Tour operators should consider all their options in line with their needs and goals when choosing a software solution for their business, according to Leigh Ingle, MD of Tourplan – a specialised software provider for tour operators.
Tourism Update spoke to Ingle, who offered insight on the process of choosing the right software solution for your company.
“Tour operator software is computer software that’s tailor-made to assist with the bulk of operations required to run a successful tour operations business,” said Ingle. He added that while other software could help with this, it often required additional tools or expensive customisation.
Q: Why might businesses seek out a tour operator software solution?
A: Many businesses will try to get by with a basic internal management system when they start out. When the business begins to grow, however, it ends up with a bunch of patchworked systems that may not work very well together. This can make both system maintenance and daily operations difficult to keep up with.
Businesses may no longer be satisfied with their current systems for a number of reasons. They may have outgrown it, the business model may have changed, poor service from their current provider etc.
Q: What are the main challenges when choosing a software solution?
A: One of the initial challenges to overcome is the range of choice that’s available in the marketplace today. To narrow it down, tour operators are advised to evaluate their current situation. This could include mapping their current workflow – including their daily work activities, management of those activities, storage of and access to information as well as the reporting process.
The next task is for operators to identify their business pain points, asking themselves why they’re considering a new software solution.
Once this has been achieved it’s time to look at how they want to grow their business, identify future business directions and growth plans, and questions like:
- Do they plan to expand into new markets or industry sectors?
- What sales and purchasing channels will they need?
- What industry trends or requirements will they need to address with technology?
Once the above is clear it should be summarised in a ‘key requirements’ document that can be updated as needed. This is a really useful resource to share with any software vendors a business is considering.
Q: What key factors should a business keep in mind when choosing software solutions?
A: When a company starts weighing up options, it should keep the ‘key requirements’ document close at hand and refer to it constantly.
It’s always a good idea for businesses to talk to colleagues in the industry. Not all of them will be competitors, and they’ll be happy to give you an overview of their systems. Getting feedback from businesses that are actively using any software solution they are considering is a great way to help decide if it’ll work.
Companies should look for one system that covers of its all key requirements, as well as the flexibility to handle ad hoc and special scenarios.
Finally, look for a proven track record. Along with good customer reviews, the software provider should have skills, expertise and experience in the tourism industry as well as in software development.
The relationship with the software provider is an important consideration to keep in mind. A partner who is committed to not only understanding the business’s requirements, but who is on board with it for the long haul is needed
Q: What can the software solutions help a business achieve?
A: Ultimately, the best tour operator software for them will allow them to:
- manage their back office processes efficiently and easily;
- reduce the likelihood of errors occurring;
- allow management to make core decisions based on reliable data;
- and enable their tour operator business to spread its wings and grow, expand into new areas or start new projects.
Q: What about companies on a budget?
A: Budget is more than likely a big factor that businesses will be considering when searching for tour operator software. There’s no rule book when it comes to deciding how much they should be spending – it really depends on their budget, needs and expectations.
However, the old saying, ‘you get what you pay for’, applies here. That’s not to say that a low-priced solution won’t work for them – they might be fine with something simple, and paying for ‘bells and whistles’ they don’t need and won’t use isn’t cost-effective – but it’s still important to balance what they can afford with quality.