Arival Guide to Booking System Pricing

Subscriptions, online booking fees and OTA booking fees, oh my! This updated guide to evaluating booking system pricing includes an overview of up-to-date rates from some of the most popular platforms

Reading Time: Reading time: 4 minutes, 37 seconds

While there are many factors to consider when choosing a reservation technology provider for your tour, activity or attraction company, price is understandably high on the list. 

Recently, we got word from concerned operators in Portugal and Ireland that FareHarbor is adding a fee to bookings processed through online travel agencies (OTAs) through their system, at least for operators in those countries. (Arival reached out to FareHarbor for more details, but did not receive a reply by time of publication). FareHarbor is not the only system to charge for third party bookings, however. So how do their rates compare? 

It’s not always easy to tell at a glance what the price of each system will end up costing. These reservation technology systems (also called res-techs, booking systems or ticketing platforms) generally offer one of two types of pricing models: fee-per-booking or subscription. However, there is quite a bit of variation from one company to another, and the best fit for any operator will depend greatly on several factors, such as their booking volume, and sales and distribution strategy.

In this article we outline the different models and the pluses and minuses of each for operators. We also lay out the terms and pricing structures of some of the leading booking systems for the experiences sector.

Editor’s Note: Originally published in 2020, this article has been updated on Sept. 25, 2023 to reflect the latest pricing information. Skip directly to the pricing table here. Learn more about booking systems and how to choose one here.

Booking System Pricing Models: Fee per Booking

Also referred to as transaction-based pricing or “pay as you go,” this model typically charges a commission, or percentage of each booking. This model tends to benefit smaller operators who don’t want to be tied to fixed expenses, especially during low season, and it ensures that they only pay when they get bookings.

However, res system companies take very different approaches with this model, and operators need to know the difference. There are four key areas of variation: payment processing charges, merchant of record, consumer fee vs. operator fee, and the fees themselves. 

Payment processing:

Some companies, such as FareHarbor and Xola, include credit card merchant fees in the overall booking fee. For other companies, such as Bokun, Checkfront and Rezgo, merchant fees are not included in their booking fee. Many companies that do not include payment processing fees will negotiate preferred rates with payment processing suppliers, that they pass on to their clients.

Merchant of record

The MoR is the entity authorized to process payments and assumes all liabilities around those payments. Some booking systems act as the merchant of record. This can be convenient for operators who don’t want to bother with setting up and managing their own payment gateway and merchant account. However it also means that the operator is limited to payment options available from the booking system. 

Booking system companies who act as the MoR also found themselves under pressure amid the global travel lockdown in 2020. They quickly became responsible for issuing refunds for the tsunami of cancellations from the pandemic. EzTix is one company that was still reported to be delayed in issuing refunds well into the summer.


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Consumer fee vs. operator fee:

Some res systems give operators the option of making the booking fee either an add-on fee that the customer pays on top of the tour price, or making it a part of the overall tour price. By describing the booking fee as a “consumer fee,” several res system companies market their technology as free to the operator. 

We see this as semantics. Ultimately, someone has to pay the fee.  Each operator will have to evaluate their own pricing tactics vs. their competitors and decide whether to tack it on as a consumer booking fee, or bundle it within the price of their products. For example, travelers may be put off by having to pay extra to book online versus the walk-up price. Operators should consider testing both approaches to see which works best. 

The fees:

Different booking systems charge different fees. Some charge a single flat fee only for website bookings. Others charge one fee for website bookings and another fee for bookings through other channels such as OTA bookings or those made through the front desk. Still others charge a mix of subscription fees plus booking fees. Some companies will even work with operators to set up the fee as a higher consumer booking fee and share some of the revenue back with the operator. 

So hold on to your hat, and check out the table of pricing models below. 

Subscription Model

A subscription fee model, also sometimes referred to as SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is typically a monthly or annual fee. Services such as Dropbox, Google’s GSuite (Gmail, GDocs, Drive, etc.) and Slack are all examples of SaaS. 

This approach means your technology will be a fixed cost, rather than a variable cost. It enables operators to more accurately budget annual technology expenses, and the costs remain steady (for the most part) even when bookings rise. This also provides more predictable revenues for the res system companies, and gives them a more stable revenue stream during downturns. 

The downside, of course, is operators must pay a fixed fee during low season or when bookings are soft. This is a risk to smaller operators, and the rapid growth of small and startup operators over the past decade has helped fuel the popularity of fee-based pricing models. However, with most starter pricing terms at $40-$50 per month, that only adds up to $500-$600 per year. 

As with the fee-based model, subscription models aren’t so cut and dry. Most companies offer tiered pricing, with less functionality and limits on booking volume and number of users for lower tiers. TourCMS, for example, only permits 30 bookings per month for its “Small” tier for $49 monthly. Some companies also charge transaction fees on top of the monthly fees, and those transaction fees tend to be highest with the lowest subscription tiers, but decline with higher tiers. 

Fee per Booking vs. Subscription: the Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line:

Fee-Per-Booking ModelSubscription Model
Pro: no fixed costs for smaller and start-up operators who want to tie expenses to their booking volume.Pro: great for businesses that want predictability in their technology costs. 
Con: costs rise with business growth. This is a negative for larger operators.Con: those costs are still there during downturns and low seasons. 
Bonus tip: operators that do not do a lot of consumer website bookings may also want to consider systems that only charge fees on website bookings.The fine print: there is a lot of variation in subscription models, so it will be essential to read the fine print and calculate the total cost of ownership.

Negotiation: It Never Hurts to Ask

Do not ever hesitate to reach out to your account manager and try to negotiate. We have heard from many operators who have negotiated more favorable terms with several of the res system companies listed below. We also know that many of these companies provided waivers or fee reductions during  the pandemic-era travel lockdowns. And as your business grows, you become more valuable to your reservation system provider. So don’t ever hesitate to ask for more. 

Pricing Models by Companies

Here are two charts that lay out some of the basic pricing terms for some of the leading reservation technology providers in our industry. For the subscription models table, note that the monthly fees are based on the “starter” or lowest price tier. Costs are higher for companies that need tiers with more functionality or with higher booking volumes. For the fee-per-booking model tiers, the fees listed are also starting fees, but note that some companies offer a lower website booking fee for companies with a higher volume of sales.

Please note: Although some of these companies have been or are currently Arival sponsors, no company has paid Arival to be included on this list. Also, we do our best to provide accurate information, and everything below has been confirmed from the company’s website and/or from a company spokesperson, but we recognize we may not always get every detail right. If you are a res-tech and the pricing listed is not correct please contact us right away.

Fees per Booking Model

CompanyWebsite Booking FeeBooking Fee for Other ChannelsPayment Processing FeeOne-Time Setup FeeLearn More
CaptainBook4%1.4% + €0.30
Eola3%1.7% +30p
Indexic6.0%n/a2.9%+30¢no cost
Orioly2.5%Not included$249
ResPax****2%Not includedNo
Singenuity3-4%Not included
Travelotopos3%1.5%Not included250€
TrekkSoft******5%3% / €0.552.5% + €
TripWorks*******5.0%2-5%2.9% + 30¢No
TRYTN*******5.0%1%******2.9% + 30¢NoN/A
WaveRez4-6%none2.9% + 30¢$300
Xola3-6%1.9% + 30¢N/A
Zaui6%Not includedMay

Many companies’ fee-per-booking models can be structured as a “consumer fee,” meaning that the fee is added to the transaction as a booking fee paid by the customer. Some companies, such as Rezgo, also have promotional rates for new customers, which are lower than what’s listed here. Many companies, including Peek and Rezgo, also offer custom enterprise pricing on a per deal basis.

**The 6% fees for FareHarbor is an estimate based on industry sources but has not been formally confirmed by the company.

***For Peek bookings through Reseller Hub by OCTO fee is 3%, all other bookings 6%. Credit card processing fees are in addition: 2.3%+30¢ for online and 3.9%+30¢ for manual entry. Peek also offers custom enterprise pricing on a per deal basis.

****ResPax booking fees are starting from 2%, but can be lower for higher volume with custom pricing calculated by cost-to-serve. 2% for all online channels, 0.5% for back-office bookings, no charge for staff-entered bookings.

*****RocketRez contracts are a combination of per transaction and subscription model. Setup fees are sometimes included depending on the complexity of the project and custom work to be done. Those are quoted individually.

******TrekkSoft charges 3% for OTA bookings and €0.55 for offline bookings per transaction.

*******TripWorks charges 2% for OTA/API connected bookings, 5% for direct website, private (non-API) and offline bookings. A $49 fee may apply to accounts falling below $5,000 of transactions in a calendar month (negotiable).

******* TRYTN charges 1% on back office manually entered bookings charged by credit card only. No fee for OTA or other third party bookings.

Subscription Models

Monthly Fee (starts at)
Website Booking Fee (starts at)Booking Fee Other ChannelsPayment Processing FeeTicket FeeLearn More
BookingBoss$44 AUD
Checkfront$12575¢ (offline)Not
Eola£483.0%1.7% +30p
Regiondo€992.5% & 49¢49¢Not included€
Rezio$49Not included
TourCMS (Palisis)$
TrekkSoft******€117.003%2.5% / €0.552.5% + €
Ventrata********$525.002%2%Not included

Most companies have tiered subscription pricing. The starting prices (shown here) generally include limited features. The higher tiers include more features, support more users and higher booking volume, and also lower transaction fees.

* Bokun’s OTA booking fees not applied to bookings through Viator, GYG, TripAdvisor

*****RocketRez contracts are a combination of per transaction and subscription model. Setup fees are sometimes included depending on the complexity of the project and custom work to be done. Those are quoted individually.

******TrekkSoft charges 3% for OTA bookings and €0.55 for offline bookings per transaction

******** Ventrata’s pricing is custom based on volume, this is the starting price.

Learn More About Booking Systems With Arival

We know the online booking system landscape can be confusing, and pricing is only one aspect of choosing the right reservation technology provider to meet your needs. Check out our Arival Guide on How to Choose a Booking System to learn more. Arival Insider Pro members can also access checklists to help with this process.

Also, join us at Arival 360 | Orlando, where many of the res-tech providers from the list above — and more — will be present. It’s a great opportunity to meet their staff and learn more about their companies in person. Several companies will also be offering demo labs on their systems at the conference. We hope to see you there!

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