mobile web interface to travelers who visit a Rezgo powered website using a mobile device such as the Apple iPhone or Google’s Android devices.

Your Tour & Activity Business just became Mobile!

“The mobile booking interface is designed specifically for mobile touch interfaces.  Unlike responsive web solutions that adjust a desktop website to fit a mobile device, the Rezgo mobile booking engine is designed from the ground up to be optimized for the mobile experience.” commented Stephen Joyce, CEO Rezgo. “The resulting searching & booking experience is touch friendly, easy on the eyes, and effortless to complete.”

Tour and activity operators using the Rezgo online booking system automatically get the mobile booking engine as part of their service.  When a traveler visits an operator’s Rezgo powered website on a mobile device, they are shown the mobile interface rather than the standard web booking engine.  Hundreds of active Rezgo tour operator members can now take advantage of the mobile booking engine and promote their tours and activities to mobile customers.

“Mobile already accounts for over 20% of the visits to Rezgo member websites.” adds Mr. Joyce “We also know that a large number of bookings are still made in-destination by visitors who want to book for today or tomorrow.  The Rezgo mobile booking engine will allow our Rezgo members to take full advantage of these last minute, in-destination customers.”

The Rezgo mobile booking engine also capitalizes on the growing trend of consumers using mobile devices to research and book travel. According to PhoCusWright research, 69% of leisure and 60% of business travelers use a mobile device to research their travel options and 31% of leisure and 39% of business travelers use a mobile device to actually book activities.  The same research also confirms that 80% of these travelers are searching and booking using mobile websites rather than installed native applications.

“We build based on what the research tells us travelers are doing.” says Mr. Joyce “That’s why we are focused on developing touch friendly mobile web applications that make it easy for travelers to make bookings with Rezgo members, rather than investing time and energy into native applications that the research tells us don’t generate the same use.”

Rezgo is committed to providing tour and activity operators worldwide with leading edge solutions for managing their businesses, increasing revenues, and improving customer relationships.  The Rezgo mobile booking engine is another example of the commitment Rezgo has made to strategic innovation and exceeding customer expectations.  As the leading reservation platform for tour and activity businesses, Rezgo helps operators around the globe with inventory, revenue, channel, payment, and customer relationship management.  By providing businesses with a cost effective and powerful mobile booking solution, Rezgo has once again proven itself to be the leader in the tour and activity vertical.

 

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Release complete for Rezgo V. 5.3.5 http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/release-complete-for-rezgo-v-3-5-3 http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/release-complete-for-rezgo-v-3-5-3#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 18:10:12 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6856 We are happy to announce the release of Rezgo V.5.3.5.  This release includes several new features as well as a number of bug fixes.  Here is a brief list of changes and bug fixes that are in this most recent release:

Changes:

  • Brand new booking interface for mobile devices.  All white label booking websites will automatically detect and display a mobile optimized customer booking engine with full payment support.  The booking website has support for promo codes and adheres to a 1:1 URL match so that customers are not redirected to a non-existent URL if they click a link sent via email or on a website not optimized for mobile.
  • Brand new API manager for multiple API keys, access rights and usage tracking.  All accounts now have the ability to create and manage as many API keys as required.  Each key can support different access rights (to specific API calls).  This is particularly useful for customers who run multiple websites using the same account or for those who wish to create customer reporting applications without providing access to booking capabilities.
  • New currency conversion source.  We have integrated a new currency provider with support for 120 global currencies.  This increases the support for currencies by 40.
  • Geo-Tags can now be removed from tours.  Customers who do not wish to add geo-tags to their tour details can now remove them in the event that they added the geo-tags inadvertently.
  • Booking check-in is no longer available before the tour date.  We had several cases of customers scanning their voucher QR Codes before arriving for their tour and therefore inadvertently checking themselves in.  The check-in will no longer allow a voucher to be checked in until the booked for date.  Operators still have the ability to change the booked for date in the administration system if they wish to check a customer in early.
  • Booking complete page instructions updated.  We have simplified the status messages on the booking complete page in order to make them more obvious.  If a booking is complete, the message now reads “BOOKING COMPLETE”.  If a booking is pending, then the message now reads “BOOKING NOT YET COMPLETE”.  If the booking is to be paid with PayPal, a subsequent message has been added that indicates the amount owning and prompts the user to click on the PayPal button.
  • New “link to this tour” page with enhanced functionality.  We have simplified the “Link to this Tour” feature of the Tour Details page in the administration system.  The link dialog now includes the full URL to the tour, a short url (for sharing purposes), a pre-designed book now button, and a QR code with the short URL embedded.  The QR code can be saved as an image and used in marketing materials in order to make it easier for customers to book tours using their mobile device.
  • Customer IP address is now passed to the Wirecard and Ogone gateways.  For fraud prevention purposes, Rezgo now passes the IP address of the customer to the Wirecard and Ogone payment gateways.  For security purposes, the IP address is stored with all credit card transactions.  The addition of IP logging is done should additional payment gateways require that the IP address be sent along with card data.
  • Voucher link added to check-in page headers.  This feature is for those Rezgo members who work with third party suppliers and want to provide better access to voucher data.  This is particularly useful if the customer presents a voucher on their mobile device and the supplier needs a printed copy for their records.  The operator can now access the printable voucher once the voucher is checked-in.

Bug fixes:

  • $0 deposit values produced inconsistent results.  $0 or 0% deposit amounts in the pricing section of an option will act as a full payment.
  • Some currencies are not updating correctly.  We updated our currency provider and now have automated daily mid-market currency updates.
  • Vendor signup generates an error under certain circumstances.
  • Authorize.net credentials are incorrectly labeled.  The field names for Authorize.net credentials were inconsistent with the actual values provided by Authorize.net.  The new field names are now consistent and should prevent confusion.
  • Switching from invoice to credit occasionally causes a lockout message.
  • PayPal standard payments sometimes do not forward correctly.

We will be posting articles regarding some of these features in the knowledgebase and on the Rezgo website.

As a reminder, we have updated our support protocols in order to better serve all Rezgo members.  If you have a support request, please submit a ticket to the Rezgo support site.  We will do our best to respond to your tickets in a timely manner, but remember that we are based in the Pacific time zone.

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Improved Rezgo Support Process http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/improved-rezgo-support-process http://www.rezgo.com/2012/10/improved-rezgo-support-process#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 18:22:06 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6768 As you may have noticed, we have started to phase out the use of the support email address as a means of managing support related issues with Rezgo.  Earlier this year we re-launched the Rezgo support website with a new support ticketing and tracking system.  The support website is built using responsive design, so you can submit tickets easily using a mobile device.  Since the launch, we have been working on the support process in order to make it more efficient for you and for the support team.

We are now ready to move all support related issues to the ticket system in order to better track and manage individual issues.  From this point forward, we ask that you submit any support related issues directly on the Rezgo Support website.  Once the ticket is submitted, it will be reviewed and assigned to the best support team member for your particular issue.

The first time you visit the support website at http://support.rezgo.com, you’ll be asked to create a log-in.  Please note that this log-in is unique to the support site and is different from your actual Rezgo account log-in.  Once you create an account, you’ll be able to submit a ticket.  When submitting a support request, please consider the following best practices:

  • Check the knowledgebase to see if there is a support article that answers or addresses your issue.
  • When you submit a ticket, please include your Rezgo domain or company name in the message.  When your support ticket comes in, we need to know which account we are looking at.
  • Provide as much information as possible about the issue.  For example, can you replicate it, is it visible on a website, and do you have screenshots?
  • If the issue has been resolved, please take a moment to update the status of the issue.  It’s always better that you tell us it’s resolved then us having to guess.
  • This one may seem obvious, but please be courteous when requesting help.  We are people too and simple courtesy goes a long way.

Although we do our best to respond to all tickets as quickly as possible, we cannot guarantee an immediate response.  The support team responds to tickets from 0900 – 1800 GMT -7, Monday – Friday (excluding statutory holidays in Canada).  If you submit a ticket outside of these times, we will respond as soon as we can on the next business day.

Thank you for being part of the Rezgo community.  We are constantly working to make the system better for you and encourage you to leave your feedback and comments on the Rezgo customer forum.

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Using Rezgo as your Tour or Activity Yield Management System http://www.rezgo.com/2012/09/using-rezgo-as-your-tour-or-activity-yield-management-system http://www.rezgo.com/2012/09/using-rezgo-as-your-tour-or-activity-yield-management-system#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2012 18:09:47 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6493 What is yield management?

Yield management is inventory specific revenue management which is focused on anticipating consumer behaviour in order to maximize profits.  It was first used by airlines after deregulation and has been referred to as one of the most important technical developments to affect airline profitability.  Since it was introduced, yield management has become common place with not only airlines but hotels, car rental companies, and most recently even restaurants.

There are conditions that must exist in order for yield management to be applicable:

  • That there is a fixed amount of resources available for sale.
  • That the resources sold are perishable (there is a time limit to selling the resources, after which they cease to be of value).
  • That different customers are willing to pay a different price for using the same amount of resources.

For many tour and activity operators, all three of these conditions exist.  Although many would argue that customers are not willing to pay a different price for the same tour or activity, many already do by using coupons, daily deals, or other promotions.

But for small business tour or activity operators the idea of yield management is something that is generally considered outside of their comfort zone.  Small businesses very seldom have the technical ability to take advantage of yield management techniques for their businesses because it is often considered something that can only be handled by complex reservation systems.

Luckily, however, the Rezgo rules engine is a powerful tool that can handle a large variety of yield management scenarios for even the most simple tour or activity operation.  Let’s take a look at some simple yield management scenarios and how you can accomplish them using Rezgo.

Seasonal Pricing

The first and most common yield management technique for many tour or activity operators is to set seasonal pricing.  For example, in the peak season, the operator may offer their tours at a premium.  In the off-season, the operator may reduce the price of their tours as well as reduce capacity.  In Rezgo, this is easily accomplished by setting the base price of the tour option and then creating two rules, one for each season.

example of a high season pricing rule

In this rule, we set the start and end date of the to the beginning and end of the high season.  If the rule will affect all your tours and pricing equally, then you can select the rule to affect all your inventory items.  In this case however, I have set the rule to only affect my river rafting inventory.  I have set the pricing levels to increase accordingly.

Example of pricing rule for low season bookings

In this example of a low season pricing rule we set the start date and end to correspond with the low season, select the inventory that will be affected by the rule, and make the appropriate price adjustments.

If the year consists of multiple seasons, the same logic can be applied to additional seasonal pricing.  The benefit of using dynamic seasonal pricing is that you only ever advertise your starting from price.  The system will automatically adjust and display pricing based on the booking date selected by the customer during the booking process.

Peak Time Pricing

Another simple way to maximize your yield on tours that run multiple times a day is to charge more for your peak times and less for slow times.  Peak time pricing can actually be accomplished without a rule simply by setting the option pricing for your times differently.  In the case of the River Rafting Demo, I could set my busy 12:00 PM time slot with pricing that is higher than my less busy 10:00 AM time slot.

The benefit of using a rule, however, is that you can adjust the pricing for multiple time slots at the same time.  This also has the affect of allowing you to adjust them on the fly without having to adjust your base pricing.

Rule for adjust pricing based on time of day

In this example rule, you can see that I have selected my busy times and increased pricing accordingly.  This rule will be in affect all year round, which means that pricing for peak times will be higher during low season as well as high season.

Busy Day and Slow Day Pricing

Most operators have days that are busier than others.  By creating day of the week pricing rules, you can automatically adjust your pricing so that you are maximizing your revenue on days that busiest.  For example, if you know that the majority of your customers book on Weekends, you can automatically set your weekend pricing to be higher than your weekday prices.

Using a rule to add a premium to your busy days

In this example, my River Rafting Demo inventory pricing will increase by 5% on weekends.  Since this rule is in effect all year round, weekend pricing during the low season will also be higher than low season weekday pricing.

Early Bird Pricing

Early Bird pricing is one of the most common ways to drive advance bookings, especially for tours where you need early commitments in order to guarantee the tour will run.  Although this is not as common for activity operators, it is frequently used by tour operators who offer guaranteed departures for multi-day tours.  The early bird pricing is an incentive to customers to book and pay early in order to guarantee their space and to provide the operator with advance payment so they can book the necessary resources.

Early pricing rules for tours and activities

In this example, we have a multi-day tour with two departure dates.  The rule, which will trigger if the customer makes a booking between Sept.27 and January 31, reduces the price by $100.00 USD.  If a tiered early bird discount is required, additional rules can be created to reduce pricing based on specific current date range criteria.  For example, if the discount in February is only $50, then an additional rule could be created to do just that.  The benefit is that once the rule is in place, no other work is required to manage the pricing.

What the Customer Pays

The end result of these rules is simply that customers will pay different prices for your tours depending on when they book, how far in advance they book, and which tour.  A customer, for example, who books a tour on the busiest day of the week in the high season is going to pay more than a customer who books your slowest day in the low season.  The challenge that many operators have however is what to display on brochures, rack cards, ads, and even their website.  The safest bet is to display your most common starting price and add the disclaimer that prices vary seasonally and to check live availability for up to date pricing.  Once the customer enters their preferred dates in to Rezgo, they will be presented with up to the second pricing that is dynamically generated by the system and is based on your specific rules.

To get started with creating rules, take a look at these available resources:

 

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yield_management

 

 

 

 

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Rezgo CEO Stephen Joyce at Travel Traction http://www.rezgo.com/2012/09/rezgo-ceo-stephen-joyce-at-travel-traction http://www.rezgo.com/2012/09/rezgo-ceo-stephen-joyce-at-travel-traction#comments Tue, 18 Sep 2012 20:31:03 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=6471 Stephen Joyce, CEO of Rezgo is also the Chair of the Board of Directors of the OpenTravel Alliance. On Wednesday, September 12, Stephen and fellow travel technologists from around the globe came together at OpenTravel’s inaugural Travel Traction. The event was designed to provide start-ups and those looking to work with the travel industry with insight into how to connect with and use the latest technologies available to them. Sessions included how to build relationships with data providers, using APIs, and talking to experts.

In this short video interview, Stephen talks about some of the challenges facing the tours and activities market. The biggest challenge, of course, being the very manual nature of the segment.

Thanks to Tnooz and specifically to Nick Vivion for the interview.

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Security and Payment Processing Updates for Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2012/08/major-rezgo-update-security-and-payment-processing-services http://www.rezgo.com/2012/08/major-rezgo-update-security-and-payment-processing-services#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 12:07:04 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=5489 We have just released a major improvement to Rezgo. Although for many Rezgo members the update will seem invisible, the importance of the update cannot be understated. In this latest release, we have completely rebuilt the payment processing services that power your ability to accept payments through Rezgo.

Enhanced Security

Credit card processing is now handled by a dedicated processing service that is completely separate from the Rezgo platform.  This dedicated system uses advanced tokenization techniques and security best practices to protect customer credit card data and to ensure the highest level of data protection.  This new processing infrastructure ensures that the Rezgo system no longer transmits or stores any customer credit card data even though the payment process is still seamless to the customer. The new payment processing platform will also allow us to integrate new payment gateways more easily meaning that we will be able to support more global payment systems in the future.

New Web Payments form on Rezgo

Better PayPal Express Payments

PayPal is the most popular payment processing service used by Rezgo members.  With the implementation of the new payment processing service, we have now integrated an in-line payment process for PayPal Express Checkout.  This new integration of PayPal allows PayPal merchants to accept payments for bookings in real-time rather than post booking.  This means that payments from customers will be confirmed at the time the booking is made.  Real-time PayPal payments means that more merchants can accept PayPal and credit card payments through PayPal without having to wait for the customer to pay via the PayPal website.  Customers will also receive a confirmed booking and their voucher right away.  Instant payment with Rezgo and PayPal Express Checkout means lower cancellations and faster payments for your business.  The new PayPal Express Checkout uses the Digital Goods method and is only available in certain countries.  Before setting up your PayPal integration be sure to read these instructions on setting up your PayPal account with Rezgo.

PayPal Configuration Settings

Web & Back-office Manual Payment Methods

You can now add manual payment methods that are available on the web and/or back-office.  This means that if you allow your agents to pay via invoice, you can set “Invoice” payment as a back-office only payment method.  The manual payment methods also support an additional input field which means that you can ask for additional information when a customer selects a manual payment method.  This is useful if you wish to accept gift certificates or prepaid vouchers as a payment method online.  For example, if you have sold discounted prepaid vouchers you can create a payment method called “Prepaid Voucher” where the customer can enter the prepaid voucher number in the space provided.

Manual payment method settings

Comprehensive Payments Coverage

Rezgo now supports more payment gateways than any other tour or activity operator software on the market.  Besides supporting three different integrations of PayPal, Rezgo supports payment gateways in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Asia, Israel, and Africa.  This means you get paid the way you want and in real-time using your own merchant system.  All existing Rezgo members will be automatically upgraded to the latest version of their payment gateway.  Check out our list of currently supported payment gateways.

Lots More in the Pipeline

As you can imagine, a major update like this takes time to deploy.  We have been working on this update for some time and, as a result, some of the features we had planned to release at this time have been pushed back to a later release.  We are working to get caught up all on all the features we wanted to have out so watch for an accelerated release cycle.

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Make Something Cool with the Rezgo API at THack London http://www.rezgo.com/2012/05/make-something-cool-with-the-rezgo-api-at-thack-london http://www.rezgo.com/2012/05/make-something-cool-with-the-rezgo-api-at-thack-london#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 23:15:51 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4975 Rezgo will once again be participating in THack, the travel hack-a-thon developed by Tnooz.com.  On June 28th, 2012 developers from around the globe will convene in London to present their creations to a live audience.

Rezgo will be providing API access and developers for the THack London 2012

From the Tnooz website

[quote style="boxed"]THack London will follow a similar path to the first THack in February 2011 – developers will have TWO WEEKS to create something using the APIs we are making available, as well as using any other freely available API on the web (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps, Wikipedia, et al).[/quote]

Developers interested in using the Rezgo XML API can use the following resources.  Developers are also encouraged to contact us should you have any questions or need assistance.

Amazing Tours Rezgo Site

This is live vendor account with about 450 available products.  The vendor account uses a live payment gateway, so real booking requests should not be committed to the account.  You are free to take the booking to the point of payment.  The following link is the live front-end booking engine for the Amazing Tours site.

http://amazing.rezgo.com

API Credentials

The following credentials will be required to authenticate your requests to the XML API.  You will find the credentials used in the sample queries below.

Company Code / CID: p103
API Key: 2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I

Documentation

For complete documentation on all the calls available through the XML API, refer to the following section on the Rezgo support site.

http://support.rezgo.com/knowledgebase-category/developers

Downloadable Source Code

If you are looking for a place to start, download this open source package.  The PHP code provided in this package is a complete working version of the front-end booking engine available on Rezgo.com.  To use the PHP code, you will need the CID and API Key specified above.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/rezgo/

Support for Developers

If you require any assistance, feel free to contact us through any of the following methods:

Email – support@rezgo.com
Skype – rezgo.support
Phone – +1 (604) 983-0083

When contacting us, please be sure to mention that you are part of THack 2012.

Sample XML Queries

Company About Information

This query returns the company profile details.  In this case, the information returned will be for Amazing Tours.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=company

Get Available Tags

The query returns a list of the tags used in the account along with a count of the tours associated with each tag.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=tags

Search Items with specific tag

This query searches the account for items that match based on specific tag (or tags). In this case, the API will return all tours that are tagged with “sightseeing”.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=search_items&t=tag&q=sightseeing

Search Items with Date (Availability)

This query searches all tours for items that have availability on a given date.  The API will return a list of every tour in the account along with corresponding availability.  To display only tours that are available, you will need to parse through the results and show only those that have availability.  Note: This is a large result set.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=search_items&t=name&q=*&d=2012-08-01

Retrieve Availability for a Specific Tour

This query returns availability for a specific item. In this case, the availability for item SKU 28170 on August 1, 2012.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=search_items&t=com&q=28170&d=2012-08-01

Retrieve Monthly Availability for a Specific Tour

This query will return a list of daily availability for a specific tour in a specific month.  The results are shown as a breakdown of each option for the tour along with availability for each.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=month&g=1&q=28170&d=2012-08-01

Retrieve Monthly Availability for a Specific Tour Option

This query will return a list of daily availability for a specific tour option.  The query is identical to the previous one with the exception that the This examples returns one of the two options for the tour specified in the previous query.
http://xml.rezgo.com/xml?key=2D8-F3V0-X7C0-C6I&transcode=p103&i=month&g=1&q=28425&d=2012-08-01

Commit a Booking

This query will commit a booking to the XML API.  You can use this query if you want to simulate a booking.  You’ll be provided with a successful booking that is “Payment Pending”.
https://xml.rezgo.com/xml?transcode=4385&key=9I0-R1P2-G8M4-V3Y&i=commit&&date=2012-08-01&book=32050&adult_num=2&tour_first_name=John&tour_last_name=Doe&tour_address_1=123+Anywhere&tour_city=Vancouver&tour_stateprov=BC&tour_country=ca&tour_postal_code=V7V+1V1&tour_phone_number=604-555-1212&tour_email_address=john.doe%40example.com&tour_group[adult][1][first_name]=John&tour_group[adult][1][last_name]=Doe&tour_group[adult][1][phone]=604-555-1212&tour_group[adult][1][email]=john.doe%40example.com&tour_group[adult][1][forms][7365]=Intermediate&tour_group[adult][1][forms][7366]=on&tour_group[adult][2][first_name]=Jane&tour_group[adult][2][last_name]=Doe&tour_group[adult][2][phone]=604-555-1212&tour_group[adult][2][email]=jane.doe%40example.com&tour_group[adult][2][forms][7365]=Intermediate&tour_group[adult][2][forms][7366]=on&payment_method=Credit+Cards&tour_card_token=3T5K9O0P9K1339184838&agree_terms=1

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Tour Pages and More with New Rezgo WordPress Plugin http://www.rezgo.com/2012/05/support-single-tour-posts-and-more-with-new-rezgo-wordpress-plugin http://www.rezgo.com/2012/05/support-single-tour-posts-and-more-with-new-rezgo-wordpress-plugin#comments Fri, 04 May 2012 01:48:30 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4952 The Rezgo WordPress plugin has undergone some recent changes and has officially been released into the wild with some new and exciting features. The latest version of the plugin now supports advanced rezgo shortcode functions. These functions allow you to create pages on your WordPress site that display your tours and activities in specific ways.

Default Tour List

[box type="info" border="full"][rezgo_shortcode][/box]

The basic Rezgo shortcode will show your tour list.  The order of the list is set in your inventory management.  This is the same list as appears on your Rezgo hosted booking engine.

Displaying Single Tour Pages

[box type="info" border="full"][rezgo_shortcode rezgo_page="tour_details" com="1234"][/box]

If you want to display a single tour on a specific page, you can use a Rezgo shortcode that specifies the tour that you want displayed. When a site visitor lands of the page you have created, they will see the tour that you specified.

Displaying Tag Specific Tours

[box type="info" border="full"][rezgo_shortcode tags="dinner cruise"][/box]

The Rezgo shortcode can also be used to display tours that are tagged a specific way. If you tag your tours as adventure and water, for example, you could create a specific WordPress page to display Water Adventures. The benefit with creating a page such as this is that you can add meta keywords, descriptions, and page titles to best optimize the page for SEO purposes.

Displaying Tours by Location

[box type="info" border="full"][rezgo_shortcode search_in="location" search_for="Las Vegas" tags="shopping,gambling"][/box]

Do you offer tours in multiple cities or locations? Do you want to group those tours together by location?  Now you can create customized WordPress pages that are uniquely optimized for your locations.  Use keywords, descriptions, and page titles to best describe your location and the tours you offer in that location.  You can even create sub-pages that categorize your offerings within the location.  The opportunities to create specifically optimized pages for your tour and activity offerings is endless.

Customized search pages

[box type="info" border="full"][rezgo_shortcode search_in="smart" search_for="cruise"][/box]
[box type="info" border="full"][rezgo_shortcode start_date="2012-06-01" end_date="2012-06-08"][/box]

Because the Rezgo shortcode can use all the same variables as the regular search, you can add any combination of dates, locations, tour sku, and tags in order to create customized tour lists on specific WordPress pages.  You could, for example, create a page that showed last minute availability for tours in a specific location OR tours that are being featured.  These pages, like all your other WordPress pages, can be optimized with your own set of keywords, descriptions, and page titles using a plugin like the SEO All in one pack.

To access these new Rezgo shortcode features for your tour or activity website, you’ll need to update to the latest version of the Rezgo WordPress Plugin.  You can download the new version at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/rezgo-online-booking/.

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New Getting Started with Rezgo Video Series Available http://www.rezgo.com/2012/03/new-getting-started-with-rezgo-video-series-available http://www.rezgo.com/2012/03/new-getting-started-with-rezgo-video-series-available#comments Sun, 18 Mar 2012 21:49:45 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4706 We are happy to report that we have just released an updated “Getting Started” series of videos and articles that will help new Rezgo members get their accounts up and running quickly and easily. The “Getting Started” videos and knowledgebase articles include instructions about how to:

  1. Customize your Rezgo settings
  2. Create your first tour
  3. Add options to your tours
  4. Add custom form fields
  5. Add your first rule
  6. Activate your Rezgo account
  7. Review your customer booking experience
  8. Link your Rezgo booking engine to your website
  9. Add a new booking using the point of sale
  10. Manage new bookings
  11. View Rezgo reports and manifests

In addition to this video series we have full user documentation, a vibrant support forum, and additional tutorials available for you online. They can be found at:

Rezgo Support Website – http://support.rezgo.com
Video Tutorials – http://www.youtube.com/RezgoVideos

You can also download a PDF version of the “Getting Started Guide” and print it, if you prefer a hard copy. Download the Getting Started Guide. We’d love your feedback and recommendations. If you have suggestions on how we can make the series better for new members, please let us know in the comments.

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Before you print your tourist brochures, read this! http://www.rezgo.com/2012/03/before-you-print-your-tourist-brochures-or-rack-cards-read-this http://www.rezgo.com/2012/03/before-you-print-your-tourist-brochures-or-rack-cards-read-this#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2012 12:21:32 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4631 Use activity booking systems like Rezgo to track brochure marketing If you are like 99% of the tour or activity operators I’ve worked with then you probably print brochures or rack cards every year that get distributed to hotels and tourism centers around your area.  It’s not unusual and, in fact, 30% of searches by customers looking for tours and activities include brochures.  But how effective are they at helping you convert someone into a paying customer?  Do you even know how many of your customers actually found you through a brochure or rack card?

Now, thanks to promotional codes in Rezgo, you can finally track your conversions from brochures and rack cards (or any marketing initiative for that matter).  So, before you go ahead and print that brochure this year consider doing this:

  • Create a promotional code in Rezgo that offers either a fixed amount off per person or a percentage discount.  To learn how to create a promotional code, take a look at this knowledgebase article.
  • Add a call to action on your brochure that says…

Book Online & Save $2.00 per person
(Use promo code “SAVE2″)

  • You can even track the promotional code through the point of sale interface in Rezgo so you might want to add language like…

Call or Book Online & Save $2.00 per person
(Use promo code “SAVE2″)

  • When a customer calls, select the promo code in the search box when you do your availability search.  This will automatically reduce the price for you when you book the tour for your customer.

The nice thing about adding a call to action like this is that it is fully trackable and your customers will be pleased that they could save a little on the booking.  At the end of each month, when you run your booking reports, you’ll be able to see the bookings that have the promo code associated with them.  Export your booking report to a spreadsheet program and sort them by the promo code to get an accurate count of the number of bookings AND the total value of bookings generated through your brochure or rack card campaign.  Remember that when you calculate the total return on investment for the campaign, you need to take into account the total cost of printing, distribution, and the discount applied.

Give it a try this year and see how it goes.  If you’ve used Rezgo to track your marketing campaigns in this way, please share in the comments.  We’d love to hear how you are using promotional codes or referral codes to track your marketing initiatives.

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Free Social Media eBook for Tour and Activity Operators http://www.rezgo.com/2012/03/free-social-media-ebook-for-tour-and-activity-operators http://www.rezgo.com/2012/03/free-social-media-ebook-for-tour-and-activity-operators#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2012 03:44:48 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4584 Cover - A Social Media Strategy for Tour & Activity OperatorsIn early 2010, I wrote a series of articles for the Savvy Operator outlining a social media strategy for tour and activity operators.  This series, based on what I call the L.E.A.D. approach to social media eventually resulted in a number of speaking engagements at conferences in Canada and the U.S.  I have taken those articles and combined them into a single eBook which is available for download from Lulu.com (for Kindle & Kobo devices) or the PDF can be downloaded for free through the Rezgo site.  The eBook titled “A Social Media Strategy for Tour & Activity Operators” covers four phases of utilizing social media for your tour or activity business:

Listening – Before you can know whether your potential customers are talking about you or what you do online, you need to be listening for your brand online.  This phase discusses the various objectives of listening for your brand online and the tools you can use to help make listening easier.

Engaging – Once you know where and what your potential customers are talking about you, you can start the process of engaging with them.  This phase will cover techniques for engaging, best practices, and tools to use.

Articulating – Writing compelling and interesting content for your customers is a key way to help them choose you over a competitor.  By articulating your offerings and your experiences, you can also help articulate your customers’ dreams.  Creating well written content will encourage your customers to dream, plan, and potentially book with you.

Demonstrating – Show your expertise by sharing your content with other communities, create your own communities on networks like Facebook or Twitter, and encourage your customers to interact with you on your terms.

Don’t wait around for your competitors to get the jump on you in social media.  Start working on your social media strategy now and turn your friends and fans into booking customers and your most powerful referral network.

[button type=download link="http://rezgo.com/social-media-for-tour-operators-and-activity-providers/"]Dowload Your eBook Now![/button]

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Using Rezgo to Make the Most of Your Daily Deal http://www.rezgo.com/2012/02/using-rezgo-to-make-the-most-of-your-groupon-or-living-social-daily-deal http://www.rezgo.com/2012/02/using-rezgo-to-make-the-most-of-your-groupon-or-living-social-daily-deal#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2012 07:08:00 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4455 If you do it right, you can use daily deals to fill seats in the off-season or low season and improve your brand awareness with locals and build word of mouth advertising for your business.  Rezgo has a lot of features that can be used to make sure you protect yourself against the common pitfalls of daily deal marketing.

The first and most important thing to remember is that the daily deal sites need you more than you need them.  Don’t settle for the standard rates.  Make sure you negotiate a better split for your business and put an upper limit on the number of vouchers you sell and the expiry of the deal.  You don’t want to end up selling out your entire season’s worth of available seats at 75% off!  Needless to say, if you did that, you probably wouldn’t have a next season and we don’t want that either.

Once you’ve decided to move ahead with a daily deal, follow these steps in Rezgo to make sure you simplify the experience both for you and for your customers.

Set-up for Success

1. Create a separate tour for the daily deal.  The tour should be different from your regular tour and should not be visible on your regular tour list. You can do this by making your tour PRIVATE.  This way, it can only be reached through the link provided on the daily deal site after the voucher is purchased in the redemption instructions.

2. If you can, add an add-on to the tour that adds a value to the tour but has little cost to you.  Perhaps combine it with a restaurant or an attraction who is willing to provide a free lunch or free entry (where the cost to you is $0).  This increases the value of the tour and so, when you discount it by 50%, the discounted price is higher.  Remember, you are not artificially inflating your tour price (as some merchants have been caught doing), you are in fact offering more and therefore are justified in pricing it higher.  Set the price for the tour option that you create for this tour to the discounted value.  This way, your reports will show the discounted price as the amount paid for the tour.  When you reconcile your vouchers with the daily deal site, you’ll be able to apply the commission paid to the daily deal site as a marketing expense against the revenue made for the tours.  Setting up your tour this way will also make it easier to see whether or not the group deal has any impact on the bookings for your regular products.

Any opportunity to increase the value of your tour without increasing your cost means more money in your pocket at the end of the day.  This is also why it must be different from your regular tour because you do not want to devalue your existing offerings.

3. Specify as part of your terms that the deal is for online bookings of tours only and subject to availability.  This way, you avoid getting swamped with phone calls which can take valuable time out of your day.  Make sure to set up some availability rules that restrict the days that the daily deal tour can be booked.  You generally want to use the daily deals to push slow or low season days or periods.  You can do this by using the Rules manager in Rezgo.  This is an important point because the daily deal site will try to get you to offer your regular tour.  Don’t do it!  How will your full customers feel sitting next to someone who just paid 50% less.

3. Add a custom form field to the option for this tour that is “Daily Deal Voucher #” with the following example instructions.

“Please enter your daily deal voucher id in the space provided.  Once we confirm the validity of your voucher we will confirm your booking.  Select “Daily Deal Voucher” as your payment method during booking. Your original voucher must be presented at the time you take the tour or your tour will be cancelled.”

4. Add a manual payment method called “Prepaid voucher” or “Daily Deal Voucher”.  The customers will select this payment method when they complete the booking instead of the usual Paypal or Credit Card payment method.

What you want to remember is that the voucher that the customer has purchased from the daily deal site is a form of payment for your services, not actual payment for your services.  When the booking is made, they use the voucher which they bought from the daily deal site to pay for the tour.  In the same way a gift certificate might be used to pay for a tour.

When the booking comes in, you should check the voucher code that is entered by the customer with your list provided by the daily deal company.  If it is valid, then change the status of the bookign to “Confirmed” and Rezgo will send out a confirmation email.  The customer will receive their voucher and receipt via email.  If the voucher is invalid, you can either cancel the booking or ask the customer for a valid voucher number.  Remember to collect the vouchers on site when they arrive for back-up.

Post Deal

Once your deal is all done, go into the booking report and make sure to run a report for the time period during which time the deals were redeemed.  Because you set up the tour as a separate tour and option, you’ll be able to sort your data by tour name and option in order to see how many bookings you received and your revenues (not including commission to the daily deal site).  You can then cross reference your numbers in the system with the records from the daily deal site to determine how well (or not) the promotion worked for you.

Having a software system that accepts daily deals doesn’t help you make money, understanding how to use the system to structure and execute a profitable deal does make you money.  Daily deal promotions are expensive and can be time consuming.  Following some simple planning steps and setting up your availability and rules the right way can go a long way to making your daily deal experience a positive one.

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OpenTravel Publishes Tour/Activity Schema – What it means for Rezgo Members http://www.rezgo.com/2011/12/opentravel-pubishes-tour-activity-schema-what-it-means-for-rezgo-members http://www.rezgo.com/2011/12/opentravel-pubishes-tour-activity-schema-what-it-means-for-rezgo-members#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2011 23:40:02 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4401 For most Rezgo members, the concept of creating a standardized set of XML messages for the distribution of tour and activity data probably sounds like gobbledegook.  For data geeks and standards enthusiasts like the team behind Rezgo, this is a huge milestone in the march towards making small businesses a more visible part of the travel landscape.  For over three years, Rezgo has been working with other tour and activity technology companies to develop a way for all of our systems to communicate with each other efficiently and seamlessly.  As part of the process, we donated our entire library of messages to OpenTravel in order to speed up the process and provide a framework for development.  That’s a big risk to take for a small company, but we felt the long-term gains from sharing our work was more important than the short-term risks.  As of today, I am really excited to say that we have a set of standard messages that can be used by any travel technology company.

But what will these messages do for you as a small business.  Well, to be totally brutally honest, I don’t think you need to worry about it or even care.  What these messages will do is make it easier for other systems to connect to your Rezgo accounts in order to share your data.  So, for example, if you want to create a relationship with some third-party website and they want your tour data, you just point them to the Rezgo API and give them your credentials.  Simple as that.

In the long-term our goal is make it simpler for larger travel technologies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity to connect to Rezgo and resell your tours and activities the same way they do hotel rooms or airline seats.  Even though they can do that now, to some degree, they can’t do it with real-time availability. The problem is that they need access to a lot of data to make it worth their while.  By growing Rezgo and building an API that is OpenTravel compliant, we are positioning you and your tours/activities to be picked up and marketed by these players.  Will that happen now? Not in the short-term, but all of these relationships take time and effort to develop.

The publishing of the OTA_TourActivity messages means a lot to me personally and to Rezgo as a company.  It is a reflection of our continued commitment to improve the opportunities for small business in the travel industry and to continue to develop the in-destination tour and activity segment as a whole.  In an increasingly crowded space where new booking engines are popping up all the time, I’m reassured by the knowledge that no one in the segment is more involved and understands the space better than we do.

You can find out more about the 2011B Publication here: http://www.opentravel.org/News/ArticleView.aspx?ArticleID=134

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Moving Your Book Now Button Can Improve Your Conversions http://www.rezgo.com/2011/10/moving-your-book-now-button-can-improve-your-conversions http://www.rezgo.com/2011/10/moving-your-book-now-button-can-improve-your-conversions#comments Wed, 26 Oct 2011 04:19:58 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4289 Are you wondering why your customers just aren’t booking on your website and you’re not sure what to do about it?  Building a website for your tour or activity business is hard enough but now you have to worry about conversion ratios, click streams, page views, exits, and all sorts of other stuff.  At the end of the day though, if your website isn’t converting your visitors into customers, then you’ve got a problem.

The first thing to look at is whether or not your offerings are obvious to visitors.  When you go to your homepage, is it obvious what you do?  Do you make it clear that you are a tour or activity operator and do you clearly describe what you do?  Another way to see if your homepage is good at directing visitors to the right information is to look at your Google Analytics.  If your homepage has a really high exit ratio (30% or more) then you should consider reworking the content to be more effective.  This is a clear indicator that visitors to your homepage are not getting the information they need or don’t know where to go next, so they are simply leaving your site.

A good way to get them down the booking path is to add direct links to your tour offerings right from your home page. If you have a fairly detailed website, this may be links to your tour detail pages.  Alternatively, you can point them to your offerings by creating a link to your tour list on Rezgo.

You might want to consider using the Rezgo content widget to embed your tour list directly on the home page or even consider adding a date search tool.  This helps to drive the customer into the path to conversion right off the home page.

In this example from the Napa Valley Wine Train, a reservation box is placed prominently on the home page.  Notice that it is in the upper left hand side of the page and it is distinctively colored.  This is a highly visible area and also helps to draw attention to the reservation box.

In this example from Helicopter New York City, you can see a bright red “Book Now” button is prominently displayed on the main image on the home page.  You’ll also notice that the right side bar is using the Rezgo content widget which displays all the available tours in a convenient compact list.  The visitor, as a result, is presented with multiple opportunities to enter the booking path.

In summary, if you are looking for some simple ways to help improve your conversions, try these useful techniques:

  1. Place the book now button on the home page with a link to your tour list.
  2. Use the Rezgo content widget on your home page or side bar.
  3. Create a reservation date search box on your home page or side bar to make it easy for customers to search for available tours.
  4. Highlight your tours directly on your home.
  5. Use terms like “Book Now” or “Make a Reservation”. These are action oriented phrases that drive visitors to the booking path.
  6. Make your “Book Now” links available throughout the visitor’s experience.  In other words have your “Book Now” button in multiple places.

If you’ve tried other techniques that you think are useful, please feel free to share your experiences.  We love to share practical and useful advice from other operators.

 

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New Version of the Rezgo WordPress Plugin http://www.rezgo.com/2011/07/new-version-of-the-rezgo-wordpress-plugin http://www.rezgo.com/2011/07/new-version-of-the-rezgo-wordpress-plugin#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2011 03:35:37 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4095 If you were wondering where the Rezgo WordPress plugin disappeared to for the last few days, you aren’t the only one.  We were surprised to find our plugin removed from the WordPress plugin directory because it violated one of the rules of the directory.  According to this site, which we found after the plugin was removed, a plugin will be removed if the authors:

“Explicitly state or imply that users of the plugin must pay you money in order to use the plugin.”

When we reviewed our description and installation instructions, it did sound like you had to pay money to use the plugin.  So, we have re-written the description and installation instructions to make it clear that the plugin is free to install and activate.  We then submitted the plugin to the directory for approval.  We’re happy to report that the plugin is back in and can be downloaded and installed as usual.

In order to continue getting updates to the plugin, you must deactivate and remove the old plugin and install the new plugin.  That said, if you have any custom templates or changes that you have made to the source, you will need to make a back-up copy of the files before you remove the old plugin.  Once you install the new plugin, you can go ahead and move the files back.

I can fully appreciate that the difficulty that the plugin support team must have keeping up with all the WordPress plugins and hopefully we won’t have this issue again.  If you can, please go to the WordPress.org site and give us a good rating.  Kevin has worked really hard on putting that plugin together and it would be great to give him some 5 star love!

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Small Tourism Businesses Using Rezgo Process Over $40 Million in Online Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2011/07/small-tourism-businesses-using-rezgo-process-over-40-million-in-online-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2011/07/small-tourism-businesses-using-rezgo-process-over-40-million-in-online-bookings#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 21:43:26 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=4036 In just 48 months, small tourism businesses using Rezgo, a leading cloud based tour and activity booking system, have generated more than US $40 Million in online bookings. With annual growth of over 150% that number is expected to grow to US $60 Million by 2012.

On July 7, 2011 Rezgo celebrated its fourth birthday. What started as a part time development project for Sentias Software Corp. has turned into a full time passion for the North Vancouver based company. Rezgo, a leading reservation platform designed specifically for the tour and activity market, has been quietly building its International client base and is now used by hundreds of companies from the U.S., South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

“We are primarily an export software business. We build technology locally in North Vancouver with a core team of passionate developers and we sell it to businesses all over the World. Our goal of developing a strong focused product and providing quality customer support is helping us to build a global brand.” says Stephen Joyce, CEO of Rezgo “We have also invested heavily in educating the travel industry about the value of the tour and activity segment. This culminated, most recently, with the release of the PhoCusWright report which Rezgo helped sponsor. That report estimated the in-destination tour and activity segment to be worth over US $27 Billion.”

Rezgo helps tourism based businesses such as adventure outfitters, sightseeing companies, attractions, and activity brokers to manage and market their businesses more eficiently by providing an integrated suite of features including secure online booking, integration with credit card processors, inventory management, point of sale, voucher printing, reports, integration with WordPress, and a Facebook booking application.

“What makes Rezgo different from other online scheduling and booking systems is that Rezgo is designed specifically for the needs of tour and activity businesses. The business of running a river rafting company or a sightseeing tour is fundamentally different than running a bed & breakfast or a campground.” adds Mr. Joyce “We don’t try to do everything, we just focus on what we do best and that is serving the tour and activity market.”

That focus is paying off.  Since its launch on July 7, 2007 Rezgo has grown steadily both in members and in number of bookings. In the past three years the system has experienced consistent annual growth of 150% in the total value of all bookings generated in the system. Travel Industry research firm, PhoCusWright, recently reported that 86% of small tourism businesses are not using a reservation system to manage their day to day operations. Rezgo expects to see continued growth in both business adoption and booking volume as the demand for industry specific reservation platforms increases.

Mr. Joyce adds “We are fully aware that we will need to continue to help educate operators in order to get them to adopt tools like Rezgo. It is what we have done all along and we’ll continue to do it because it’s important. We are excited to be working with so many dynamic and interesting small businesses and we are honored that they continue to place their trust in Rezgo.”

Rezgo is an active contributor to the Open Travel Alliance, a global travel messaging standards body, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Rezgo CEO, Stephen Joyce, is also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Open Travel Alliance and speaks frequently at travel industry conferences worldwide.

Mr. Joyce expects to see continued growth for Rezgo as more and more tour and activity providers make the move to online booking. Companies interested in finding out more about Rezgo are invited to visit the Rezgo website at www.rezgo.com and to sign-up at no cost.

##

Media Contact:
Stephen Joyce, CEO
Rezgo.com
(604) 983-0083
stephen.joyce@rezgo.com

 Rezgo stats for the last 48 months

  • Processed over $41 Million worth of bookings (converted to USD)
  • Over 200,000 bookings
  • 400,000 + passengers
  • 1600+ companies signed-up
  • 86 countries represented
  • Out of 80 supported currencies: Euro, USD, and AUD are the top three most popular currencies in Rezgo
  • Over 6,200 tours & activities
  • 13,000 + tour images
  • 3,200 + unique geotags
  • Out of 17 Global payment gateways: Paypal, Authorize.net, and ChasePaymentech are the top three most popular in Rezgo

Happy 4th Birthday Rezgo – An Infographic

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Be Careful with Daily Deals http://www.rezgo.com/2011/06/be-careful-with-daily-deals http://www.rezgo.com/2011/06/be-careful-with-daily-deals#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2011 19:43:54 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3993 As a tour and activity business, you are a perfect target customer for the likes of Groupon, Living Social, or any one of hundreds of other daily deal websites popping up on the Internet everyday.  But be warned, the daily deals business can be a real nightmare for your company if you are not careful.  I’ve written before about the problem with daily deals on Tnooz, a travel technology media site to which I am a frequent contributor.

Having worked with hundreds of small businesses in the tour and activity segment, I’ve learned many things.  One of the most important things I have learned is that almost all the business owners I have worked with are hard working passionate operators who are looking for ways to make a decent living doing what they love.  Their business is what sustains them, but DOING the business is not what fulfills them, doing what they love fulfills them.  As a result, these businesses tend to be easy targets for salespeople who pitch a great marketing opportunity that can bring a ton of new business with no upfront costs.  The problem with this model, is that the end costs can be catastrophic for a small business.

Don’t take my word for it though.  There are a lot of people out there who are saying the same thing.  Unfortunately, most of what we say gets drowned out by the buzz and hype around daily deals.  After all, how could it possibly be a bad thing when Groupon has managed to make $600 Million in revenues.  That’s great for Groupon, but at the end of the day, they have made that revenue on the backs of the small businesses who are willing to give away their products and services for 25 cents on the dollar.

Techcrunch guest poster Rocky Agrawal has written an excellent series of articles about the daily deals phenomenon and why it is bad for business.  Rocky’s series is eye opening and well worth the read.  If it doesn’t dissuade you from doing a daily deal, I hope it at least gives you some tools to ensure that the deal you run is successful for your business.

You can find Rock Agrawal’s series on Daily Deals here:

So why did I write this post? After all, Rezgo is a reservation platform so why should Rezgo care what marketing campaigns businesses choose to use?  I wrote this article because I am disturbed by what I see in the market.  I don’t like the idea of a large business taking advantage of small businesses and I certainly don’t like the tactics that are used to do it.

As a long time advocate of small business, I’ll do what I can to protect the interests of my small business customers and educate and empower them to make good business decisions, even if that advice is contrary to popular belief.

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Tour Operators Add Online Bookings at Faster Rate http://www.rezgo.com/2011/06/tour-and-activity-operators-adopting-online-bookings-at-faster-rate http://www.rezgo.com/2011/06/tour-and-activity-operators-adopting-online-bookings-at-faster-rate#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2011 08:52:51 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3952 Added brand awareness & supplier demand cause surge in tour operator software adoption.

For the first five months of 2011, Rezgo has tracked a record breaking number of new sign-ups for the cloud based software as a service tour and activity reservation platform. Compared to the same period in 2010, Rezgo saw an increase in sign-ups of over 160%.

“I’m obviously very excited about our results so far this year.” says Stephen Joyce, CEO “The increase is the result of many years of brand development and trust building with our members and strategic partners. The tour and activity segment has very specific needs and we’ve worked hard to address those needs. Though there are many generic booking tools entering the market now, our focus and passion has always been with the in-destination tour and activity providers. It is that deep understanding of the segment that differentiates us in the market.”

The dramatic increase in sign-ups is being attributed to a series of releases early in the year which included a new consumer facing booking engine for Rezgo members, an open source packaged booking engine, a WordPress plug-in which allows Rezgo members to integrate the Rezgo booking engine directly with their WordPress powered website, and the Rezgo Facebook App which allows members to display their tours and activities directly on their Facebook page.

Mr. Joyce adds “We put a lot of work into the first quarter of 2011 to improve the customer booking experience and make it easier for our members to integrate the Rezgo booking engine. Since our revenue model is transaction based, our goals and priorities are directly in line with our members. Even though we’re really excited about the increase in the number of companies signing up with Rezgo, our primary goal is to make sure they are successful using the system. If they succeed, then we succeed.”

Rezgo expects to see the sign-up trend to continue as more and more tour and activity providers make the move to online booking. Companies interested in finding out more about Rezgo are invited to visit the Rezgo website at www.rezgo.com and to sign-up at no cost.

##

Media Contact:
Stephen Joyce, CEO
Rezgo.com
(604) 983-0083
stephen.joyce@rezgo.com

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Make the Most of Your Season http://www.rezgo.com/2011/06/make-the-most-of-your-season http://www.rezgo.com/2011/06/make-the-most-of-your-season#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2011 20:18:07 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3930 The first six months of 2011 are almost over and the summer season is upon us.  Here is some great advice to help you make the most of this upcoming summer season:

1. Use the Rezgo Point of Sale to keep track of phone and walk-up bookings.  This ensures that your inventory is always up to date and allows you to print accurate guest lists and booking reports.  Here is a video tutorial to help you learn more about the point of sale.

2. Use promotional codes to drive new and repeat business. Entice locals to try your service by offering a locals only promotional discount.  It’s easy to validate by using the billing address on the booking.  Make sure the promotional code is only available through local channels like a local newspaper, Chamber of Commerce, or coupon book.

3. Make it easy for local businesses to refer business to you. Use referral ids to track bookings from local hotels and businesses.  It’s easier than you think to set-up and the benefits of the extra word of mouth marketing are great.

4. Don’t forget to ask for reviews. Make sure you let your customers know to write a review about your business.  You can ask them to post a testimonial on your website or link them to your page on a review website.  If you have a Facebook page, you can ask them to leave their review there as well.  Be sure to install the Facebook Review application.

5. Use your Facebook page to interact with friends and family. Share what you are doing with your fans and let them participate by asking your questions and asking for suggestions.  People enjoy participating with businesses who have a human face and a personality.  This is where your business can really shine.  Have fun with what you do, after all, is that your business, to give people amazing experiences? Be sure to install the Rezgo Facebook App so you can display your tours and activities on your Facebook Business page.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to include them, it would be great to share some success stories.

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Using Referral Codes to Track Concierge Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2011/05/using-referral-codes-to-track-concierge-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2011/05/using-referral-codes-to-track-concierge-bookings#comments Fri, 20 May 2011 23:57:31 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3845 Even though referral codes have been a supported feature in Rezgo for almost two years, we are still surprised at how some creative Rezgo members are using them to track particular booking channels.  One popular and growing use of the referral code feature is to track bookings from concierges.

Concierges are a great sales resource, but you have to reward them.Before you use referral codes in this way though it’s important to understand why this method works for concierges.  Concierges are trusted resources, hotel guests turn to them to recommend restaurants, activities, and attractions that are best suited for the them.  In that capacity, it’s the goal of the concierge to find the best fit for the customer, it’s not their job to act as a booking agent.  That said, if the booking process is easy for the concierge they will often make the booking on behalf of the customer.  It’s a bonus if the concierge has an agreement with the local business and can get a commission for the booking.  A few things to keep in mind about concierges:

  1. They often deal with a lot of customers, especially during peak tourism seasons.
  2. They recommend what they know and trust.
  3. They want fast and easy ways to book.

So, now that you have a better sense for what drives the concierge, here is how to set-up a concierge tracking program using Rezgo and referral IDs.

  1. Create a spreadsheet (or a piece of paper even) and call it Concierge Tracking Codes.
  2. Create four columns.
  3. Title the first column “Concierge Name”.
  4. Title the second column “ID”.
  5. Title the third column “Link”.
  6. Title the fourth column “Commission”

This is the basis of your concierge tracking.  Pretty straightforward so far?  Now for the fun part.  For each concierge you plan to add to your program, you will add a row to your spreadsheet.

  1. In the “Concierge Name” column, enter the name of the concierge.  This may be the actual name of the concierge or the hotel, depending on who you have the agreement with.
  2. In the “ID” column, make up a code that you will assign to this concierge.  It could be any combination of letters or numbers, but it should not have spaces or special characters (like & % @ #).
  3. In the “Link” column, enter in your Rezgo URL and at the end append “?refid=” followed by the id that you entered into the ” ID” column.
  4. In the “Commission” column, make a note of the commission you intend to pay the concierge.

So, you should have something that looks like this:

Concierge Name ID Link Commission
John Doe (Hyatt) johnhyatt http://mydomain.rezgo.com?refid=johnhyatt 20%

Repeat this step for each concierge you have in your program.  Email the “Link” to the concierge and instruct them to use that link when they make their bookings.

When a the concierge uses the link, the “ID” (in this case johnhyatt) will be captured during the visit and added to the web booking.

At the end of each calendar month (or whenever you like):

  1. Run a booking report.  This is available in the “Reports” tab on your Rezgo Dashboard.
  2. Export the results of the booking report to Excel and save it to your computer (somewhere you can remember is best).
  3. Open the file in Open Office or Microsoft Excel.
  4. Sort the results by the “Ref” column.

You will now have all your concierge bookings sorted by Referral ID, which in this case is also your Concierge ID.  Now you can add up the total transactions for the referred bookings, multiply it by the commission you agreed to and cut them a check.

As an added note, you will want to keep the concierge’s address and other contact information handy so you can send them regular payments.  It is imperative that if you agree to work with a concierge, you pay them in a timely manner.  Concierges are a great sales resource and a very close knit group.  Most concierges in a given city will know their counterparts at other hotels.  If you are a trusted supplier and consistently reward the concierges, you may find them to be a valuable sales channel for your business.

Using referral ids to track concierges in this manner is available with the hosted booking engine, the Rezgo WordPress plug-in, and the open source PHP parser.  The concierge codes can even be added to the content widget javascript and the Rezgo Facebook application.

Here are some support articles that you may find useful:

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilovememphis/5181526783/sizes/s/
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Move Over Car Rentals, There’s a New Kid in Town http://www.rezgo.com/2011/03/move-over-car-rentals-theres-a-new-kid-in-town http://www.rezgo.com/2011/03/move-over-car-rentals-theres-a-new-kid-in-town#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2011 23:14:56 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3716 Rezgo Sponsored Industry Research Estimates Tour & Activities at $27 Billion

For as long as there have been tourists there have been tours, tour guides, and destination based activities.  Unlike the more commonly known travel segments like flights, hotels, car rentals, and cruise, the in-destination tour and activity segment is dominated by very small businesses.  According to research conducted by PhoCusWright and sponsored in part by Rezgo, the U.S. tour and activity market is worth a sizable $27 Billion.

“I am excited by the potential the tour and activity segment represents.” says Stephen Joyce, CEO of Rezgo “This research proves we’re in the right space and the right time. The small businesses that make up the tour and activity space need solutions that will help them take advantage of the Web.  Rezgo is well positioned to do just that.”

According to the study, the tour and activity segment represents the third largest segment in the travel industry, almost twice as large as car rentals and larger than the cruise and packaged vacation segments combined.  The year over year growth in Rezgo transaction volume also indicates that the tour and activity segment is undergoing a shift to online.

“In 2010 we experienced overall growth of 82% over 2009.  This represents both an increase in the number of companies using Rezgo as well as an increase in bookings per company.” adds Joyce “All our metrics indicate another strong growth year in 2011.”

With a value of $27 Billion, there’s no doubt that the tour and activity segment will be getting significantly more attention than it has in the past.  Thanks to companies like Rezgo, small businesses will be able to take full advantage of this new found exposure and build their online businesses.

##

Media Contact:
Stephen Joyce, CEO
Rezgo.com
92 Lonsdale Avenue,
North Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 983-0083
stephen.joyce@rezgo.com

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Rezgo + WordPress – Content Management & Bookings in One http://www.rezgo.com/2011/03/rezgo-and-wordpress-content-management-bookings-in-one-package http://www.rezgo.com/2011/03/rezgo-and-wordpress-content-management-bookings-in-one-package#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2011 16:16:54 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3651 Turn your WordPress blog or website into a full featured booking engine powered by RezgoHot on the heels of the Rezgo Open Source PHP Parser, we are really excited to announce the official release of the Rezgo WordPress Booking Plugin.  The RezgoWordPress plugin contains all the same features as the Open Source PHP Parser but with the convenience and ease of installation of a WordPress plugin.

The Rezgo WordPress Booking Plug-in is a complete set of PHP files that, when installed on a WordPress powered website, connect to a Rezgo account via the Rezgo XML API.  The plug-in gives access to all the same functionality as the Rezgo white label with the added benefit of complete access to layout templates and ALL the source code for the front-end.  Tour and activity operators who have websites powered by WordPress can install the Rezgo Booking Plugin from within their WordPress Plug-in page.  Once installed, WordPress administrators can configure their Rezgo plugin settings from a simple settings page.  For full transaction support, Rezgo members can even secure their WordPress website if they wish to handle the complete payment transaction on their own website.

What makes the Rezgo WordPress plugin different from other competing apps is the deep integration with WordPress.  The Rezgo plugin piggy backs on the WordPress URL handler making the booking engine an integral part of the website.  Many other WordPress booking engines rely on javascript or iframes to embed the booking capabilities into a WordPress site.  Although this method is relatively easy to set-up for the business, there is no SEO benefit to this method.  By integrating the Rezgo booking engine directly with WordPress, the business benefits from having dozens of relevant content rich pages on their website without having to duplicate their efforts.  In addition, because the layout templates are available for editing, the business has the ability to customize not only the design of their booking engine but also the functionality.

The Rezgo Booking Plugin is hosted on the WordPress site and is available for download now. We encourage all Rezgo members who are using WordPress to consider installing the Rezgo Booking Plugin and, if they like the plugin, to please provide their feedback and comments on the Rezgo customer forum.

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Three new ways to get paid faster with Rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2011/02/three-new-ways-to-get-paid-faster-with-rezgo http://www.rezgo.com/2011/02/three-new-ways-to-get-paid-faster-with-rezgo#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 05:24:22 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3591 We’re happy to announce that we’ve just completed the integration of three additional payment gateways into Rezgo.  The new supported payment gateways are:

The payment gateways are available in the Payment Methods section of the Rezgo settings.  When you select the gateway of your choice, you will be prompted to enter your gateway credentials before the gateway can be activated.

Thanks to the following Rezgo members for sponsoring the development of these gateways:

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CSS Over-ride for narrow sites and new Rezgo layout http://www.rezgo.com/2010/12/css-over-ride-for-narrow-sites-and-new-rezgo-layout http://www.rezgo.com/2010/12/css-over-ride-for-narrow-sites-and-new-rezgo-layout#comments Wed, 22 Dec 2010 20:02:17 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3491 Some Rezgo members have been asking if it is possible to maintain a narrow (750 px) width with the new layout or if they have to update their websites to support the new wider (850 px) width.  There is a way to maintain a narrower layout with the new front-end.  To use a narrower layout, you’ll need to over-ride the Rezgo CSS in order to adjust the width of the booking engine and the side bar.   If you plan on using the narrower layout you will not be able to use the date search functionality.

Here are some screen shots of the new layout (in its default mode) and the narrow layout (with CSS over-ride):

Rezgo booking engine with default 850 px wide layout

(Default width)

Rezgo booking engine layout with narrow design

(Narrow layout)

To over-ride the Rezgo standard CSS, you will need to use the following CSS in the “Customize the Rezgo CSS” text area on the Settings > My Site Template page in your Rezgo admin. (The CSS editor is only available in the Beta login available at http://login.beta.rezgo.com)


#rezgo {
width:750px;
background:url("/rezgo/templates/default/images/bg_wrp.png") repeat-y scroll 150% 0 #EEEEEE;
}
#flight {
display:none;
}
#right_panel {
width:36.5%;
}
#rezgo #calendar .item {
width:270px;
}
#rezgo #right_tags .item, #rezgo #right_search .item, #rezgo #promo .promo_entered_sidebar, #rezgo #promo .promo_hidden_sidebar {
padding:5px 10px 10px;
}
#calendar_marker {
left:-125px;
}
#rezgo #tab_box li.price_op {
width:58%;
}
#rezgo .promo_input {
width:83px;
}
#rezgo .promo_submit {
width:76px;
}
#rezgo .tour_info ol.tour_receipt li label {
width:29.7%;
}
#rezgo .tour_info ol.price .type {
width:29%;
}
#rezgo #short_url {
left:160px;
}
#rezgo .tour_info ol.tour_receipt li label {
font-size:14px;
}
#rezgo #alternate_op {
background:url("/rezgo/templates/default/images/arrow_alt_option.png") no-repeat scroll 300px 3px transparent;
}

As always, if you run into problems, contact us via our customer service forum, contact form, or just give us a call at +1 604 983-0083.

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Accept credit cards through Rezgo & simplify your receivables http://www.rezgo.com/2010/11/accept-credit-cards-through-rezgo-simplify-your-receivables http://www.rezgo.com/2010/11/accept-credit-cards-through-rezgo-simplify-your-receivables#comments Fri, 05 Nov 2010 18:46:45 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3383 We are really happy to announce that we have set-up partnership agreements with three leading payment gateway and merchant processing providers in Canada and the U.S. to provide preferred merchant processing and payment gateway services for Rezgo members.  All three of these preferred merchant partners are already fully integrated with Rezgo.  The three payment gateway and merchant processing partners are Beanstream, iTransact, and Versapay.

Beanstream is a leading provider of payment gateways and provides both a payment gateway which can be connected to merchant accounts provided by other Canadian and U.S. banks and merchant providers but can also provide an all-in-one payment gateway and merchant processing package for tour and activity companies located in either the U.S. or Canada. Beanstream also offers Interac On-line ® as well as Direct Debit / Direct Payment services for Canadian businesses. Start the application process with Beanstream.

iTransact is a leading U.S. based payment gateway and merchant processing provider and, like Beanstream, can offer Rezgo members either the dedicated payment gateway with virtual terminal to work with their existing U.S. merchant account or a complete payment gateway and merchant account package. Get a U.S. merchant rate quote from iTransact.

Versapay is one of the fastest growing Canadian merchant account processor and provides electronic funds transfer services and stored value card services in addition to their regular credit card payment services. Versapay merchant accounts are bundled with the Orbital payment gateway (which is already integrated into Rezgo) or can be used in conjunction with Beanstream’s payment gateway service.  Get a Canadian rate quote from Versapay.

As an incentive for Rezgo members to add credit card processing to their Rezgo accounts, we will discount your Rezgo service fee rate by 1% if you apply and are successfully approved for a merchant account from one of our preferred merchant partners. Note that the discount does not apply to already discounted rates or to the Rezgo back-end transaction rate. For more information and to apply to one of our preferred merchant providers, please visit our “Accept Credit Cards” page.

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Using Rezgo as an Affiliate System http://www.rezgo.com/2010/10/using-rezgo-as-an-affiliate-system http://www.rezgo.com/2010/10/using-rezgo-as-an-affiliate-system#comments Mon, 18 Oct 2010 07:55:47 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=3118 When we launched the Rezgo Vendor system back in November 2008 at the inaugural PhoCusWright Innovation summit we expected the system to become a distribution channel for Rezgo members looking to distribute their products through a variety of third party resellers. What we have seen instead over the last two years is a growing interest from suppliers who are using the Vendor system as a mechanism for distributing products through a network of affiliates. We now have, for example, several Rezgo supplier members who are using the vendor system to power concierges and activity desks in their particular destinations.

Although the vendor system by default is meant to push transactions through the Rezgo payment gateway, it does allow for the vendor to use their own payment gateway. This feature is critical to the use of the system as an affiliate system and the main reason why the system can be used in this way. As affiliates are generally not responsible for taking payments on behalf of the supplier, it is critical that the supplier be able to receive the payments for their bookings themselves without having to worry about the affiliate handling credit card information or cash from customers.

In the default model, a vendor or potential reseller would create a Rezgo vendor account and then search for Rezgo suppliers with whom to partner by using RezgoConnect. The vendor sends a connection request (similar to a friend request on Facebook) to the supplier along with an offer to do business. If the supplier agrees to do business with the vendor, then the supplier accepts the connection request and their products are listed in the vendors portal. When a traveler goes to the vendor’s website and books a tour or activity, the payment is accepted through the Rezgo gateway. The booking is immediately available to the supplier and also appears in the booking reports of the vendor. Since the booking is made through the Rezgo gateway, the customer has the ability to cancel the booking using the Rezgo cancellation form and they receive a credit back to their purchasing credit card immediately. When the customer arrives at the supplier’s tour or activity with their voucher, the supplier checks in the voucher using the Rezgo check-in function. As soon as the voucher is checked in, it triggers a payment event in Rezgo and the supplier is paid their net fee and the vendor is paid their net commission at the next payment cycle.

In the supplier controlled affiliate model, the supplier creates a vendor account on behalf of the affiliate and sets the payment method as their own payment gateway. The supplier then uses RezgoConnect to connect their supplier account to the vendor account they just created and feed their product to the new vendor account. In this case, since the payment is flowing directly to the supplier’s payment gateway, there is no need to worry about a delay in payment or the check-in process.

Here are some other benefits to consider when using Rezgo as an affiliate system for your tour and activity business:

  • Inventory control – All sales made through the affiliate program affect your inventory and are tracked in a single place. Never oversell again by keeping your inventory up to date and live 100% of the time.
  • Commission control – Set different commissions for different affiliates. Each affiliate can have their own commission relationship with you.
  • Product control – Choose which products are available to affiliates. You can even create special products for your best affiliates.
  • Simple and trusted interface – Give your affiliates a trusted and simple interface to booking your tours and activities. The booking interface your affiliates use is identical to the one provided on your own website. This increases the credibility of your booking interface and makes the booking process predicatable.
  • Co-branding of affiliate sites – Allow your affiliates to “skin” your booking engine with their website look and feel.
  • Co-branded vouchers – Enhance your affiliate brand while increasing trust in your own brand by giving customers co-branded vouchers.
  • Integrated reports – The Rezgo vendor system already includes reporting that shows the affiliate their sales.
  • Additional users – You can allow your affiliates to have multiple logins to their affiliate websites.
  • Fully XML Capable – Your affiliate sites have a full XML API allowing complete integration of your content into other systems or websites.
  • Widgets – Allow your affiliates to integrate your products directly into their sites, blogs, or social networks using content widgets.
  • Facebook Page – Affiliates can add a tab to their Facebook page that lists your tours and activities and drives customers into the booking process.
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Building On-line Social Habits http://www.rezgo.com/2010/10/building-on-line-social-habits http://www.rezgo.com/2010/10/building-on-line-social-habits#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2010 15:18:24 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=388 The underlying goal of any social media strategy is to build corporate social habits for your organization. In the same way that you and your staff interact with people in the “real world” you should be interacting with them in a similar manner in the social web. The philosophies and techniques that you use to handle customer interactions face to face don’t change when you handle customer interactions online, the only difference is the tool that you use. If you are able to apply strong customer service and messaging standards within your organization, they will translate into a positive and successful social strategy as well. Why? Because how a customer perceives you is based on expectations that you give them. If you provide the customer with the expectation that they will be cared for and treated fairly then they will come to expect that in the delivery of your service. As long as your service meets or exceeds their expectations, then they will have no problems with recommending you to their friends and business colleagues. If you are there to make that recommendation easy and straightforward, then you have the opportunity to drive continued return customers, or at the very least, a strong source for word of mouth referrals.

A social media strategy does not live in isolation within your organization but rather becomes part of the fabric of your company and your customers’ experience. From the moment they see your promotion in Facebook to the moment they write a testimonial for your service online, the opportunity to participate, share, and contribute is part of the fabric of the social web and should be a part of your organization’s corporate fabric too.

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Reviewing Your Social Media Plan http://www.rezgo.com/2010/10/reviewing-your-social-media-plan http://www.rezgo.com/2010/10/reviewing-your-social-media-plan#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2010 15:57:29 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=383 The plan you create based on the Listen, Engage, Articulate, and Demonstrate social media  strategy should be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure that the objectives for each phase are being met. I recommend you schedule the following reviews into your social media plan:

Monthly review – This review should look at how effective you are at executing on your plan. For example:

  • Are you listening for the right things? Are you getting any results for the keywords or phrases you have chosen?
  • Are you responding to comments in a timely manner?
  • Are you engaging with customers on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Are you finding the weekly schedule too difficult to manage?
  • Are you able to produce content at a reasonable and consistent rate?
  • You should record, but not necessarily act upon follower and friend counts.

Quarterly review – At the end of each quarter you should take time to review trends in your metrics. Since you should have some more data to work with, your review should be focused on improving your success metrics as you have defined them. Some things to consider include:

  • Are you gaining or losing followers and friends?
  • How many mentions are you getting compared to the previous quarter?
  • Are you able to see referral counts in your analytics?
  • How have your referrals change since the last quarter?

6 Month review – During the six month review you should take a hard look at your plan and determine whether or not you are seeing the results that you want for your chosen success metrics. This will be a good time to ask:

  • Should you be listening for other phrases keywords, if so, what are they?
  • Are there other social networks that may be more effective?
  • If there are no social networks for those interested in learning more about carbon management should you consider creating one?
  • What other promotions can you develop around your chosen networks and communities.
  • Are your success metrics the right ones? If not, what should they be?
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Your Social Media Success Metrics http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/your-social-media-success-metrics http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/your-social-media-success-metrics#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2010 15:06:56 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=377 Your success metrics will be different for each step in your  L.E.A.D. social media strategy. To summarize, you can expect the following outcomes from each phase:

Listening

  1. Where users are talking about you
  2. What users are saying about you and your brand
  3. Where users are talking about subjects that are important to your business
  4. What information users are looking for and how they hope to get the information they want.
  5. What articles, posts, and press mentions are being written about subjects, brands, and/or competitors that are important to you.

Engage

  1. Increased link backs to your site (identified through Google Alerts).
  2. Click throughs to your specific profile page (another reason to have it) measured through your analytics tools.
  3. Improved Google search results (not guaranteed but likely depending on the level of engagement).
  4. Increased mentions of your brand or site on third party sites. This may be in responses to your comments, through others mentioning your comments, or through guest contributions on blogs.
  5. If you use a referring code that can be tracked through through your conversion process, you should be able to measure revenue as it relates to engagement.

Articulate

  1. Increased referrals to your website from your blog or articles.
  2. Increase in “time on site” as users read blog articles.
  3. Increased blog search, web search, and mentions in Google Alerts.
  4. Increased comments on articles and greater engagement with reading audience.

Demonstrate

  1. Increase in comments and engagement on your forum of choice
  2. Increased follows on Facebook and Twitter (primarily).
  3. Increased engagement from existing fans including comments, photos, and videos from followers.
  4. Identify key evangelists of the business. This includes customers who love your service or business.

At every stage there may be additional benefits or success factors that have not been described. Remember that as you continue to listen for mentions, you might find opportunities to connect with other media sources both locally and outside your region. For example, as you build your fan base and can show engagement with customers local media sources (newspapers, radio, television) will look to authorities in certain segments. Follow your media sources and comment on articles that apply to your business. These may range from comments on your region, business, industry and more. The important thing to remember is that if you demonstrate your expertise then media will default to those it perceives as experts.

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A Visual Summary of the L.E.A.D. Social Media Strategy http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/a-visual-summary-of-the-l-e-a-d-social-media-strategy http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/a-visual-summary-of-the-l-e-a-d-social-media-strategy#comments Wed, 29 Sep 2010 15:37:57 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=373 As you may be aware, I am now a big fan of Prezi, the web based zooming presentation tool.  I have started converting all of my presentations over to the Prezi platform and I may even upgrade to a pro account.  Those of you who know me, know that for me to consider paying for a service, it better be darn good!  Needless to say, I really like the dynamism that you get from the Prezis.  The zooming and panning is much more natural and effective then the animations that you get in Powerpoint or OpenOffice.

One of the first presentations I converted is the following social media presentation that I re-built based on the content from my L.E.A.D. presentation for the Yukon Tourism Industry Association conference.  Feel free to wonder through the presentation and let me know what you think.  Be forewarned, those with a proclivity for motion sickness way want to take a few breadths before viewing.  Prezi’s are a bit like riding a textual roller coaster.

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Simplifying Your Social Media Schedule http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/simplifying-your-social-media-schedule http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/simplifying-your-social-media-schedule#comments Tue, 28 Sep 2010 15:34:40 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=370 Being successful with your social media strategy means having a schedule that allows you to participate and actively engage with your various channels. I recommend you break up your tasks so that the work required to listen, engage, articulate, and demonstrate are staggered throughout the week. A sample calendar might look like this:

  • SundayLISTEN - Take a well deserved break but keep listing. Check your Google Alerts and make note of any mentions that sound interesting. If you have a smart phone, then I recommend you push alerts to your mobile rather than having to sit in front of a computer.  Listening doesn’t have to be disruptive.
  • MondayENGAGE - Respond to mentions on blogs that you hear over the weekend.
  • TuesdayARTICULATE - If you are writing a blog, publish your article today. Tuesdays are the best day to post an article or send an email newsletter because most people are swamped with emails on Mondays. Continue to listen and respond to mentions as required.
  • WednesdayARTICULATE – DEMONSTRATE – Post photos or videos to your Facebook page/Flickr/Youtube accounts.
  • ThursdayENGAGE – DEMONSTRATE – Review your social network profile pages and respond to comments or wall posts. Thank your customers when they post comments
  • FridayLISTEN – ENGAGE – Listen and respond to mentions and tweets.
  • SaturdayLISTEN -  Listen only. If you can, respond or just wait until Monday.

You will probably find that as you become more comfortable with the social web, your mentions and hits will increase requiring you to listen and respond more quickly or more frequently. In most cases, responding can be done very quickly using an Android, iPhone or Blackberry application for Twitter. In the case of the fan page or other blogs, simply make note of the mention and respond to it accordingly. Not every mention will require a response.

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When it comes to parties, it pays to go to right ones http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/when-it-comes-to-parties-it-pays-to-go-to-right-ones http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/when-it-comes-to-parties-it-pays-to-go-to-right-ones#comments Mon, 27 Sep 2010 15:04:57 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=367 Let’s face it, when it comes to getting attention, you’re better off going to one A-List party then going to 100 block parties.  You only have so much time on your hands and social media has a very real time cost associated with it.  Unless you have a team of social media people working for you (and if you are like most small businesses, then you don’t) you won’t have the time to dedicate to managing 10, let alone 100 different social media profiles.

Simply put, reduce the number of parties you join. You will find more success by focusing on key social spaces like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. That is not to say that other spaces will not be successful either, however, you will need to listen to learn what spaces will be important for your brand moving forward. To begin with, stick with the ones you know people participate on and draw the attention to yourself first. Once you have their attention, you can look at other networks.

When considering a new network or creating a new profile, consider following these steps before activating your profile:

  1. Are people on this network my target customer (what is that)?
  2. Are people on this network interested in my brand, niche, region, etc.?
  3. Are there any other companies like mine on this network? Are my competitors on this network? If not, why not?
  4. Are there other complimentary companies on this network? If not, why not?
  5. Is this network friendly to businesses/companies?

If your answers lead you to believe that the network/community might be a good fit for your business then create a profile.  Once you commit, do so properly.  Complete your profile including your company domain name, description, logo, head shot, about and contact info.  If the community turns out to be less than you expected, at least you have another referral link out there that may (or may not) drive traffic back to your main site.  If the site has an RSS feed, then add the feed to your feedreader or Google Alerts and start listening.  Before you spend time writing content and posting updates, make sure the members of the community are interested it what you might have to say, otherwise you may just be wasting your time.

PhotoCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ninjanoodles/2092357947/sizes/m/

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Social Tools for Demonstrating your Expertise http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/social-tools-for-demonstrating-your-expertise http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/social-tools-for-demonstrating-your-expertise#comments Fri, 24 Sep 2010 14:12:44 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=362 There are many tools available for demonstrating your involvement in social media and your comfort with customer engagement.  Many of these tools you are probably already using without even thinking about it.  Let’s take a look at a few of the the tools/sites that you can use to demonstrate your expertise:

  1. Facebook – Focus on your Facebook page and avoid creating a Facebook profile for your business. You will want to focus as much attention on the business as possible and since the Fan page is publicly accessible, it will provide the greatest search benefit. Feel free to syndicate your blog posts through your Fan page but try to create content that is relevant just to the Fan page as well.  This might include asking questions of your fans or updating on Facebook only specials or promotions. Since you will have a fairly low fan base to begin with, you will need to make it more enticing for people to become fans by inviting them directly or giving them an incentive for joining. Invite your customers to post their own comments, recommendations, or tips. Because Facebook fan pages are publically accessible, I recommend you post photos and videos to the fan page first. Although Flickr is more photo oriented, we are not necessarily talking about high quality photos, these are for sharing purposes.
  2. Twitter –  Similar to the Facebook fan page, your Twitter account should not be used exclusively for delivering notifications of content posted on your blog site. Use your stored searches in Twitter to find out what people are talking about with regards to your preferred subjects and use your twitter account to respond to tweets from other users. This engagement will show that you are both listening and responding to customer (and potential customer) requests in the channel. When you contact customers via phone, email, or through the web, be sure to ask them to follow you on Twitter. WestJet has a weekly event called “Winglet Wednesday” where customers tweet their photos of WestJet winglets. The event has become a very popular part of the twitter experience.  The idea is to build interest by providing unique content that is geared towards the audience on Twitter rather than simply re-hashing existing content.
  3. LinkedIn – B2B social networks are particularly well suited to organizations that are selling to businesses. There are a number of groups and sub-networks within LinkedIn that may be of interest to you. If the principals of your business do not have LinkedIn memberships, I highly recommend they create profiles. Use the tool to create connections with existing partners, vendors, and even customers. The opportunity to participate in groups will present itself, but you will want to establish your profile first before trying to market the business.
  4. Ning – You may want to consider forming your own social network around your particular business or niche.  For example, if you are a wine tour company, you may want to start a social network around wine enthusiasts.  Be sure, though to keep the content and the social network separate from your brand.  In the same way that the Savvy Operator blog is sponsored by Rezgo or the Small Fish Big Ocean network is sponsored by TourCMS, you are free to sponsor your social network, just be careful not to make the network a sales platform or you will not attract or keep members.
  5. BuddyPress – Another option to creating your own social network is to use BuddyPress, which is a plug-in to WordPress.  BuddyPress uses the existing blogging platform can allow your members to write their own posts and articles as well as message each other and create a profile page.  Although BuddyPress is a free opensource platform, the installation and set-up can vary in complexity.

I recommend that you focus on the the primary accounts and add only where you feel the addition is valuable to your brand or reputation. In the case of existing accounts, make sure that each account has a link back to your primary website. At the very least, these existing memberships should be driving traffic back to your main website. If the account has no way to link back, then leave it for now.  Remember that the quality of interaction is more important then the quantity.  Having a few social media channels that are well used and popular is more productive and will have more impact on your business then created profiles on a hundred different sites.

You’ll begin to see results right away with the demonstration phase. Because this phase is all about engagement and communication, you will be actively communicating with customers, vendors, or partners using the various social channels you have created. Whether you are responding to a message on Twitter, a wall post on Facebook, or a group message in LinkedIn, you will see the responses almost immediately and you will be able to gauge how engaged your customers are in the arenas in which you choose to engage with them.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/x-ray_delta_one/4734206265/sizes/m/

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Throwing Your Own Social Media Party http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/throwing-your-own-social-media-party http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/throwing-your-own-social-media-party#comments Thu, 23 Sep 2010 15:26:41 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=342 This final phase of the L.E.A.D. social media strategy is about demonstrating your comfort and use of social media. The purpose of the demonstration phase is to direct your customers and potential customers to YOUR social media places instead of engaging with customers in THEIR social media spaces. In essence, during this phase you are orchestrating and facilitating the conversations you have with your customers rather than just joining in on existing conversations. A simple analogy for this would be throwing your own party as opposed to going to someone else’s party.

An important thing to remember with the demonstration phase is that customers will only participate with you in your space if they trust you and if they feel comfortable sharing with you. Even though you are having a party doesn’t mean anyone is going to come. You need to invite them to your party and you need to make it worthwhile for them to come by providing something of value. In this case, you may provide them with access to interesting articles, content, and knowledge they can’t find elsewhere.

The objective of the demonstration phase is to better manage the conversations around your brand. Remember that like all social media, you will never be able to control the conversations, but you can influence where, when, what, and how people talk about you online if you are listening to what they say and providing information that is relevant and timely for them (during the articulation phase).

Success in demonstrating is measurable by the number of people that choose to accept your invitation to connect and by the increase in brand recognition you receive. The primary ways to measure your success are:

  1. An increase in the number of fans and overall engagement of fans on your Facebook fan page. You will also find that your Facebook fan page will rank highly for your chosen keywords and your brand when searching on Google. This is why it is important to have it stand out differently from your regular website and blog.
  2. An increase in Twitter followers and overall engagement of users on Twitter. This may not be directly attributable to an increase in followers but could be because you are actively engaging with other Twitter users. It is okay for you to follow a large number of users on Twitter, however, be careful not to follow spam followers or robots, because this will only result in spam filling your friend feed.
  3. If you run any promotions, then the level of engagement of the contests will also be a good indication of how involved your Fans are with your brand and how interested they are in receiving promotional messages from you. This is why I recommend that the contests be unique to the channel and have their own specific targets. In this way, you can effectively measure the success of each promotion by channel.
  4. Increased engagement with B2B through LinkedIn. This will occur organically as you build your network and connect with people you know. This is particularly true if you are in a visible position with the organization.

As we dive into the demonstration phase, we’ll take a look at a variety of different tools and methods for demonstrating your expertise.  As with all good things, you must be patient and persistent in your demonstrating.  The perfect party takes time to plan.

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The Impact of Letting Your Content Go http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/the-impact-of-letting-your-content-go http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/the-impact-of-letting-your-content-go#comments Wed, 22 Sep 2010 14:38:33 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=356 The articulation phase of the L.E.A.D. social media strategy has a direct impact on two parts of the marketing funnel. Inspirational content will influence the user during the awareness stage and the consideration stage.  This is nothing new. Companies have been providing content in this manner for decades.  In fact, the earliest magazines, including Ladies Home Journal were used to push content about advertiser products.  That said, consumers have become much more savvy when it comes to endorsed product pitches or blatant marketing messages, so it is important to provide content that is not a product sales pitch.  The early Michelin tourist guides are a great example of this sponsored but non-sales related content.

You can measure your success by correlating bookings or inquiries directly from content created for your blog or other third party sites. For example, if you write a piece of content for a travel blog, make sure to use a Google Analytics referral code with the piece in order to directly track your conversions from these articles.  If your tour or activity booking software supports referral codes, you could apply a unique promotional code or referral code to your links to track revenue from these sources.  If this is not possible, then measure your referral traffic through your analytics in order to compare direct traffic or organic traffic versus referrals from your blog or third party sites. It is important that this is measurable so that you can determine how successful your articulation practices are in terms of impact on your business. Remember that, although the direct marketing costs are limited, there is a time cost associated with the successful implementation of the articulation phase. If you take the time to listen carefully to your audience and focus your writing efforts on addressing their specific needs, your results will be much better than if you simply attempt to write for the sake of attracting traffic.

Your posts and articles will be indexed very quickly and you should see alerts for the content almost immediately. Don’t expect to see comments from readers right away. It will take time for your content to be recognized by others in the community. To improve your chances of being seen and heard by others, make sure to use your experience with commenting on other sites to draw more attention to your own posts.  Some simple ways to drive traffic to your content include:

  1. Mentioning that you have written a post about a particular subject on another blog site.
  2. Contacting bloggers with whom you have created a rapport and asking them for their feedback on your posts.
  3. Sharing your post on Facebook or Twitter using the tools like Facebook share, notes, and Twitterfeed.
  4. Including a summary of your post in your monthly newsletter.
  5. Syndicating your posts through credible blog sharing sites like BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog, and Technorati.

The build it (or in this case write it) and they will come philosophy really doesn’t work for social media.  With so many blog sites (many of which are spam sites) there is actually a decreasing likelihood that your content will be found if it is not good, relevant, and timely.  Out of all the phases of the L.E.A.D. social media strategy, the articulation phase has the potential to have the most impact, but also be the most costly.  How effective your content will be is completely based on your commitment to writing good content and your consistency in producing it.

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Set your content free using social media for tourism businesses http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/set-your-content-free http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/set-your-content-free#comments Tue, 21 Sep 2010 15:24:56 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=351 There are a variety of tools available for you to use to execute your articulation objectives.  Most of the most popular tools are free or very low cost and can be integrated with your existing web site withe relative ease.

If you are not already using a content management system that supports blogging, I would highly recommend that you consider setting up a blog on a CMS that supports blogging.  Joomla, Mambo, and Drupal can all be made to support blogging.  In addition, the WordPress platform (which was originally developed as a blogging platform) can be used as a CMS.  If the platform does not support blogging, then I recommend you create a separate blog site hosted on your domain, for example blog.yourdomain.com or www.yourdomain.com/blog.

Additional modules that should be part of your blog include:

These additional modules are available for various blogging and cms systems and will increase the social sharing of your content and give your readers the ability to spread your content when and where appropriate. In addition to your blog you can now distribute your content from your blog to your Facebook fan page and through Twitter using Twitterfeed. In order to connect your blog to Facebook and Twitter you need to make the following adjustments:

  • Facebook – Connect your fan page notes to your blog feed. Facebook will allow you to import your blog feed on a regular basis and re-publish your blog posts on your public fan page.
  • TwitterFeed.com – Twitterfeed allows you to post notices to your twitter account whenever you add posts to your blog. It is important that this should only be used in conjunction with regular conversational tweets. If not, your account will be perceived as a push marketing mechanism and will not be actively followed.

The bottom line is that the technology to get your content online is the least challenging part of the equation.  In order to be successful during the articulation phase, it is imperative that you produce content that specifically meets the needs of your customers based on what they tell you during the listening and engagement phases.

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Build brand awareness using social media for tour operators http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/build-awareness-of-your-brand-by-articulating-your-offering http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/build-awareness-of-your-brand-by-articulating-your-offering#comments Mon, 20 Sep 2010 17:57:13 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=347 The Articulation phase of the L.E.A.D. social media for tour operators strategy is also a transition phase.  It is transitional because during this phase you will shift from being a content consumer and commenter into a content producer. The articulation phase is about generating content that fulfills the customers’ need for relevant information and details about your products or services. During the articulation phase, your goal is to drive demand for your services by influencing them to use what it is that you offer. This phase is the most challenging for most because of the content production requirement. It is, however, also one of the most important steps because it confirms what you have learned during the listening and engagement phases and provides a framework for future engagement with potential customers.

To better understand the role that articulation plays in the social media cycle, you first have to understand the three phases of the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel consists of:

  • Awareness: This is a research phase. The customer is looking for a solution to their problem (whether it is something to do while on vacation, or where to stay) but is not sure what service to use or where to go. This research will include reading blogs, reviewing websites, reading news and potentially discussing options online. The more you participate in the arenas where this research will occur, the more awareness you will build about your brand.
  • Consideration: During this phase the customer has defined some parameters around the solution that they want and is now considering which ones to use. During this phase, it is essential that you provide all the information possible to help the customer make the decision to choose your service over your competitors. This may include things like providing a competitive analysis or chart, outlining your features in detail, a video introduction, slide show presentation, tips or howtos, or perhaps even a personal contact.
  • Action: Once the customer has decided to use your service, make sure that there is a clear call to action and that it is measurable. If the action is to book a tour or hotel room, then make that clear and make it easy for the customer to do so. If you want to drive the customer to a call, then make that obvious and use a phone number that can be tracked to web referrals.

Your articulation objectives are to:

  1. Write content that helps to influence the customer to do business with you.
  2. Provide the customer with information that will help them choose a strategy that aligns with your business offering (whether or not it is with you).
  3. Provide your potential customers with all the information they need to make a purchasing decision with you.
  4. Give the potential customer the customer service experience that they have come to expect from the materials you have provided for them.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the articulation phase is all about and what your expectations are, we can look at what tools and services you might want to consider using to increase your chances of success.

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Engaging with your audience – Keep it simple and relevant http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/engaging-with-your-audience-keep-it-simple-and-relevant http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/engaging-with-your-audience-keep-it-simple-and-relevant#comments Fri, 17 Sep 2010 20:20:40 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=329  

The Engagement phase is the second phase of the four step L.E.A.D. social media strategy and is the first step in connecting and conversing with your potential customers, partners, and vendors. The Engagement phase is all about joining into an existing conversation rather than starting your own conversation. During this step you are beginning to participate in discussions that are already happening on the sites that you discover during the listening phase.

The goal of the engagement phase is to begin building your reputation as an expert in what you do.  The key here is to prove you are knowledgeable without being perceived as a salesperson. You are, in essence, proving that you walk the walk.  If you are a guided tour operator in Amsterdam, that may mean providing insider tips that no one else can provide, or if you are a mountain biking operator it might be information about tuning your bike for certain conditions.

You may comment on a post or a question and provide insight into your particular destination or activity without outwardly promoting your brand. Remember, the idea here is to build credibility in your experience. As more people recognize your name and brand and associate it with the activity, the more trust you build with readers.

Remember these important engagement rules:

  1. Respond quickly (once a day is fine).
  2. Always respond as yourself and NOT your brand. Why? Because people prefer to connect with people rather than faceless companies (no matter how small).
  3. Always be polite and professional.
  4. Do not oversell or over promise in your responses.
  5. Take sales questions off-line or into another channel. A good approach for example would be “I’d be happy to talk to you about that. Please send your contact information to me at me{at}mycompany[dot]com and we can talk offline”.
  6. When commenting on posts, try to always be positive or constructively critical. Negative rants will undoubtedly leave a negative impression of you regardless of the context. Remember that you always want your brand and the experience to be associated with positive statements rather than negative ones.  People (for the most part) like to do business with positive people and companies.

What’s the point of engaging?

Your objective with the Engagement phase is to be seen at the party. For example, when you go to a social gathering or a party you start by walking around and listening to conversations or looking for people that you know. When you find someone or hear something that interests you, you generally wait and listen some more finding an appropriate time to introduce yourself and become part of the conversation. That moment that you introduce yourself is the Engagement phase. In social media it is identified by you leaving comments on blog sites or social networking site that relate to your business or area of interest. When you leave comments, for example, most sites will allow you to add a link back to your website. Instead of just using your generic home page address, consider linking to a profile page on your website that has more information about you and your role with the business. Be aware though, that your goal should not be to build link backs to your site. Many SEO “experts” or services will post comments on behalf of their clients just to build link backs. The results in this case are obviously flawed and will often get your IP address banned from commenting in the future. Focus on providing useful and relevant content that is keenly targeted at what you do or where your business is located.

Here is a practical example of proper engagement strategy. Assume that these comments are for a blog post describing someone’s experience:

An example of a less effective comment:

I love your post, it so interesting. I will come back often to read more.”

Why is this post ineffective?

  1. The grammar is poor. You would be surprised how many of these comments are floating around blogs and social networks posted by SEO companies.
  2. It has no relevance to the subject of the post and is generic.
  3. The commenter made no effort to engage with the writer or with other potential readers.

An example of an effective comment:

I’ve lived and worked in [location] for many years and being close to [location] I can absolutely agree that [location] is an amazing place to visit. There are so many cool things to do in and around [location] including horseback riding, some great hiking, skiing in the winter, rafting in the summer, and a whole host of other activities. Thanks for the great post, it was so nice to read someone else’s perspective.”

This comment is much more effective because:

  1. It relates to the subject matter of the post. It mentioned the location and the fact that you live and work in the area.
  2. It adds value to the post by confirming that what the writer has written is true.
  3. It contains lots of keywords relating to what you do and your business (ie. [location],  Activities, things to do)
  4. By acknowledging and thanking the author, you open the door to reciprocating in the future once you start contributing content in the future.

A Special Note about negative comments and reviews

At some point every business faces the possibility of a negative review or a comment.  Whether this is on your blog or on a third party site like TripAdvisor, how you respond to the comment is almost as, if not more important than the negative review itself.  Don’t get too worried about it, it’s a lot like the first ding in your new car, eventually it will happen so just accept it when it does, deal with it, and move on.  Approach negative reviews and comments with a positive attitude and with the right frame of mind.  In other words, before blaming yourself or the customer, look at it as an opportunity to re-engage with someone who has take the time to point out a problem and take steps to correct it.  If you ask yourself the following question, you will most likely handle the situation in a more positive way:

How would I deal with this customer if they were standing in front of me?

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Engaging with customers with tour operator social media http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/engaging-doesnt-need-a-lot-of-tools http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/engaging-doesnt-need-a-lot-of-tools#comments Thu, 16 Sep 2010 15:04:14 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=335

No special tools are required for the engagement phase, however, I do recommend optional profiles for the purposes of properly branding your comments:

  1. Disqus.com – Disqus is a shared commenting system used by many blogs. It allows you to post your comments to Twitter and share them on Facebook from the same profile. This is nice because you also share the link the site that you are commenting on which provides added value for the site owner. The Disqus system allows you add a profile photo to your account. This profile photo will appear whenever you leave a comment on any site. I recommend that you use a photo of yourself rather than your logo. Ideally, it is a picture of you wearing your logo!
  2. Gravatar.com – Gravatar stands for “Globally Recognized Avatar” and, like Disqus, is used to associate a profile image with your email address. Gravatar is used on many blog sites to personalize comments left by visitors. The benefit of using a Gravatar is that you can brand your comments as your own. Whenever you post a comment on a site, your Gravatar will be linked to your email address automatically and your Gravatar image will be shown next to your comment. Again, make sure you use a photo of you rather than the logo because this will be much more personal and humanize your comments.
  3. Create a Profile Page – If you have not already done so, create a page on your website about you. This is not an online resume but rather a place for you to talk a little bit about yourself, what you do, and why you do what you do. When you create your Gravatar and Disqus accounts and when you add comments to other websites, link to this page as your website link instead of linking directly to your business website. This serves two purposes, visitors are much more likely to click on the link if they can see that the page is going to provide more information about you, because people are naturally curious. Secondly, once they are on the site and they have satisfied their curiosity they are more likely to stick around and visit other areas of your site once they have come to know who you are.

A common fear with engagement, especially in the way I have recommended is that the person becomes mixed with the brand and as a result, there is confusion. This is, in my opinion, not a risk if the engagement is well executed. In order to avoid brand confusion, it is imperative that you always associate yourself with your brand when you leave comments or talk about yourself or your business. Most people are very capable of separating the person from the brand if it is distinct. Where it becomes difficult is that if “John” or “Sally” becomes more important than your brand. This will only occur if you are not diligent about making sure that you are always “John/Sally from YourCompany”. Your success in engagement, unlike listening, can be directly measured through your analytics tools. For example your success can be measured by:

  1. Increased link backs to your site (identified through Google Alerts).
  2. Click throughs to your specific profile page (another reason to have it) measured through your analytics tools.
  3. Improved Google search results (not guaranteed but likely depending on the level of engagement).
  4. Increased mentions of your brand or site on third party sites. This may be in responses to your comments, through others mentioning your comments, or through guest contributions on blogs.
  5. If you use a referring code that can be tracked through to your sign-up page, you should be able to measure revenue as it relates to engagement. To do this you will need to be able to pass a referral code from your main website through to your sign-up page.

If you are using Google Analytics to measure the traffic on your site (and you should) then you can use them in combination with tools like Social Mention to measure your overall social impact.

You can expect to see results relatively quickly. As you comment on posts using your brand name and url, you should immediately see those comments appear in your alerts. This is a good sign because it means that you are starting to build brand awareness. Although you may not see immediate increases in referral traffic, you should start to see more mentions in Google.

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Listening Tools to Monitor Your Tourism Social Media http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/listening-tools-to-monitor-your-brand-on-line http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/listening-tools-to-monitor-your-brand-on-line#comments Wed, 15 Sep 2010 19:16:03 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=317 In the previous article, titled “Listening for your brand online“, I mentioned a few monitoring tools that you can use to listen for mentions of your brand or keywords.  I will now go into a bit more detail about each of these tools.

Google Alerts

If you only use one monitoring tool, Google Alerts is probably your best bet.  It is very easy to set up and you can adjust what you are interested in as you go.  I recommend you start with broader search terms and then narrow them down as you begin to see results come through.  If you choose the email alerts option, you will receive an email for each term for which you have chosen to be alerted.  Remember that you can always include alerts for your competition, so you can see where their brand is showing up too.  If you are finding too many results, try to be more specific with the keywords you are searching against.

Backtype

Backtype is a tool for monitoring blog comments from around the web.  It also works by finding links that you have shared through Twitter and attributing them to you.  You can see how many times the link has been shared and how many people are talking about you or your brand.  When you first use it, you may not find any results.  For a new company or a company just starting out with social media, this is not unusual.  As you begin to engage more, you will find that your comments stream will increase.

Boardtracker

Forums and discussion boards are still a very popular way for people to interact with each other.  Popular travel forums like Lonely Planet’s Thorntree generate leads for travel companies the World over.  Boardtracker searches forums for mentions on your brand or keyword (depending on what you search) and returns results.  I did find that that many of the results from Boardtracker were already in the regular Google Search, so you may want to use Boardtracker as a supplementary search tool. By the way, if you are not already a member of the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum, I highly recommend you sign up and start contributing.

Twitter Search

Twitter search is probably the best way to see how people are tweeting about your brand.  The important thing to remember is that Twitter search can be accessed from a variety of tools, including the aforementioned Backtype and even Google Alerts.  If you are using a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop, you can store your Twitter searches and refer back to them in real-time throughout the day.  As you become more and more active online, you can expect to see your new content to show up in various streams in real-time.  This article, for example, will most likely appear in Google’s index within about five or ten minutes of being published.  (Hence the increasing importance of editing!)

FriendFeed

Think of FriendFeed as a funnel for your social interactions.  Friendfeed can combine your various social streams into one aggregated stream so it makes it easier to see what is happen across all your social channels.  For example, you can combine your Facebook updates, Twitter searches, Google Buzz, and other feeds together and watch conversations that you are having across all of them.  If this is too much to digest, you can limit to the ones that you want and add and remove streams as required.

Social Mention

Social Mention is the one tool out of the group that truly combines feeds with measurement.  You can see at a glance, the keywords, tags, and streams that make up your social presence online.  The dashboard view of each search term gives you the most recent live search results and then shows you:

  • Sentiment – Whether the mentions are postive, negative, or neutral
  • Top Keywords
  • Top Users
  • Top hashtags
  • Top Sources (which sites or services the mentions were pulled from)

In summary, there are many different ways to find out what is happening online.  If you can only handle the basics, I recommend that you start with Google Alerts and then add Social Mention to refine the social content.  Once you have the basics down, you can consider using a more in-depth paid social monitoring service.

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Use tourism social media to listen for your brand http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/listening-for-your-brand-on-line http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/listening-for-your-brand-on-line#comments Tue, 14 Sep 2010 17:21:16 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=309 The Listening phase is the first and, I would argue, the most important step in the L.E.A.D. ™ social media strategy. Like any conversation, listening affords the listener the luxury of understanding the nature of the conversation, the individuals involved, the subject matter, and the direction of the conversation. Listening also provides the listener with vital insights into where, when, why, and how your potential customers are talking about you or your brand.  Listening for relevant content in social media can be difficult and requires understanding how to listen and for what.

Listening with a purpose

The objectives of the listening phase are to understand the conversations that are currently happening around your brand. You will use tools that will tell you when your brand is mentioned on web sites, blogs, Twitter, publicly accessible Facebook pages, and more. Initially mentions may be nothing more then changes that you make to your own website or on your own blog, but eventually these mentions will begin to indicate when people are talking about you.

But what if there are no mentions of our brand? Not a problem, this is generally an indication that your brand is not being discussed or mentioned on-line yet. This is a great opportunity for you to start conversations or seed discussion that is relevant to your brand without making a direct sales pitch. Remember that the tools that you use to listen and the terms you are listening to do not necessarily have to be brand names but could be keywords.

By listening you will find:

  1. Where people are talking
  2. What people are saying
  3. How people feel about you
  4. Problems & common concerns
  5. Trends & opportunities

Social Media Listening Devices

There are a number of tools at your disposal for listening to conversations on-line.  The following is a list of some of the ones I recommend.  Ofcourse, there are many other ancillary tools that piggyback on these that can further refine your listening.  My goal is to provide you with the basic tools.  You can always get more advanced as your become experienced with listening and monitoring your brand.

  1. Google Alerts – Notifies you when your keywords or brand show up in Google searches.
  2. Backtype – Monitors blog comments for your keywords
  3. Yacktrack - Notifies you of mentions of your keywords in social comments.
  4. Boardtracker - Monitors discussion forums and notifies you when your name is mentioned in a post.
  5. Twitter Search – Allows you to search for your brand or keywords across twitter.
  6. FriendFeed - Aggregator that pulls in all your social feeds for single view
  7. Alert Thingy – Receive desktop notifications from Friendfeed
  8. Social Mention – Allows you to track mentions of your brand across blogs, videos, photos, etc.

In the upcoming article we will discuss of each of these tools in more detail.

Your Listening Goals

There is no clear return on investment for your time in listening to social media. The returns are somewhat intangible and can be more closely related to market research or market analysis. What you are doing during this phase is to understand and define what your social media strategy should be and how best to engage with your customers and potential customers. Some success factors to consider for the listening phase include:

  • Creating a list of sites where your potential customers hang out.
  • Find and follow your competitors.
  • Understand what type of information your customers are looking for when they are on-line.
  • Understand where you can start promoting conversations without a lot of work.

For more online monitoring tools, take a look at this Mashable Article.

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Getting Started with Social Media for Your Tourism Business http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/getting-started-with-social-media-for-your-tourism-business http://www.rezgo.com/2010/09/getting-started-with-social-media-for-your-tourism-business#comments Mon, 13 Sep 2010 15:30:13 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=214 If you are like most business people online, you are probably bombarded with sales pitches by SEO and social media experts all claiming that they can get you tons of traffic in no time.  But like all things that are truly worthwhile, there are no quick fixes to being successful at either search engine optimization or social media.  Both take effort and time to be effective and successful in the short and long term.  The nice thing is that there are a lot of tools available online to help you find success.

I’ve spent the past two years developing a process which outlines the major steps of any social media strategy.  The following series of articles are designed to provide you with a structure for focusing your social media efforts.

There are four key phases of social media strategy based on the acronym L.E.A.D. ™ , which stands for Listen, Engage, Articulate, and Demonstrate. Each phase of the strategy has its own set of objectives and its own measures of success. The benefit of this phased approach is that you have the choice of participating at different levels and seeing success without having to complete all phases.

In addition to outlining the four phase social media approach, we will build a social media calendar with action items that will help you tackle the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that will form part of your social media habits.  My objectives over the course of these articles will be to help you:

  1. Increase social media mentions of your company, brand, or destination
  2. Increase customer engagement
  3. Identify where customers are congregating online
  4. Identify and engage with potential customers in their preferred environment
  5. Increasing referrals to your website through social media

You DO social media already… you just don’t know it

The best way to approach social media is to imagine yourself entering a room filled with people. What would you do first? Most likely, you would wander around a bit and listen to the conversations happening around you. You would listen for things that have meaning for you or that may be topics you have some experience with.  You might also look for people that you know. If you find someone or hear a conversation that you know about, you might wait for an opportunity to insert yourself into the conversation by asking a question.  Once the conversation gets going, it will proceed as conversations often do in any number of directions.  At some point however, if you have been asking questions and interacting, the opportunity for you to introduce yourself and your business might come up. Almost everyone has had an experience like this in the “real world”. The thing that most people don’t realize is that social networks work the same way.

The L.E.A.D. ™ approach will guide you through this simple and straightforward process of listening, engaging in conversations, articulating what you know, and demonstrating your expertise or experience in a way that builds your reputation, credibility, and trust with your customers.

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Mobile Tourism 101 – Shouldn’t my mobile site look more exciting? http://www.rezgo.com/2010/08/mobile-tourism-101-%e2%80%93-shouldn%e2%80%99t-my-mobile-site-look-more-exciting http://www.rezgo.com/2010/08/mobile-tourism-101-%e2%80%93-shouldn%e2%80%99t-my-mobile-site-look-more-exciting#comments Fri, 13 Aug 2010 22:10:15 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=292

Why aren’t there more photos on my mobile site? Can’t we have interactive Google Maps on my mobile site?

Your mobile site should be designed to be as usable as possible – it’s for people that are in the destination, not for people planning to visit your destination (that’s what your “normal” mobile site is for).

Because of the poor quality and slow speeds of mobile networks around the United States (and generally elsewhere), your primary design consideration must be getting data to users as quick as possible, and this means keeping things as small as possible by cutting out everything but the most critical data.

A secondary but important criteria is making sure your site runs on as many types of phones as possible, which means avoiding using advanced features of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This need will fade over the next few years as greater numbers of people transition from simple feature phones to advanced smartphones.

Finally: as a rule of thumb, if your mobile site “looks amazing” on a normal desktop browser, it’s probably a lousy mobile site.

This article was originally posted on the Discover Anywhere Mobile blog and is re-posted with permission. You can read the original post here:

http://www.discoveranywheremobile.com/blog/mobile-tourism-101-shouldn%E2%80%99t-my-mobile-site-look-more-exciting/

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Add Your Tours To Any Site Using Widgets http://www.rezgo.com/2010/07/add-your-tours-to-any-site-using-widgets http://www.rezgo.com/2010/07/add-your-tours-to-any-site-using-widgets#comments Fri, 02 Jul 2010 05:00:15 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=2793 You can now post your tours on any website using a single line of javascript and/or custom css styling (if you’re feeling adventuresome). The widget is very flexible and allows you display tours based on the following criteria:

  1. Specific tours (based on tour SKU).
  2. Tags (these are the tags that you assign to your tours)
  3. Smart (searches across all text based fields within the tour)

Widget Options

To install the default widget, copy and paste the follow javascript code on your website or on your blog (remember to replace “yourdomain” with your actual Rezgo sub-domain:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://yourdomain.rezgo.com/widget/javascript”></script>

This widget will display all your tours with default styling in a list similar to one on your default tour page.

  • show – The fields you want to display including image, details, name, duration, location, and price
  • details_text - The label for the more details link (which leads to the tour details page)
  • key – This allows you to have multiple widgets on the same page. Set this to a numeric value that is unique for the widget.  For example: 1,2,3, etc.
  • page – The number of items to show per page
  • next_text – The label for the next page link (when pagination is enabled).
  • prev_text – The label for the previous page link (when pagination is enabled).
  • limit – Limits the number of items to display. This is a number such as 1,2,3,4,5 etc.
  • promo – The promo code you want to use when the customer clicks on the more details link.
  • ref - The referral code to use when the customer clicks on the more details link.  This is useful for tracking referrals from partners, resellers, etc.

Styling Options

Each item in the widget is controlled by its own class which means you have the ability to control how each item is displayed using a custom stylesheet.  This stylesheet can be customized for each widget on a page by using the following structure:

  • #rezgo_widget – Append a number to this class for each widget.  For example if you have more than one widget, then use the key value and append it to the end.  For example if a widget is key=1 then the class for that widget will be #rezgo_widget1.
  • #item – The container class for each tour item displayed
  • #image – The tour thumbnail image class
  • #tour_title – Tour name text class
  • #duration – Duration text class
  • #location – Location text class
  • #intro – Introductory text class
  • #price – Price text class
  • #btn_details – Display class for the details button.
  • #next_btn – Display class for the Next page button.
  • #prev_btn – Display class for the Previous page button.

Sample Widgets

Default widget set to 2 items per page

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://amsterdamcitytours.rezgo.com/widget/javascript?key=1&page=2″></script>

Default widget showing 3 items per page with tag “Airport Transfers”.

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://amsterdamcitytours.rezgo.com/widget/javascript?key=2&limit=3&t=tag&q=airport+transfers”></script>

Widget set to 3 items per page with a smart search for all items with the word cruise and display the next button with the label “more…”

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://amsterdamcitytours.rezgo.com/widget/javascript?key=3&page=2&t=smart&q=cruise&next_text=more…&prev_text=…back”></script>

Widget set to show a specific item, in this case SKU: 3490, without price or details

<style> #rezgo_widget5 #item { height: 100px; border: 0px; } </style> <script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://amsterdamcitytours.rezgo.com/widget/javascript?key=4&t=uid&q=3490&hide=all&show=image,name,duration,location”></script>

Widget set to show a specific item, in this case SKU: 3490, with price, name, and large thumbnail

<style>
#rezgo_widget5 #item {
border: 0px;
}
#rezgo_widget5 #item #image img {
height: 120px;
width: 120px;
border: 0px;
}
#rezgo_widget5 #item #price {
color: #FFCC00;
font-size: 20px;
}
#rezgo_widget5 #item #tour_title {
color: #666666;
font-size: 16px;
font-weight: bold;
}
</style>

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://amsterdamcitytours.rezgo.com/widget/javascript?key=5&t=uid&q=3490&hide=all&show=image,name,starting”></script>

These are just some examples of how the widgets may be formatted to suite your site and display purposes. As you build them out, feel free to share them with the us and we’ll feature your use of the widget on the site. As always, should you have questions, please feel free to post them on our customer forum over at http://support.rezgo.com.

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Using Promotional Codes to Drive On-line Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2010/06/using-promotional-codes-to-drive-on-line-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2010/06/using-promotional-codes-to-drive-on-line-bookings#comments Fri, 18 Jun 2010 16:58:20 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=200 Prerequisites: You have a website and an online booking engine that supports the use of coupons or promotional codes and you want to drive more bookings through your online channel.

Estimated Time for Completion: 15 min reading time (plus time to create your promotional code)

Details: Coupons and promotions have been around for a long time and are commonly used to drive business by providing price incentives.  As a tour or activity operator, there are a lot of ways you can use a promotional coupon to drive new or repeat business to your website.  In the traditional model, a customer would find a coupon in a newspaper or in a coupon book, cut it out, bring it with them, and redeem it when they take the tour or activity.  Now, however, there are much more efficient ways to use coupons with online bookings.

When creating your online coupons, consider using a fixed price discount or percentage discount.  These are generally much easier to manage then a “2 for 1″ style promotion, especially if you offer multiple tours or services supported by a single coupon.  Logically speaking, a “2 for 1″ coupon implies a 50% discount when two of the same tour are booked, but complexity ensues when you have three or more booking.  For example, is it 2 for 1 for the first two and then full price for the third? If so, then the calculation needs to be 2 at 50%, 1 at 100% and then the total divided by three to determine the per person cost.  If you didn’t understand that calculation imagine trying to manage that for multiple bookings.  Using fixed price or percentage discount promotions will ultimately make your life much easier in the long term.

Here are four simple ways to use coupons or promotional codes to drive online bookings to your website:

  1. Print to Online Conversion Coupons – These are very promotions that you run in print that must be redeemed online.  For example, if you print a brochure or rack card, you might include a promotional code that can only be redeemed with online booking.  You might also use a printed ad in a magazine or newspaper to drive customers directly to your website and to book.  This is a very good way to confirm that users saw your advertisement and converted into a paying customer.
  2. Specialty Promotional Links – This method requires that your tour operator software support the addition of promotional codes to your website address so that the customer doesn’t need to re-enter the promotional code when they visit your site.  This website address (or URL) will be placed in content on your website or on a partner website when advertising your promotion.  For example, your promotional text might say, “Click here to receive $5 OFF the Morning City Tour”.  The text in this case would link to the tour in question with a specific promotional code attached which reduces the per person cost by $5.00.
  3. Repeat Customer Coupon – This is a great way to build customer loyalty.  Create a promotional code specifically for your customers that provides them with a special discount the next time they visit.  When a customer uses the coupon, they are telling you that they are a repeat customer and that they appreciate the fact that you provided a coupon.  Although you can certainly create coupons for each customer if you want, I recommend that you create a single “PREFERREDCUSTOMER” coupon (or something similar) that you use for all customers.  If you find that this coupon is abused, you can always remove the coupon and create a new one.
  4. Friends and Family Coupon – Word of mouth a powerful marketing tool, especially for tourism businesses.  A great way to give your customers an incentive for evangelizing your business is by providing them with a friends and family coupon.  They can give it out to as many people as they want and when the coupon is used, you will know it was the result of a direct referral from one of your customers.  If you want to track further, you can always add a custom field and ask where they heard of your business.

Outcome: You will have a good idea of how to create a promotional code or coupon for your business and how to track it against your bookings.

Added Reading:

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Measuring Marketing ROI for Your Rack Cards http://www.rezgo.com/2010/06/measuring-marketing-roi-for-your-rack-cards http://www.rezgo.com/2010/06/measuring-marketing-roi-for-your-rack-cards#comments Fri, 18 Jun 2010 15:59:05 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=201 Prerequisites: You are planning on printing marketing brochures or rack cards for distribution to various tourism outlets and DMO/CVB offices.  You also have an online booking engine that will allow you track referral codes or promotional coupon codes.

Estimated Time for Completion: 15 min reading time (plus time to design your brochure)

Details: Every in-destination tourism company (whether it is an attraction, tour operator, or activity provider) prints brochures and rack cards for distribution to tourists.  It doesn’t matter what market you are in, you will find these brochures in the lobbies of hotels, store fronts, and tourist offices.  Hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) of dollars are spent on the printing and distribution of these brochures.  But how do you actually track the effectiveness of these brochures? How many companies actually track their referrals from these printed tidbits?  Surprisingly, none of the companies I have talked to over the years has actually tracked (effectively) these brochures.

Here is a very simple and cost effective way to track direct sales and referrals from your printed rack cards.  Using your tour operator software, set a promotional code or coupon code that will discount your tour OR a specific tour price by a a specific percentage or fixed amount.  For example, you may offer a $5 off or 5% off coupon.  Make sure that when you create your coupon, that the discount is triggered by a specific coupon code that you print exclusively on the brochure or rack card.  Your call to action might be:

Book Online & Save $5
(use coupon code “5OFFRACK”)

If you want the coupon code to work for phone reservations too then make sure that your tour operator software can support the use of the coupon codes for back-office or offline sales as well.  If you want to support phone reservations as well, then your action may be:

Book Online or Call 555-555-5555 & Save 5%
(use or mention code “5OFFRACK”)

In both cases now the potential customer who picks up your brochure or rack card has a direct incentive to either call you or book your tour or activity on your website.  If they do, then your tour operator software should be able to tell you how many bookings were a direct result of the coupon tied to your rack card.

Note: If you have already printed your brochures then it’s not too late to track the referrals.  Be sure to add a question to your booking form that asks how they heard of your business and make sure to include “Brochure/Rack Card” as an option.  Although it may not be as effective at driving sales because of the lack of incentive, asking for the source could be a useful mechanism for determining where your main sales referral sources are.

Outcome: You will have a brochure with a call to action that you can use for the purposes of tracking the return on investment on your brochure printing and distribution costs.

Added Reading:

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Tracking PPC Campaigns with On-line Bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2010/06/tracking-ppc-campaigns-with-on-line-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2010/06/tracking-ppc-campaigns-with-on-line-bookings#comments Fri, 18 Jun 2010 15:05:55 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=203 Prerequisites: You are planning on using PPC to drive traffic to your website and you want to track both referrals as well as conversions from the campaigns.

Estimated Time for Completion: 15 min reading time (plus time to set up your PPC campaign)

Details: PPC or pay per click can be a very effective way of driving traffic to your website especially if your website does not rank well on Google search results because of high competition for your keywords.  As part of any Google PPC campaign, you will have access to using Google analytics to track your campaign success as well as Google e-commerce conversion code to track your conversions.  In addition to using these two tools, I also recommend you use a specific referral code to track your bookings against your clickthroughs and conversions as reported through your analytics.  Afterall, a ppc campaign is only really as effective as the bookings you generate as a result of the campaign.

In order to track a referral code through to booking, you need to be using a tour operator software that can support referral codes attached to the URL (website address).  When the visitor clicks on the Google ad, they are referred to your booking website along with the referral code that you specified in the link that you used when you set up the campaign.  Your referral link should look something like this:

http://adventuredemo.rezgo.com?refid=google-campaign-123

You’ll notice that in this case, the referral id is stored as the you navigate through the booking website.  Once the booking is completed, the referral code is stored with the booking and can be reported.  By ensuring the system is connected to your Google Analytics account and using your Google E-commerce conversion code, you can track visitors from the point they click on the Google ad right through to booking and revenue reporting.

Outcome: You will know how to set up your links for your PPC campaign for the purposes of tracking click throughs and conversions.

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Social Media Starter Kit by Graham Robertson http://www.rezgo.com/2010/04/social-media-starter-kit-by-graham-robertson http://www.rezgo.com/2010/04/social-media-starter-kit-by-graham-robertson#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 21:07:02 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=254 This guest post is written by Graham Robertson who currently works as an operations Team Leader for a global online travel company and devotes an obsessive amount of time to following current travel news and trends.  You can follow Graham at his blog, Project Wander, or via Twitter at @Grayum_Ian.

Its hard to go online these days without seeing someone talking about social media, or more specifically, how it can transform the way we do business with our customers. It’s true, social media can be a powerful tool from a marketing, sales and customer service perspective, but with all the “Gurus” and “Experts” popping up it’s more important than ever to take what we hear with a grain of salt. We’re all students in this new discipline and it’s important we share as much with each other as possible. In that spirit, I’d like to share a few things I’ve picked up so far and leave you with a couple of actionable social media marketing techniques.

Barriers to entry- There are very few physical barriers to getting set up with an arsenal of social media marketing tools. Most are free, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts, others you will most likely have already, like a computer and an internet connection. The most confronting aspect of jumping in to the social media deep end is the preception that you will be losing control of your brand. This is a very common misconception, I’ve heard it from online marketing and sales people alike, but it’s just not the case. Your customers will talk about you, whether you are there to participate or not.

Essential tools- To sign up and get started, facebook.com and twitter.com are all you need, but to really take advantage of the data available it’s best to invest some time in to third party tools. For Twitter, you cant do better than Tweetdeck. Available for both PC and Mac, Tweetdeck allows you to run multiple Twitter accounts with real-time updates. Most importantly, Tweekdeck allows for real-time keyword searches to run 24/7, making it possible to track who is talking about the things that matter to you and your brand. For example, an operator who provides cycling tours of Vancouver could have multiple searches running that cover their keywords: Cycling Vancouver, Ride bike Vancouver, biking Van, etc. It’s important to keep things relevant and focus on keywords you believe your customers will be using in natural conversation.

*I’d like to point out that there are a huge number of Twitter analytics programs out there, I have chosen to speak only about Tweetdeck as it’s a solid service to begin tweeting and monitoring tweets with. Feel free to explore other options.

Business or Persona- Now that you have the tools you need and your Twitter searches are running hot, it’s time to jump in to the conversation. Before you get in there and start building your brand, it’s important to consider what kind of Twitterer you would like to be. For the sake of this discussion, I will be very general and break business Twitter accounts in to two main categories: The business and the persona. What I call business Twitter accounts usually have the company logo as it’s display picture and the outgoing communication is usually done by more than one person using the one account. My personal belief is that this style works best for repeating, subscription based services, like cell/mobile phone providers and airlines that normally have call centers handling large call volumes.   An example of this that works really well is http://twitter.com/JetBlue (@jetblue).
The Persona style account is a more personal way of communicating with your customers and normally would have a photo of the person doing the tweeting as a profile picture. As small to medium tour operators, I believe this is going to be the best way portray yourself on Twitter and will build closer relationships with your followers. Being subject matter experts, you are in a prime position to provide accurate and timely advice about your city and activities to your followers, building brand credibility with every Tweet. I like to explain how this would work by talking about a tour operator and owner I met in New Zealand, Steve of http://www.tripsandtramps.com/. Steve had lived in the area for years, ran some intensive hiking tours and had an impressive knowledge of the area. By the end of our tour, I had already decided I wanted to come back at some point to do a multi day hike. I also told everyone I knew about Trips and Tramps and suggested booking with them if they’re ever in the area. Twitter can multiply this kind of influence by hundreds of times but remember: Twitter is an online community that will reject anyone who comes off “Spammy” or fake.
For some further reading on social media etiquette, best practices and getting the most from your network, try reading Trust Agents, by Chris Brogan and Julian Smith. http://www.trustagent.com/
Facebook fanpages- This is the fertile ground of social media marketing. Facebook groups give fans of your brand a place to get together and communicate about the things you post. This is different from posts on a blog as users are already logged in to Facebook and receive a notice every time you update your page, meaning they are more likely to get involved. To make things even easier, Facebook has changed “Become a fan” to “Like”. This seems like a small change, but the difference in being a fan and liking something is huge, most page owners I have spoken to have noticed an increase in their fan numbers as a result. For an example of how this is done and the best way to make it happen, read the white paper by MudoMedia.com.au on how they took the clothing brand “Supre” from 0 to 40 000 fans, (Now almost 72 000). http://mudomedia.com.au/mudo_whitepaper_final.pdf
If fan pages aren’t your thing but you’d still like to get in to Facebook marketing in some way, have a look at Facebook ads. The Facebook ad platform is similar to google adwords,  but is much cheaper, sometimes as low as a quarter the cost, and allows the advertiser to target a specific market very easily using using profile information.

How is this marketing?- It’s not. Social media marketing is not something to bolt on to a an existing marketing plan and expect instant ROI; this is a brand development tool and should be viewed as such. If your customers are booking online, it’s no longer enough to meet them at the door with a smile, that same treatment needs to be happening online before they even make a booking. We need to speak to potential customers the way they want to be spoken to. I had a perfect example of this happen to me last week. I had an urgent question for the company that I do my web hosting through. Instead of calling or emailing, I sent them a message via Twitter and got an answer within half an hour. They spoke to me they way that was the most natural to me and I appreciate that.

Social media marketing isn’t for everyone, you need to assess the benefits before taking on new responsibilities and tailor your offering to meet the demand. Always monitor whats being said about you via social media, but if your market does not book online and will not be communicating online, it might  not be the best engagement tool for you.
Please keep in mind, this is a very high level overview and is meant to be used as a starting point. The links I have included should give some extra clarity and you can always contact me via Twitter for a chat.
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What Type of Tour Operator Software is Right for You http://www.rezgo.com/2010/04/what-type-of-tour-operator-software-is-right-for-you http://www.rezgo.com/2010/04/what-type-of-tour-operator-software-is-right-for-you#comments Fri, 23 Apr 2010 16:49:38 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=194 By now you have probably realized that there are a number of software products available in the market that are marketed as “tour operator software”.  But how do you determine what features are best for your organization?

Needless to say there are a variety of systems available on the market.  There are two predominant groups; generalist systems that provide a variety of functions across a number of travel segments and specialist systems that are designed for a specific type of tour or activity business. Let’s take a closer look at what I mean:

Generalist systems: These are systems that provide functions outside of reservation, inventory, and customer management, in a specific vertical market.  For example a reservation system that provides accommodation bookings, activity bookings, newsletter management, pay per click advertising tracking, website content management, and banner ad management all in a single system.

Pros: These systems provide a little bit of everything and tend to be quite feature rich. They also tend to have tighter integration between the parts, so you can combine your newsletter with a pay per click campaign.

Cons: These systems tend to be overly complicated and though they can be quite feature rich, very few of the features tend to get used by the majority of users.  In my experience, these system, despite providing a variety of features, tend not to be particularly good at any one feature which results in an overly complex platform with limited practicality.  In a nutshell, generalist systems try to be everything to everyone, providing features for specialist tour operators, accommodation providers, and activity operators, but generally not serving any one segment particularly well.

Pricing: There are a number of pricing models for generalist systems, including flat monthly fees, booking fees, and license fees.  Since generalist systems don’t have any one particular specialization, pricing also tends to vary greatly within this group.  When reviewing the pricing model of a generalist system that charges a flat fee or license fee, ask yourself this question “What is the system provider’s motivation in continuing to make this system better?” In most cases, with a generalist system, the motivation is not to increase the number of reservations to your business but rather to sell more licenses/monthly subscriptions to other businesses.

Specialist Systems: These systems do not provide features or functions outside of the reservation, inventory, and customer management of a single segment.  For example a tour operator software system designed for tour and activity suppliers that provide fixed availability, fixed schedule tours/activities.

Pros: These reservation systems tend to be very good at what they do and are, as the name implies, specialized for a particular segment.  A tour operator software built for tour and activity suppliers, for example, would not support accommodation product or custom itineraries because it wouldn’t need to.  The system would also provide features such as vouchering, check-in, a point of sale for ticket office, and the ability to distribute inventory through established channels.

Cons: Specialist reservation systems are not very good at supporting products for which they were not designed.  An activity booking software, for example, would not be useful for a specialist tour operator who sells customized outbound tours.  The specialist software would generally have very specific functionality and features that could be integrated into an existing website or other platforms.  A specialist system, for example, would allow you to export your contacts to a format supported by a newsletter manager instead of trying to manage newsletters itself.

Pricing: Specialist systems tend to have a very simple pricing model based on the kind of product for which they were designed.  In most cases they are either booking fee or service fee based.  A specialist tour operator, for example, who is trying to use a system designed for a day or half day based tours and activities may not find the pricing model of the system particularly appealing.  Since the motivation of the specialist systems are generally much more refined and easily defined, the pricing model will be directly related to improving or increasing your businesses success.

Things to look for when reviewing booking software:

  1. Easily accessible web demo – Take a look around the system and get a feel for what it can do.
  2. Testimonials – Look for customer praise and testimonials.
  3. Simple web sign-up – Sign-up should be easy and not require a sales person to complete. This will give you a chance to test the system.
  4. Online support – Look for a support website with knowledgebase. This shows that the company is confident in the capabilities of its system.
  5. Commitment to customer support – Personalized customer support is essential to any business looking at conducting online bookings or looking into a tour operator software system.

As you review tour operator software systems ask yourself these two key questions:

  1. What type of tour operator am I and does the system I am reviewing match my type of business?
  2. Does the software charge based on a shared success model? If not, what is the software companies motivation for maintaining the software.
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What Type of Tour Operator Are You? http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/what-type-of-tour-operator-are-you http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/what-type-of-tour-operator-are-you#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2010 17:48:58 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=192 Prerequisites: You are starting to review tour operator software products in preparation for accepting online bookings but you’re not sure what to look for or what features are best suited for you.

Estimated Time for Completion: 15 min reading time

Details: Did you know that the term tour operator has several very different meanings?  If you refer to yourself as a tour operator and, as a result, you are looking for a tour operator software that is designed for you, then you need to be aware that you will find a variety of software products in the market.  Some of these software products will be designed for you, but some will not.  By clearly understanding what type of tour operator you are, you will be able to tell very quickly whether a tour operator software you are reviewing will meet your specific needs.  Here are some key differences in tour operators:

  1. Do you provide activities directly to travelers? For example, do you offer a guided city tour, bicycle tour, kayak tour or other daily scheduled tour? If yes, than you’re also known as an adventure outfitter or activity operator.  In this case, you’re looking for a booking software that allows your customers to book your products in real-time with the ability to issue printable vouchers.  You’re probably concerned with making sure your seats are filled and that you are maximizing your yield (i.e. number of people per trip).
  2. Are you an accommodation based service provider? For example, do you offer multi-day accommodation style packages or offer tours based on occupancy?  If so, then you will want a tour operator software that allows you offer accommodation based bookings in an intuitive way.  Scheduled, fixed availability based tour & activity products are very different from flexible check-in/check-out based products are, therefore, generally not designed to work well together in the same system.  Be sure that when you review tour operator software systems that you ensure understand what type of product the system supports.
  3. How far in advance do your customers book? The shorter the time period between the booking and the delivery of your service, the lower your risk level (for online payments).  If you are an activity operator, your average pre-booking window is around 30-60 days.  For larger tour packages, the value is higher and the pre-booking window is longer.  It is unlikely that a customer will pay for a large package online so the need for real-time booking is less important.
  4. Do you sell your own tours or someone else’s products? If you are the supplier, then your needs will be different then if you are a reseller.  As a supplier, you will want live availability online and direct payment for your services.  As a reseller, you are probably allocated a block or freesale product, in which case, your interests will not be in filling seats but in selling as much product at as much margin as possible.  You will have a larger variety of product and you will most likely focus on products that sell the best.
  5. Do you book air & hotel? If you book airfares and hotel rooms for customers then you will probably want a tour operator software that has integration with GDS.  If you want your customers to book their air and hotel choices online, then you would probably require some basic packaging functionality.  You are probably a licensed travel agent in this case, in which case you will be bound by certain industry criteria when it comes to payment and credit card requirements.
  6. Do you organize custom tours? Do you accept requests for group tours and then prepare custom itineraries on behalf of customers?  You will probably want to look for a booking software that allows your customers to complete a request for quote which can then be used as the basis of building a custom itinerary.  In this scenario, you are probably not accepting payment upfront but rather applying manual payments to the booking invoice as you work your way through the booking process.

Outcome: You have a really good understanding of the kind of online booking software you need, what is important to you, and what will best fit your business needs.  You should be able to describe to a software vendor what type of tour operator you are, the types of tours & activities you sell, how you wish to be paid, and what your role is in the travel supply chain.

Photo Credit: Amsterdam City Tours

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Are You Ready for On-line Bookings? http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/are-you-ready-for-on-line-bookings http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/are-you-ready-for-on-line-bookings#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2010 17:03:58 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=191 Your customers are already doing their research and booking online.  In fact, over 70% of travelers do their researching online and more than 50% do their bookings online as well.  That isn’t just airfare and hotels either, that’s all aspects of travel including travel insurance, car rentals, and tours and activities.  If you don’t plan for online bookings then you will be missing out on a growing source of revenue.  Let’s review some simple steps to make sure you are ready to start the process of accepting online bookings.

  1. Organize your products. Consumers (that includes travelers) are used to buying packaged goods.  You need to be able to described, display, and price your tours and activities in a way that is compelling for a consumer.  Ask yourself these questions: What do I sell? When do I  go? How much do I charge?  If you can answer these questions, then you’re off to a good start.
  2. What type of tour operator are you. Figure out what type of operator you are and how you do business.  This may seem trivial but it will go a long way to helping you find a booking solution that best suites your business needs.  For example, if you are packaged tour operator who sells FIT and custom tours for groups, then your needs will be very different from an operator who does daily guided sightseeing tours.
  3. Document your business processes. Do you have an operating manual? Well, you don’t necessarily need one and if you’re a small business it’s probably unreasonable to expect you to have one.  That said, you need to understand how your business functions and be able to explain it to others.
  4. Contact your bank and set-up an online payment gateway. This process will take time and you should start it sooner than later.  For more information about whether you should accept online payments for your tourism business, you can read this article.
  5. Get a grip on your costs and your profit margin. Selling online is not without its costs.  You need to understand what those costs will be and how they will affect your bottom line.  You may need to adjust your pricing to maximize your margins while still providing good value for your customers.

Once you’ve taken care of these fairly straightforward steps, you will be well on your way to being ready for online bookings.  Remember, don’t rush into it, do your homework, ask LOTS of questions, and find out what your colleagues and competitors are doing.

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What to Look for in a Web Designer for Your Tourism Website http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/what-to-look-for-in-a-web-designer-for-your-tourism-website http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/what-to-look-for-in-a-web-designer-for-your-tourism-website#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2010 23:52:47 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=170 There are a lot of web designers, some good, many bad, and a bunch in between.  So how do you, as a tour operator, know what to look for in a good web designer?  Well, there are a lot of resources online to help you build a list of questions to ask your prospective web designer.  The problem I have with most of the lists is that most people asking the questions won’t know the answers and, to me, that lack of knowledge doesn’t make asking the question particularly valuable.  What you need to know, as a business person, is whether or not the person or company you are planning to hire is going to be able to deliver on what you need for your business.  It is for this reason that I have only three questions that you need to ask a web designer, all of which you should be able to answer on their website:

  1. Can I see your portfolio? Any web designer worth their salt will make their portfolio available.  Take a moment to go through each of the sites that they list in their portfolio.  Be wary if they don’t list the URL but remember that just because a site is no longer available doesn’t mean that the designer didn’t do a good job designing it.  There are a lot of reasons why a site might be off-line that have nothing to do with the designer.  If you’re curious, simply ask the designer directly why a site is off-line.
  2. Can you provide three client references? This should be a no-brainer for most designers and they will be happy to provide you with the name of references who can confirm the quality of work and the viability of the business (or individual).  Make sure the reference is a third party whose site is live.  Ongoing relationships are better then one time relationships because you’ll get a better idea of how the designer handles long term relationships.
  3. What are your blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook addresses? If they don’t have these things, move on.  In this day and age, if the designer you are looking at isn’t familiar with and using social media for their own promotional purposes, then they won’t understand how to design for the social web.
  4. A good understanding of social media concepts and how the social web affects interface design. As has been pointed out by several designers, the individual use of social networks is not necessarily a requirement but the designer you choose to work with should have a good knowledge and understanding of how social features affect the interactivity of a web interface. (Thanks for everyone who contributed comments regarding item 3.)

Don’t be afraid to ask around and remember that design is only one part of the puzzle.  Make sure that your design is part of your web plan.

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Designing Your Tour & Activity Website – A Primer http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/designing-your-tour-activity-website-%e2%80%93-a-primer http://www.rezgo.com/2010/02/designing-your-tour-activity-website-%e2%80%93-a-primer#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2010 23:50:23 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=164 Prerequisites: So you’re now ready to start designing your website or you’re considering a re-design.  Taking into account all things you’ve learned like security, trust, content management systems, video, and photos, what else is there to know? This primer will give you a good background in what to consider before you design or redesign your tour and activity website.

Estimated Time for Completion: 15 min reading time

Details: Websites have come a long way in the last fifteen years.  In the beginning (yes there was a beginning for the commercial Internet), there were only very basic browsers with very basic capabilities.  Now, however, browsers are quickly becoming the interface of choice for many web-based applications.  But what does this mean for you as a tour or activity operator?  Well, generally speaking, it means you are lucky it’s today and not fifteen years ago because you now have access to sophisticated tools and incredible designs at a fraction of the cost.  Most of your customers also have access to high speed Internet connections which means that you don’t need to be quite so concerned with images and videos as you did even a few years ago.  Here is my top ten list for things to keep in mind as you move forward with your website (re)design.

  1. Design for modern browsers.  This means making sure your website is designed to appear consistent in Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome.  Avoid IE only designs and don’t bother trying to design for IE 6 anymore, if we don’t, it will continue to plague the Internet.
  2. Consistent branding and header. Make sure your header area and branding is consistent across all your pages. This is important because your visitors will come to rely on your header for important links.  Don’t forget to make sure your logo is a clickable link back to your home page.  Your header will also provide important keywords for searching purposes.
  3. 1024 x 768 is the new 800 x 600.  Don’t know what I mean?  1024 is the pixel width of the most widely used resolution on both PC and MAC.  Most netbooks now also support 1024 x 600 as their default resolution.  When designing your site, be sure to use this as your width.  Taking into account that this is a much higher resolution, also consider increasing your default font size to accommodate larger monitors.
  4. Keep navigation simple and consistent.  Nothing irritates a visitor more than having to hunt around for information.  Make sure your navigation is easy to use, located in a consistent place, and provides access to all your vital information.
  5. Keep important content above the fold.  Make sure your page header or content of interest is visible above the fold.  This means making sure that your header is not so big that it uses up all the most valuable real-estate on the screen.  Remember that most users scan the site from the upper left corner to lower right corner, unless there is an image or headline that draws their attention.
  6. Consistent branded colors.  This means using your branded colors in a conservative manner and only where required.  Avoid using bold red or multicolored text, it may attract attention, but it will also drastically reduce the professionalism of your site.
  7. Use images that are relevant, meaningful, and professional.  Make sure that any images you use, whether they are icons, photos, or screen grabs are high quality and properly sized.  Keep your images at web resolution and not just resized to fit on the site.  A large photo that is reduced to fit without adjusting the resolution will result in a pixelated image that looks unprofessional.
  8. Balance text, images, and white space.  You’re probably not a designer and that’s okay.   Chances are that you’ve been around the web and visited sites that you like and sites that you don’t like.  Make a note of how the sites that you like are designed and emulate them.  You’ll probably find that most of the sites you like share common elements.
  9. Stick with a white background.  Lots of sites have different colored backgrounds but in my opinion, nothing is more versatile then the white background.  This is especially true if you plan on integrating other services or applications into your website.
  10. Use Flash or other animated objects sparingly.  Don’t use Flash animation just because you can.  Unless you have a meaningful message to convey with an animation, I recommend you stick with text and a nice professional photo instead.  If you do use Flash, give your visitor the ability to skip it easily or turn it off altogether.

Bonus: For the love of all things good and user friendly, please do not auto-play music on your website.  Nothing is more of a turn off on a website than listening to a midi version of “Stairway to Heaven”.  Just because you can play background music, doesn’t mean you should.

Outcome: You are now confident in your ability to move forward with a (re)design of your tour and activity website.  Take what you have learned here and apply it to your next steps of either designing the site yourself or hiring a web designer to do it for you.

References:

  1. http://developer.apple.com/internet/webcontent/bestwebdev.html
  2. http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?topicId=1075384855
  3. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/12/15/10-useful-techniques-to-improve-your-user-interface-designs/
  4. http://psd.tutsplus.com/designing-tutorials/9-essential-principles-for-good-web-design/
  5. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/06/29/45-incredibly-useful-web-design-checklists-and-questionnaires/
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Creating Videos that Inspire & Sell http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/creating-videos-that-inspire-sell http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/creating-videos-that-inspire-sell#comments Sat, 30 Jan 2010 03:35:45 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=114 Prerequisites: You have decided to make video part of your tourism business, you’ve learned the basics of shooting video for the web, and now you’re ready to make better videos.

Estimated Time for Completion: 20 min reading time

Details: So now that you’ve got the basic video requirements down, you’ve got a place to host your sites, and you understand the basics of shooting video for the web, the next question is… how do you make your videos more compelling and actually generate revenue from them.  To be clear however, we are not referring to making money from the videos themselves but using the videos to enhance the sales process and increase your bottom line.  As with anything that you do as a small business, you need to make sure that everything that you do has a positive impact on your bottom line.  So, here are some basic recommendations on make more compelling videos for your tourism business:

1. As seen on T.V. – I’m not suggesting that you create an infommercial  or one of those cheesy ads on late night television, but the basics are the same.  You are offering a service that will satisfy the customer’s need for whatever it is that you offer.  For example, if you are an adventure operator you might satisfy the customer’s need for an adrenaline rush, or if you are a haunted tour operator you might offer the best “scare your pants off” tour.  Figure out what is that you do and how it fulfills your customers’ needs and then tell a story.  Remember this simple guideline:

  • Provide the problem – Want some adventure but don’t know where to look?
  • Provide the answer – We provide incredible adventures.
  • Offer the benefits – Hotel pickup, best price, gourmet meals.
  • Call to action – Book online at yourdomain.com.

2. Video Testimonials – If your tour or activity doesn’t lend itself well to being captured on video or the content is just too broad to make a short then consider doing video testimonials of your customers.  Make sure to ask their permission first or make it part of your terms and conditions.  There is no need to use full names, but a simple introduction such as the following is the most effective.

“This is Jane from Vancouver. Jane has just finished the Kayak Tour of the Islands.  So Jane, what did you think of the tour?”

Keep the testimonial short and sweet, perhaps one or two questions at most and keep it conversational.  No one wants a highly scripted testimonial.

3. Guide or Staff Interviews – No one knows your business as well as you and your staff.  Why not do short interviews with your staff about what they do and what they would consider their favorite aspects of their job.  This is a great way to get your staff involved in the marketing of the business and also adds credibility to the business.  Your potential customers get to meet their guide before they get to the location.  Again, keep these interviews short and conversational.

4. Interviews with Locals - Chances are you encounter many other people on your tour that contribute to your tour but are not part of your company.  What a great way to engage with other local businesses and get them promoting your business.  For example, if there is a great Sushi restaurant that you bring your guests to, why not do a quick interview with the owner? Get them talking about their business in the context of your tour.  The business will thank you for the coverage, you can brand it as your own video, and it adds value to the customer because now they get to experience an insider’s view of the tour.

Outcome: You should be ready to start making more interesting and compelling videos for your tour or activity business.  Hopefully, you’ll get a sense for what works and what doesn’t.  Remember that it takes time to make video one of your business habits.  If you are diligent and keep working at it, you will so develop a library of videos that can be used in a variety of marketing initiatives.

Photo credit goes to my all time favorite “As Seen on T.V.” product, The Clapper.

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Why the OpenTravel Alliance is important http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/why-the-opentravel-alliance-is-important http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/why-the-opentravel-alliance-is-important#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2010 06:33:56 +0000 http://rezgo.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=1952 Rezgo is a member of the OpenTravel Alliance because we know that collaboration and participation in the travel technology community is important to the long term growth of the travel industry and to us, as an organization.  The work that the OpenTravel Alliance is doing is important to building interoperability between distribution systems of all kinds.  Until now, there has been only a limited focus on the development of messaging standards for the tour and activity sector.  Part of our role as a member, and my role as a member of the Board of Directors, has been to advocate for and help develop a set of messages specific to the tour and activity sector.  As part of our commitment to this endeavor, Rezgo has donated our complete XML schemas to OpenTravel.  Our belief is that by sharing the hard work we have done on the development of our own XML API, we can help accelerate the development of standards for the entire sector.

We are confident that by opening up our XML API and donating our XML schemas to the OpenTravel Alliance we will be setting a positive example for other travel & tourism software developers to follow.  We understand that to be an agent of change, we must lead by example.

Stephen Joyce
CEO, Rezgo
Co-Chair, OpenTravel Alliance

What is the OpenTravel Alliance?

The OpenTravel Alliance is passionate about solving the problems inherent with connecting multiple systems within the complex travel distribution arena.

OpenTravel’s mission is to engineer specifications to ensure traveler and supplier information flow smoothly throughout travel, tourism and hospitality. OpenTravel creates, expands and drives adoption of open specifications, including but not limited to the use of XML, for the electronic exchange of business information among all sectors of the travel industry.

OpenTravel is comprised of companies representing airlines, car rental firms, hotels, cruise lines, railways, leisure suppliers, service providers, tour operators, travel agencies, solutions providers, technology companies and distributors. Tens of thousands of OpenTravel message structures are in use, carrying tens of millions of messages between trading partners every day.

OpenTravel is a not-for-profit trade association, founded in 1999 by travel companies, with a primary focus on the creation of electronic message structures to facilitate communication between the disparate systems in the global travel industry. Our members actually do the work of identifying what messages are needed, prioritizing the work and creating the messages.

You can find out more about the OpenTravel Alliance on their website.

For help implementing OpenTravel messages, we suggest visiting the OpenTravel Forum.

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Best Sites to Host Your Tour & Activity Videos http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/best-sites-to-host-your-tour-activity-videos http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/best-sites-to-host-your-tour-activity-videos#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2010 03:05:15 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=112 Prerequisites: You should have a few videos ready for uploading to a video sharing and hosting site.

Estimated Time for Completion: 20 min reading time, 15 min. execution

Details: There are a number of video hosting and sharing sites on the Internet.  Which one, though, is the best for hosting your tour and activity videos?  That depends on how you want to share your videos and how much control you want over where your potential customers see your video.  Here are my top five recommended video hosting sites:

Youtube

Youtube is by far the 10,000 lb. gorilla of video hosting sites.  Videos that posted on Youtube are almost immediately indexed by Google and generally rank highly in Google universal search for keywords if the videos are well described and have relevant keywords.  The video embedding is also very easy and flexible.  Recently, Youtube has enabled in-line urls (so you can link back to your site within the description), annotation so you can add notes and comments to the video, and HD support.  Although Youtube is still limited to 10 minute videos, this should be more than enough for the limited attention span of most online video viewers.

Vimeo

Vimeo describes itself “as a a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make. We provide the best tools and highest quality video in the universe.” The key here is that Vimeo provides HD quality video with no time limits.  Vimeo is particularly good for videos that are more than 10 minutes in length.  The embedded player and in-line commenting are also really nice features.  Vimeo also offers a very simple password protection feature that allows you to share private videos with customers.  In terms of style and interface, Vimeo is the best by far.

Viddler

Viddler is a little bit of Youtube and Vimeo mixed together.  The main site is very Youtube like, certainly more so than Vimeo’s more stylized design and layout.  Viddler promotes their sharing capabilities and their syndication by RSS, however, both Vimeo and Youtube also provide these services.  Viddler does have a podcast and iTunes integration that sounds interesting as well as in-line commenting and time-line tagging.  Although Viddler was ahead of the pack in this regard, Youtube and Vimeo both support these features now.

Flickr

You probably didn’t realize that Flickr supports video.  Well they do but this service is only available to Flickr Pro members. The Flickr videos are also limited to 90 seconds or 150 MB in length so you need to be on task with your production and editing.  There is also very few sharing options and embedding is not available.  I presume these are all attempts to keep users on the Flickr site or viewing your photo-stream.  This may be a good option for you if you want to consolidate your photos and videos in one place but you need to be aware of the obvious limitations of the video hosting side of Flickr.

Facebook

As with photos, Facebook is becoming one of the largest video hosting sites.  This is great if you want to share your videos with friends and family but not so great if you want to use your videos as a referral tool for your own site.  You can upload videos to Facebook fan pages but the tagging and descriptions on Facebook are not quite as good as Youtube, Vimeo or Viddler.  For sharing videos with your fans, friends, and family in a dedicated social network, Facebook is probably the best way to go.  For standard video hosting with RSS syndication and embedding, you’re better off using one of the other video hosting services.

In summary, if you are looking to use your videos as an SEO tool, embed your videos across multiple sites but are not concerned about quality, then Youtube is probably your best bet.  For longer high quality videos, Vimeo is the clear choice, and for social networking Facebook is a solid option.  Given all the options, if you don’t have time to manage multiple video hosting accounts, then I would recommend sticking with Youtube for now.

Outcome: Once you have completed this daily action you should have a good idea understanding of the different video hosting services that are available and which hosting site to use for your tour or activity business.

References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_video_services
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_hosting_websites
  3. http://news.cnet.com/youtube-sucks-4-sites-that-do-video-better/
  4. http://desktopvideo.about.com/od/videohostingsites/a/vidsharing.htm
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Taking Better Tour & Activity Videos http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/taking-better-tour-activity-videos http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/taking-better-tour-activity-videos#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2010 15:04:52 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=108 Prerequisites: You should have a digital video camera of your choice to use for business purposes.

Estimated Time for Completion: Reading time of 20 mins.

Details: I am not a videographer, professional camera person, or a film-maker.  Chances are, neither are you.  But, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the ability to make interesting, compelling, and even exciting videos about your tours, activities, or company.  With the costs of cameras and editing software now within the reach of almost everyone, the ability to take and edit video is well within the capabilities of most business people.  Here are some helpful tips to make the most of your video experience:

1. Know your camera – Every video camera is different and has strengths and weaknesses.  Before you start shooting tour videos, be sure to test your camera in a variety of different shooting conditions and see how your camera responds.  Here are some good test scenarios:

  • Noisy party or busy environment to test sound pick-up on the camera microphone.
  • Quiet environment to test the sound level for whisper or low volume conversation (particularly important for birding, animal watching, hunting, or other quiet video environments).
  • Bright outdoor condition with water background.
  • Cloudy outdoor condition with canopy or shade.
  • Indoor lighting conditions (if appropriate).

2. Create a shooting template – This is also known as a script but serves as a basis for how you plan on shooting your videos each time you do a tour.  Remember, these are not highly directed epic videos, but rather souvenir videos for your customers.  A good standard format for your template would be:

  • Arriving at the tour or activity.
  • Getting ready (gearing up or strapping in).
  • Doing the activity (biggest portion)
  • The review (“So what did you think?”)

Keep it light, casual, and friendly.  Remember, this isn’t going to work for everybody, so don’t waste your time (and your customers’) if it doesn’t fit with your business.

3. Get a tripod – Yes, you will thank yourself.  There is nothing worse then watching the shaky hand videos.  Trust me, unless you are running the Blaire Witch tour, I recommend you get yourself a Gorillapod flexible tripod so you can attach your camera to a tree or rock or whatever and take some stable shots.  I bought one recently and it has since become my primary tripod.

4. Know the three primary moves – Zoom, Pan, and Hold. Experiment with all three and get a feel for when to use them in your particular shooting script.  Here is a quick definition of each move:

  • Zoom – Move it close to the object.  If from a distance, zooming in on a subject will require additional stability.  Use gradual zooming versus quick zooming in and out.  This move can be combined with the other two moves to result in a Pan/Zoom Out, or a Zoom and Hold.
  • Pan – Move from one side to another usually in a horizontal manner.  This is best done at the same rate that a person would turn their help in order to emulate the most realistic panning motion.  Move too quickly and you risk losing or blurring the details.  This is a particularly good move for showing an expansive landscape.
  • Hold – Yes, the lack of movement is in fact a movement.  Holding is important because it allows the viewer to settle their attention on a subject.  Hold shots for at least ten seconds if possible.  Shorter holds can be jarring if they are frequent.

5. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting – Be aware of the shooting environment, especially with regards to the lighting.  For outdoor shoots, make sure the Sun is behind you.  If you are shooting against a water background, avoid looking down on the water in order to minimize the glare from the Sun against the water.

For more great tips, I recommend you check out the following excellent video websites:

Outcome: If you are successful at completing this daily action, you will have the basic tools to start taking better videos of your tours and customers. Your customers will appreciate the videos you take and your potential customers will get a better sense of what you offer and what they might experience if they use your services.

Photo Credit: Nadine Ballantyne

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Making Video Part of Your Tourism Business http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/making-video-part-of-your-tourism-business http://www.rezgo.com/2010/01/making-video-part-of-your-tourism-business#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2010 15:39:03 +0000 http://www.thesavvyoperator.com/?p=103 Prerequisites: You should have a digital video camera of your choice to use for business purposes.

Estimated Time for Completion: Reading time of 20 mins.

Details: Video technology has changed dramatically over the last few years. Why on recently for example, I pulled out my Sony DVD video camera to shock of my friends.  The camera, which was state of the art only a few years ago is now practically obsolete, especially since cheap HD cameras are readily available at relatively low cost.  The benefit to you as a tour operator is that adding video to your tourism business is now a relatively inexpensive endeavor.  Video can add valuable content for your customers in making a booking decision.  Afterall, if you can show some of the experience you intend to provide, then your customers will have more faith in you as a service provider.

Here are some great tips to help you decide how to integrate videos into your tourism business:

1. Where does video fit it into your business? All tours and activities are different, therefore, it is unlikely that every tour or activity is going to be recorded in the same way.  A zip-lining activity for example is generally short and intense and lends itself well to a short video snippet.  A multi-day cultural tour of Italy may need to be recorded differently.  Before you jump in and add to your marketing strategy, decide on what kind of videos will work best for your customers, how you are going to record the videos, and how much work you need to put into editing the videos.

2. Focus on people – Make sure your terms and conditions include a video release that allows you to take videos of your customers on tour.  This is important in order to protect your customers’ privacy and to ensure you don’t get yourself into hot water later.  When you record video, be sure to focus on people rather than scenery.  Remember that this is video for the web so it will most likely be viewed in a small Youtube style interface.  Sprawling landscapes just don’t translate well.

3. Keep the videos short – Stay on topic and focus on capture “the moment”. A 1 min. interview with a guest after an experience can act as a video testimonial for your web site.  If appropriate, try and create many short videos rather than one long video.  Ten videos with your brand are better than one video with your brand.

4. Skip the fancy title screen – Just get right to the good stuff.  The title screen with music is fluff and doesn’t add anything to the video, especially if the video is short and to the point.  Introduce yourself and the context of the video at the beginning of the video.  You can add more details in the description of the video once you upload it to your video hosting site (more on that later).

5. Upload Videos to Web A.S.A.P. – If you keep your videos simple and to the point with little editing, then you should have no problem uploading the videos to your favorite hosting site at the end of each day.  Just like your tour photos, the video uploading should become part of your daily routine.

Consider if you offer two tours a day, three days a week, for twenty-six weeks a year.  Now imagine making a two minute video for each tour.  In one season, you would have 156 videos posted.  Each video would have a description of your tour or activity, keywords associated to your tour and brand, and your brand name associated with it.

Outcome: If you are successful at completing this daily action, you will have a plan in place to add video to your tourism business.

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Selling Tours on Rezgo with Group Pricing http://www.rezgo.com/2009/11/selling-tours-on-rezgo-with-group-pricing http://www.rezgo.com/2009/11/selling-tours-on-rezgo-with-group-pricing#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2009 22:10:17 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=1665 Do you offer tours or activities with tiered pricing?  For example, do offer a discount per person if more people book at the same time?  Good news! Rezgo now supports the ability for you to create pricing rules that support tiered pricing.  When creating a pricing rule you now have the option of choosing a “Min” and “Max” number of people that book in order for the pricing rule to be triggered.  When a customer enters a number of passengers (or tickets) into the booking form, the booking confirmation page will show the tiered pricing that you set-up in the rule.

Important note: Because the pricing rule is triggered by the number of people, it can’t show the tiered pricing until the number of passengers is entered, so you may want to make sure you make a note about the tiered pricing in your overview or tour description.  This way, your customers won’t be confused when they see the adjusted pricing on the booking confirmation page.

Here is a screen shot of the new “Min” and “Max” fields in the Tours > Rules section of your Rezgo Administration interface.  We will be adding an updated support document soon, but if you have any questions about adding rules, please take a look at the rules section of the Rezgo support website.

rezgo-group-pricing-rule

In this example, the pricing rule will be triggered when a minimum of 4 people book and a maximum of 9 people book this particular tour or activity.  You could set the rule to be a fixed priced per person or set it to decrease your price per person by set amount or a percentage.

If you have questions about this feature, visit the Rezgo support site.

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Copying Custom Questions Across Multiple Options http://www.rezgo.com/2009/11/copying-custom-questions-across-multiple-options http://www.rezgo.com/2009/11/copying-custom-questions-across-multiple-options#comments Wed, 04 Nov 2009 20:12:23 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=1659 One of the most flexible features of the Rezgo Tour Operator Software is the ability for each option in a tour to have its own set of custom questions.  This allows you as a tour or activity operator to be able to add non-inventory add-ons to each option as well as ask common questions.  The drawback, until now, is that you would need to add the questions to each option.  If you had a lot of options, this could be quite time consuming.  Now you can copy a pre-defined list of common custom questions across ALL your options with just a few clicks. That means that if you have a set of questions that you need to ask the customer regardless of what they are booking, you can create the questions once for a single option and then append, prepend, or replace the custom questions across some or all of your options.  Here is a screen shot of what that interface looks like.  As you can see, you can choose the questions you want to copy (including their order) on the left and then choose the options that you want to the add the questions to on the right.  Below the list, you can choose to “append the existing list”, “prepend to the existing list”, or “replace the existing list” of questions.  If you have more than ten options, this feature alone would save you an hour or more of your time.

copy_custom_fields

Give this feature a try and if you like it, be sure to let us know by leaving us some praise over at our Rezgo support site.  If you run into any problems, contact us using our support form and let us know.

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Track Your Sales with Google E-Commerce Code http://www.rezgo.com/2009/10/track-your-sales-with-google-e-commerce-code http://www.rezgo.com/2009/10/track-your-sales-with-google-e-commerce-code#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2009 23:37:33 +0000 http://www.rezgo.com/?p=1644 We have significantly simplified the way that Rezgo works with the Google Analytics e-Commerce conversion code.  The new feature only requires you to enter your Google Analytics account code into one field.  The rest of the conversion tracking code is dynamically generated by Rezgo and displayed on your customer receipt after the booking has been successfully submitted.  The new conversion code supports the following information (Rezgo Value = Google Tracking Value):

Booking Transaction Number = Order ID
Blank = Affiliation
Total Booking Value = Total
Tax Amount = Tax
Shipping Amount = Shipping
Billing Passenger City = City
Billing Passenger State = State
Billing Passenger Country = Country
Tour SKU = SKU
Tour Name = Product Name
Tour Option Name = Category
Tour Price = Price
Number of Passengers = Quantity

Here is a quick screen shot to show you what the new function looks like in the administration system:

conversion-tracking-code

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