BLUE SKY THINKING
The cloud holds the power for switched on holiday business...
If we have learned anything from the global pandemic crisis, and its impact on our holiday business, it is surely the importance of access to user-friendly, joined-up management systems. From on-line marketing to ‘click to confirm’ buttons, as the Covid-19 curtain was raised, a booking stampede was triggered with demand exceeding availability by an estimated three-fold. Switched-on operators now boast sophisticated monitoring systems to alert them to booking trends. The big players will know from geographic triggers which destinations are top of the holiday pops. Equally, from tourer pitches to luxury lodges, they will have a close eye on the trends for holiday accommodation requests. Like all aspects of business, knowledge is the key to success. Capitalising on the gold rush, those operators were quick to raise prices as demand spiralled. Constantly monitoring those graphs, with performance alerts, they are more akin to stock market traders than the traditional bucket and spade brigade. It’s more important than ever that park operators keep pace with technology – especially when it comes to maximising online bookings and sales.
In today’s post Covid-19 market, sharp and effective websites with user-friendly online booking systems, search engine optimisation, e-blasts, apps and cookie-based promotion – the e-marketing revolution is in full flow with the majority of holiday businesses investing or ignoring at their peril. Net Guides are the brains behind one of the market’s most popular systems, GemaPark.
“Online bookings are so important in saving time and increasing revenue,” advises Netguides Managing Director, Dawn Bee. “In the new socially distanced world of today the system should provide online check-in, easy ways to keep in touch with customers if things change, and the ability for customers to manage their bookings and rebook if required,” Dawn adds. “Make sure they are easy for your customers, integrate well with your website, and give you the flexibility to sell what you want.”
Still not convinced? A huge proportion research their holidays on line before going on to click booking links to confirm their holidays. Google data shows that 45% of UK travellers feel comfortable researching, planning and booking trips to new destinations using only their mobile smart phone. More than a third, 33%, of consumers say they’ve used a virtual travel assistant to help organise and plan their next trip. 72% of mobile phone bookings happen within 48 hours of last-minute Google searches. Those booking systems cannot just be business-friendly they need to be user-friendly. For a visitor to the website, the online booking system should be straightforward and easy to use, and clearly provide the visitor with all the information they need to book their stay. It must be logical, with quality pictures and descriptions so that customers can make their preferred selection.
Having the booking page designed in the same style as the website and having the payment taken directly from the website page considerably helps this, and directly increases the number of online bookings made. Customers like to feel comfortable and secure as they navigate around the website booking pages. Equally, the system should be just as simple for the reservation team to use, making it easy for them to carry out tasks such as taking payment, amend bookings, calculate tariffs, generate ‘remote access’ arrival and departure reports and undertake online marketing initiatives. A key advantage of having a webbased booking system that operates off one platform, is that when an online booking is made it immediately goes into the management system, therefore avoiding mistakes and errors.
Another area technology that has started to see major take up by caravan and holiday parks, arcades and family entertainment centres worldwide is the cashless payment system. The system replaces traditional methods of transaction like tokens, coins, and admission tickets with a simple card. Guests use the plastic card, similar to a credit card, to make all of their transactions on site. The cards can be loaded with any amount, and once swiped at an activity, the appropriate value is deducted. The card system goes well beyond a payment method, but includes a full suite of products designed to handle all the pay to play activities, as well as the monitoring of customers activity and games performance. Park operators benefit from the endless marketing and pricing opportunities that become available, while at the same time reduce operating costs and improve cash control. With all customers using cards for their activity within the site or across multiple sites of the same chain, operators have the opportunity to profile their customers and create marketing promotions and packages based on the real spending habits. This in turn can generate more return visits and higher spend during each visit. Ignorance may be bliss but it will be the switched-on holiday park businesses, who embrace new technology, that stand to reap the rewards and benefits of multiple net gains.