With a host of different providers to choose from and complex, multifaceted products to sell, multi-day operators have more to think about when choosing a restech system than most suppliers.
Arival has identified almost 60 different technology providers for multi-day, group and inbound (DMC) tour operators. They are often opaque about exactly what they do and what area of business they’re best suited for. Therefore, operators need to know exactly what they’re looking for as they begin their hunt.
Neil Lapping, founder and CEO of Macs Adventure, has worked with multiple systems after starting out almost 20 years ago using Excel spreadsheets. He told the Arival Multi-Day Forum the five questions he wished he’d asked himself before choosing his restech.
What is the Business Cost of Having the Wrong Technology?
“Choosing the wrong system can be enormously costly to the business,” Lapping said. Different reservation systems will have different impacts on a business model. Each will have an effect on your customers, staff, suppliers, product margins and operating costs.
Knowing where the cost of the system lies and how that impacts the bottom line is important. Lapping used the example of choosing a system built for day tours that bills based on a percentage of revenue. Operators should also examine how it affects customer lifetime value and other business metrics.
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“If that system is aimed at a day tour operator, that can work really well and be great value,” he said. “For a multi-day where the business model is different, it could represent your entire profit margin.”
What is the Most Important Problem That I’m Trying to Solve?
Deciding on your main problem that requires a solution will make the process of choosing a reservation system easier. This could be getting online bookings, third-party distribution to OTAs, gaining travel agent and tour operator connections, integrating flights, or, accessing some supplier reservations and rates.
“We go through different stages of our journey as entrepreneurs and tour operators,” Lapping said. “We have different problems.
“My experience is that the time spent ruthlessly prioritizing what your most important problem is right now will result in you finding a system which is a benefit for that problem.”
Do I Have the Internal Resources? Who’s Going to do This?
Implementing a new reservation system takes a long time. It’s a big decision that will probably affect how your operation runs for a number of years. Decisions need to be made, products must be mapped and content written for each OTA.
Who is going to do the work? It is possible to hire consultants with the expertise to drive the implementation — but this comes at a cost.
“If you’re small- or medium-sized, it’s probably going to be you,” Lapping said. That’s going to be driving the project, implementing, sitting in meetings. Is this the best use of your time?
“Ask yourself if you have the time, skills, patience and bandwidth to introduce a new system because it’s going to be a huge distraction.”
Will This Project Significantly Increase or Decrease Your Growth Rate?
Having realistic expectations and understanding that a new restech won’t fix all of your problems is important. A new system may have a negative impact on your business as you focus on the implementation and not on developing products.
Lapping said: “A vendor’s going to tell you that technology is going to totally transform your business. You’re basically going to be able to switch this thing on, go to the beach, relax. The customer is going to be happy, your team’s going to be happy, the money’s rolling in. And in my experience that’s perhaps not the case.
“When we’ve been trying to do big system changes, we’ve been so focused internally that we’ve lost track of what’s going on externally. We’re not developing new trips or markets, or speaking to our customers or speaking to our suppliers.”
What is it Really Going to Help and is it the Most Important Thing to Focus on Right Now?
Timing is important. Move too early, and you’re bringing in a new restech when you should be focusing on improving your model and processes. Implement it too late, and you’re stuck with working with pen, paper and Excel spreadsheets for too long.
“We were far too late to move off a paper system for our back office process,” Lapping said. “And the result was that everything was bigger, more complex, complicated — it just has been a monster.
“Getting that timing right is super important.”
Neil Lapping spoke about How to Choose Your Tech (and Not Spend a Million Bucks) at The Multi-Day Tours & Experience Forum
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