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What is a Tour Operator Software? Tour Operator Fundamentals

March 7, 2018 | By | No Comments

Achieving business efficiency is a common challenge tour operators deal with. Maintaining bookings, channels, cancellations, refunds, and payments are tasks which are mismanaged easily, often with devastating results. Imagine losing out on a large booking on account of a missed request!

Enter a tour management system– it automates the many working parts of the tour operator business. Let me explain to you how technology can change the way operators (sightseeing, water sports, adventure tours, etc.) manage their time and efforts.

What is a Tour Operator Software?

A tour operator software is designed to automate tasks for tour operators and assist with business management. It has the following different modules:

  1. Booking engine- to automate incoming bookings- both online & offline.
  2. Back-office management– facilitates organised tour operations.
  3. Payment gateways and other integrations– make the software even more independent from human intervention at various levels.

An online booking software for tour operators is a nifty piece of software which allows you to take payments and bookings online the day it is implemented. Combined with your travel website, it acts as a scheduling tool that immediately records bookings through your travel website. You can meet varied travel requests without speaking directly with clients. At the same time, it ensures payment is made effectively. With a booking software, your customer experiences improve along with tour date management.

Types of Software Tour Operators Use

  • Spreadsheets

The most commonly used software is spreadsheets (i.e. Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets). Some of the most advanced technologies ultimately deliver business details as spreadsheets. However, spreadsheets are limited because they require manual efforts making it a time-consuming option.

They are also complex to learn and their numerous commands and formulas. As your sole tour management tool, you might experience mistakes because bookings, commissions, expenses and profits are all noted on different sheets. It makes month-on-month comparisons tricky. Data security is limited as well and decision making is delayed most of the time. If you run a small business that has resources to afford the complexity of spreadsheets this could be a good fit for you. If not, you need something else.

  • Non-tour specific software

These comprise of technology that assists tour businesses but are very generic. This classification includes systems that facilitate accounting, email and SMS communication, content services or ad management. For example, Tally, Word Documents, MailChimp and others. The shortcomings here is that these are all separate software. It gets difficult to handle them all. There’s also the fact that they do not meet your specific needs while selling tours online.

  • Custom built software

Custom built activity booking software for your personalised business needs is also an option you can choose. This is a great way to solve the particular problem you face.

The downside to this is the cost at which a custom software comes. Don’t forget, making such a software will take months or even years. With changes in your business model and or government regulations (for example, change in tax format to GST), you will have to get your system updated. This costs time and money. Plus, you run the risk of code breaks with the addition of new features to your custom travel software.

  • Tour operator Software

A tour operator software is specially built for tour and activity providers. It focuses on managing inventory and customers. It comes with varied other offerings that simplify business dealings to give your business a professional edge.

After detailed research into the difficulties tour operators face, software companies have developed varied systems to untangle your management process. To know how a tour operator software is beneficial, read through the next section below.

What Should a Tour Management Software Offer?

Booking tours and boosting productivity are not the only things a tour operator software can do. Here, we’ve compiled the things some of the best tour operator software can help you with.

1. Get bookings 24×7

Never lose an interested customer again even after business hours. With a tour website and activity booking software, you can accept bookings around the clock. You provide a more professional service that saves time for you and your customers. Without this people can only call or email you to book tours.

2. Advertise live tour rates

An efficient tour operator booking software helps you reflect and control prices for all kinds of customers – kids, students, adults, groups and more. Booking buttons, widgets and calendars are available to create a seamless booking process.

3. Receive advance payments

Make sure your customers leave you empty handed if they back out at the last minute. A well-designed tour reservation software can ensure no bookings are confirmed before payment is received. You can also set advance payment limits and what happens if payment is delayed. Varied payment options is another thing that can be made available through the system.

4. Set flexible tour schedules

When do you want to take your customers on tours? Just enter the daily, weekly or monthly frequency into the system to prepare a schedule for each tour. A tour management software takes note of these dates and the tour capacity to prevent overbooking and underbooking trips on dates set. Besides this, you can also share your tour guides, vehicles and other assets across trips. For example, you have 10 bicycles shared between 2 tours that happen at the same time. You can set up shared inventory with a smart booking engine. So, if trip-1 gets 6 bookings, trip-2 will have only 4 bicycles available.

5. Get a marketing advantage

The best tour operator software is the one with settings for tour promotions, loyalty programs, add-ons and cross-selling options. With these advantages, you can offer online visitors exciting deals, services and products. The best part is that the reservation system will remember which clients have used what kinds of promotions on your website.

6. Automate communications with customers

One main asset tour operators lacks is time. In between scheduling tours and carrying them out, you will find yourself reconciling payments, managing staff and doing 10 other task as well. Take a couple of them off your plate to free up your time. A travel booking software takes over real-time communication with people booking with you. This includes booking confirmations, cancellations, trip reminders, payment reminders, etc.

7. Receive detailed business insights

You can get detailed business insights right in your inbox, with a smart tour operator software. Some travel technology systems send out month-on-month booking information for comparison, directly to your inbox.

8. Stay updated via mobile

A tour operator software with a mobile app keeps you up-to-date on mobile. You will see the latest activity on your website or by your agents with pop-up notifications. It also allows you to make quick bookings for offline customers at any time and anywhere.

When Shouldn’t You Get A Tour Operator Software?

For some tour operators, a tour operator software may not be suitable. Excel sheets are a perfect fit to their tour management needs. This category includes tour operators who-

  • Have just 1 tour to offer
  • Receive only 60 bookings or less in a month
  • Maintain a small business of just 1-3 persons
  • Prefer 1 single channel of doing business (i.e. offline booking)

When Should You Get A Tour Operator Software?

On the other hand, if you are looking to earn from your online presence, it’s best to have a travel software. It is compatible with your expansion and manages your growing bookings. It usually suits the needs of operators looking-

  • For more than 60 bookings a month (with international clients)
  • For a system to manage 2 or more channels
  • For month-on-month revenue comparison
  • To offer tours in more than 1 location

It is much easier to set up shop on the internet with a tour operator software. It serves as a complete solution to your problems with time and data management, CRM, reservations and inventory. Some software providers even offer website building services. For more on that check out the tour operators fundamentals by Vacation Labs. A tour operator software aims to simplify your life and improve your business capacity.

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