What to Look for in an Online Reservation System

Chip Broyles  |  April 1st, 2010

What functionality should you look for in an Online Reservation System?

When selecting reservation software for your tour business, there are several things to keep in mind. I have comprised a list of functionality that should be sought after by business in the Adventure Travel Industry.

System Cost

As is the case with most business software, you get what you pay for. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the most expensive booking management system will be the best solution for your business, it simply means that a more costly system generally has more functionality and is more robust. With that said, be sure to demo a few different reservation software solutions and find one that is rich with functionality you will use. Of course, what this all comes down to is a cost/value analysis. Some systems will provide basic reservation functionality. Other systems will provide reservations plus operations features. The most comprehensive systems, such as Resmark, will provide reservations, operations, accounting, and best of all – marketing automation. When you look at the time and cost saved with online reservations, operational efficiency, accounting time and new business generated from incredible marketing tools, its easy to see how much value is packed into a system that runs most of the critical elements of your business.

Software Longevity

Because an electronic reservation system will likely cost your business thousands of dollars, you want to make sure that you find a system that will be around for the long run. Be weary of systems that do not cost you anything on a monthly basis. I say this because this usually means there are no upgrades or new releases and internet reservation systems can fall out of date quickly. You want to find a system backed by strong software engineers who are not only adding new functionality, but also fixing bugs and performing regular maintenance development. Find a reservation booking system that is continually changing as technology changes, as this will keep your business on the forefront of your industry.

Who is Using the Reservation Software

When selecting an online booking system it is also imperative to know what other tour operators are using it and what type of results they are seeing. Request a list of references from the reservation system provider and speak with their users. The sales person can tell you how great the system is and all of the functionality it has, but you never know until you speak with the tour operators who are actually using it. If a reservation system provider has a client base built of successful, respected tour operators, this is always a good sign. It doesn’t necessarily matter how many clients they have, but it does matter who those clients are. In some cases, a smaller client base might be a good thing for you, because you will be able to receive regular support.


This is one of the most crucial aspects of selecting the right reservation system for your business. More often than not, business owners in the Adventure Travel Industry are not extremely savvy when it comes to technology and software solutions. With that said, make sure you find a reservation system provider that will be able to readily support your business whenever it is needed. Support can often be a hidden cost and become quite expensive, especially during set up and installation. Find a provider that will offer unlimited support and upgrades, to ensure you are getting the most of your reservation system. It is not uncommon to find a system that costs thousands of dollars to purchase and then thousands of dollars to support during its use. Find a reservation system that has the support costs built into the monthly licensing fees.


Most reservation systems will take reservations. With that said, always determine what else the system can do for you. Find a system that is rich with functionality, even if you are not going to use it right away. This way you will never be left wanting for new functionality as your business evolves. You’ll spend a lot of time configuring the system and entering your data and it’s not something you’ll want to repeat frequently. Consider where your business is now, and where you want it to be in a few years. Is this system going to facilitate the growth you hope to achieve? Will it allow you to grow your business more quickly and assist you in the entire process? If so, you have found the perfect reservation system for your operation.

Ease of Use

I mean ease of use in two ways. Is the online tour booking system easy to become acquainted with and is the system going to increase the ease of operating your business. It is imperative to find a system that has a simple, clean and attractive interface and is easy to follow and "figure out". This, coupled with support, will make the transition into a new reservation system feel seamless. You and your staff should become fully comfortable using the new reservation system in a short amount of time. Also consider if the system is going to be able to increase efficiencies in the office for you and your staff. Will it integrate with your existing accounting practices, generate financial and marketing reports, follow up with people viewing your website and convert them into bookings. Always ask the question, what can this system do for me in order to allow me to focus on operating the best trips in my region. A system should be able to allow you to spend more time focusing on what you love to do, whether it be sailing charters, scuba trips, white water rafting, zip line tours, operating your bed and breakfast, etc.

There are always additional thoughts to keep in mind when looking for a reservation system that will be right for your business; these are just a few considerations. Do your research, participage in a reservation system demo for several systems, keep functionality, support, ease of use and cost in mind and you will find the right system.

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Chip Broyles

Chip Broyles

Chip is a co-founder of WaiverSign , and is currently their VP of Business Development and Operations. He enjoys traveling, spending time with his family, and playing acoustic guitar.
*All information is accurate as of April 2010.