As a tour operator, you’re already aware of the operational challenges you face. You need to manage customer bookings, schedule transportation and plan out daily activities, arrange entry to the sites your groups will visit, select the best local guides… and that’s only the beginning.
Now take a step back and ask yourself: What do many of these challenges have in common? They’re all, to some degree, challenges that require communication and organization. Thankfully, communication and organization are two things that software is very good at helping you manage. Tour operator software is software that helps you do just that.
In this Buyer’s Guide, we’ll cover the following questions and topics:
Tour operator software is computer software that’s tailormade to assist with the bulk of operations required to run a successful tour operations business. While there other genres of software that can help with this—CRM software, for example—these solutions often require additional tools, or expensive customization, to do what tour operator software can do out of the box.
Of course, no two tour companies are exactly the same, and that’s also true of tour operator software. To get the best return on your investment, it’s important to choose a solution that aligns with your specific needs.
Many tour operator software systems are deployed in the cloud and sold as Software as a Service (SaaS). This means companies pay for a subscription (monthly or yearly) to the software and can then access it from any device with an internet connection. This can be a huge benefit for on-the-go tour operators, as it lets them access software features directly on their mobile phones.
|Schedule management||Assists with scheduling and schedule management for tour operations and supporting services, often with a calendar-based user interface.|
|Booking management||Helps organize and confirm tour bookings and communicate with clients and vendors.|
|Website integrations||Tools like online booking interfaces can be integrated with your company’s website to provide real-time information to customers and website visitors.|
|Payment gateways||Tour operators can issue invoices and process payments directly, which can be integrated into a tour company’s website or accessed through a tablet or smartphone.|
|Rental management||For tour operators that also rent equipment, rental management applications help you stay on top of the tracking, billing and timekeeping challenges.|
|Customer insight||Insight and analytics apps help you better understand your customers, and turn that understanding into actionable strategies (e.g., ideas for promotions and tour packages).|
|Customer communications||Enables you to use email, VoIP and even SMS text messaging to communicate with customers in whichever manner they prefer.|
Businesses looking for more tools to manage lodging and flights might be interested in evaluating travel agency software.
The key to selecting software, regardless of your industry, is to begin the selection process by carefully considering the following questions:
How can software help us with our most common and repetitive tasks and workflow processes? The key here is to find software that will support and add efficiency to your existing operations. It’s rarely advisable to purchase software that will require drastic changes to your day-to-day operations, unless those changes are necessary for a new business strategy.
How can software help us meet our (forward-looking) strategy goals? If your company has plans to create a better online experience for guests, for example, then this should be kept in mind when weighing your many software options. Changing a company’s software infrastructure is often the most effective way of ensuring strategy goals are met.
After considering these questions, you can further narrow your list of options by asking the following:
What software do our business partners use? If you rely on third-party services for any aspect of your tour operations, consider how your software purchase could improve those relationships. For example, if a hotel that you work closely with has a particular hotel management system, you should consider how well your own new system might integrate with the hotel’s system.
At which locations will we need to access our tour operator software system? Some tour operators may only need to access the software from one workstation in their office. Others might need to access it from mobile devices, so guides can access and update information while out on a tour. This question will help determine which deployment model to opt for and help plan your budget for individual software licenses.
Increase customer satisfaction: When software handles some of the mundane tasks of running a tour operation, you and your staff will have more time to focus on the people that count: your customers. Many tour operator software systems also allow for customer and guest feedback, helping you stay on top of any complaints, compliments or suggestions for improvement.
Avoid double booking: Tour operator scheduling software can be a silver bullet for all of your scheduling woes, helping prevent double-bookings, among other things. The software is designed to track and manage multiple concurrent schedules, and some even do so in cooperation with your third-party business partners. It can even help prevent no-shows by sending well-timed reminders to customers with upcoming trips.
Increase sales of value-adding services: With payment portals and click-to-add purchasing capabilities, tour operator systems can improve your sales performance by increasing the value of individual transactions. For example, when a customer is about to book their beach tour, the software can ping them with an offer to add on a dive trip or snorkel equipment rental.
Improve insight into business operations: Ever wonder why some customers seem to love the special deals you offer online or through email marketing, while other customers only commit to purchases they discuss in person? Tour operator software supplies the data and insight needed to identify trends among your customers and answer questions like these.
Increase employee satisfaction: Tour operator software takes much of the busywork out of running a tour operation. With fewer repetitive tasks in the way, staff can spend more time focusing on customers and improving the business. It’s also worth mentioning that employees can become more engaged when they’re asked to do fewer repetitive mundane tasks.
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