Did you know that the term tour operator has several very different meanings? You might think all tour operator software is designed for you, if you’re a tour operator, but it’s not so simple. Some of these tour 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.
Different Types of Tour Operators
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 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).
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 booking platform that allows you to offer accommodation-based bookings in an intuitive way. Scheduled, fixed-availability tour & activity products are very different from flexible check-in/check-out based products. Most booking systems that are good at one aren’t necessarily designed to work well with the other. Be sure that when you review tour operator software systems that you ensure understand what type of products the system supports.
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 is for online payments. If you are an activity operator, your average pre-booking window is around 30-60 days or less. Real-time availability support will help you avoid overbookings, especially if you take bookings through multiple channels and need channel management.
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 and availability are less important. A system with good reseller support, a low back-end booking rate, and commission functionality may suit you best.
Do you sell your own tours or someone else’s products?
If you are the provider, then your needs will be different then if you are a reseller. As a provider, 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.
If you work with an external company as a provider or a reseller, a system that supports inventory importing, ticket pools, daily pricing and other enterprise functions will be helpful for your tour business.
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 also 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.
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 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 payments to the booking invoice as you work your way through the booking process. A system that includes secure online payment requests and private tour packages will serve you best.
Get the Most Out of Your Booking Software
You should now 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. Being 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 will help you find the tour and activity software you need.
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