Nowadays, nearly all vacation planning begins with a search online. Once the dream destination is found, people increasingly expect to take the next step and book it. In so many words, people love instant gratification, and if they have the option of booking online, they are inclined to do it. So it goes without saying, guest ranches and lodges that offer online booking have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.
Historically online booking was designed for the hotel industry, and the functionality was not aligned with the highly personalized ways guest ranches and lodges like to do business. Things finally changed, and modern online booking now has the ability to properly support packages which include lodging, dining and activities. With this in mind, owners and operators of high-end ranches and lodges are not only focused on how best to put online booking to work for their business, but also how it can improve the guest experience.
Offer Online Booking as an Optional Service, Not your Only Means of Communication
Firstly, online booking capabilities allow you to provide answers to frequently asked questions so guests feel fully informed. This requires a well-designed customer journey, taking into account what guests really want to know before booking their experience.
Think of your online booking experience as an option for guests to make reservations, but not the only one. Potential guests may feel alienated if you do not also provide traditional means of getting in touch. Nothing can replace real person-to-person communication. That said, online booking can enhance customer interactions by making more information available to them upfront, and by providing an easy way for guests to share their preferences.
Many guests report a preference for online booking, as it affords them the opportunity to think as long as they need to about the choices they are making and take care of booking at any time they are free to do so. For some, the lack of an online booking process may even be a determining factor, leading them to seek alternative lodging options.
The Online Booker is Always on Duty
While your hardworking crew can’t man the phones every hour of the day, an online booking system is always ready to take reservations. This creates more opportunities to capture reservations, and it is especially helpful after business hours or when your office is closed on weekends or holidays.
And even when your team is on the job, their attention may be rightly focused on their tasks at hand. By the time they are able to respond to an inquiry left on your voicemail, the potential guest may have already made other arrangements. With online booking a guest can make the reservation at their convenience, and when your team is available they can follow up on further details.
What’s more, the cost of online booking represents a fraction of the cost of an employee, so when one considers the potential revenue gains from a tool that works 24/7, the modest investment required up front starts to look like a no-brainer.
photo courtesy of Lynn Donaldson
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