Top 10 Features The Best Tour Booking Systems Should Have

July 15, 2022
Allan Formigoni (he/him)
9 min read

Great tour booking systems are at the heart of every successful travel business. Now that the tourism industry is bouncing back, the question is, does your company have the right technology to meet the market and get an edge over the competition?

Expedia surveyed 12,000 travelers in 12 countries and found that 65% of respondents plan to 'go big' with exciting and extravagant holiday trips in 2022. After two years of lockdown, Expedia calls this new "no-regrets" style of travel the "GOAT", short for the Greatest of All Trips, mindset.

Spreadsheet: Travel industry's booking and payment gateways compared

This has placed a lot of pressure on travel companies that may not be ready for an influx in online bookings to improve the look and functionality of their booking pages.

It's especially true for operators that take bookings for overseas travel. They need to be able to offer solutions for group and multiday travel, be GDPR compliant, and manage the financial element securely from all over the world.

What other features are must-haves that tour operators should look for in tour booking system?

Table of Contents

10 Essential Features For Tour Booking System 

1. Beautiful and Shareable Booking Pages 

A shareable tour booking page is a quick and secure way to accept bookings, even if you don't have a fancy website.

Efficient tour booking system allows tour operators to create booking pages in a matter of minutes, regardless of whether it's for an individual invoice or a group trip. The booking software should be able to generate trip links that you can send via email, direct message, social media, etc., directly to travelers who want to make reservations.

It's also helpful to have the option to embed the booking pages directly on your WordPress, Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace website for customers to access. The page should have space for your trip description, pictures, videos, and itinerary outline. Ideally, it should allow you to paint a picture of what's on offer and really sell your tours. It also helps if you can set up a call to action to guide clients through the booking process.

Pro tip: Look for tour booking system with a Calendar Widget feature!

If you have a trip that's available on multiple dates during the year or the season, adding a calendar widget with all the available booking dates to your booking page is a handy idea.

This allows your customers to see all the availability and book without ever leaving your website.

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tour booking software

2. Ability To Book And Pay Online Or Offline

A great tour booking system will give your clients various payment methods to choose from. This ensures they can conveniently pay using the method that suits them best, whether that's online or offline.

At a minimum, your software should let you take payments via ACH, PayPal, and credit or debit card. If you don't take online payments in the U.S., you risk losing access to the 83% of people who want to book their trips online.

A smart booking system ensures that every payment, regardless of how it is made, is properly recorded. This will guarantee you don't oversell your trips and allows all payments and booking information to be available in one report.

To cater to people who want to pay by cash or check, look for software that allows you to add any cash or check payments to your participant's booking. Then update the system to ensure the client's remaining balance is correct.

Finally, it should automatically send out professional receipts via email.

Pro Tip: Look for a tour booking system that incorporates Communication Tools!

Website communication tools are essential for taking offline payments. It is also important to convert sales and help travel companies and tour operators stay in touch with clients online. The most popular communication tools outside of phone numbers and email are live chats, virtual assistants, chatbots, feedback solutions, and messaging apps.

3. Process Both eCheck/ACH And Card Payments 

By offering travelers the option to pay via online eCheck or ACH (Automated Clearing House, which is a US financial network used for electronic payments and money transfers), operators can save thousands of dollars in card processing fees.

ACH payments are a way to transfer money from one bank account to another without using credit card networks, paper checks, wire transfers, or cash.

ACH payments are electronic, which means that they are faster and more reliable than checks. This makes it easier to streamline and automate the overall accounting process.

Because it costs less to process an ACH transfer than a credit card payment or wire transfer, travel agents can accept payments from US and European bank accounts for between 0.5% to 1.5% of the transaction amount.

Ideally, the tour booking system should accept all major bank payments and credit cards. This includes:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • American Express
  • Diners Club
  • Maestro
  • Discover
  • JCB
  • Diners Club
  • UnionPay

You should also look for a payment processing system that does not charge for refunds, charge additional fees for international cards, cross-border card payments, or currency conversions.

Pro Tip: Look for a tour booking system that offers you financial options!

Look for a tour booking system provider that lets you decide whether or not to pass over credit card fees to the customer.

4. Be Flexible With Payment Plans 

Offering payment plans to your customers gives them some flexibility in how they pay for their tour or travel arrangements. This could result in more sales conversions for your business.

tour booking software

By setting up payment plans, participants are normally able to pay a deposit and then follow up with installments until the trip total is fully paid up.

To make things even more accessible, great software will allow you to send automatic reminders to clients when their payments are due. This gives them time to plan their finances and ensure payment is made on time.

Pro Tip: Look for a tour booking system that offers you automated billing!

Upgrade your payment plan pages with an auto-billing feature. This will automatically charge your customers on pre-defined dates with their saved default method of payment.

5. Have A Mobile-First Mindset 

Considering how much mobile phones have changed how we book travel, it's an absolute must for your website to be optimized for mobile.

In fact, when it comes to making bookings, 31% of leisure travelers and 53% of business travelers have booked using their smartphones.

Travelers also use their mobile phones as their primary devices and want to be able to check their itinerary or make changes or inquiries on their phones while on their journey.

To this end, mobile interactions need to be simple and uncrowded. They should allow the user to read all the information and click all the buttons in an intuitive way.

Potential customers searching for tour and travel offers will expect the same ease of functionality they can get on your website.

A mobile-friendly website should automatically scale to fit mobile and tablet screens. This enables your customers to easily make bookings, submit payments, and manage their booking information on their phones.

You can ensure fast loading speeds (5 seconds or less) by asking your design and software development teams to optimize the site for quick loading, especially on booking pages.

Pro Tip: Look for tour operator software that makes your client's process easier!

When designing for mobile, include an autofill function on all forms on your website or app to make it easy for users to use your booking forms.

This enables users to quickly complete forms, such as registration and payment forms, as well as one-click navigation and click-to-call or -action buttons.

6. Impress With A Daily Itinerary Builder 

Whether your company offers multiday tours, educational trips, or wellness retreats - an inspiring travel itinerary that carefully curates and details the places you plan to visit on your trip will help you convert more bookings and attract more leads.

Travel itineraries help operators with budgeting, organizing, and planning trips for their customers. For travelers, it provides clarity when booking flights or making hotel arrangements (because everything is in one place).

Start building your itinerary by setting start and end dates, the destination(s), the activities planned for each day, and departure times from train stations or airports if those are applicable.

Though it seems a daunting task, an itinerary is simple to develop if you have the right tour booking system at hand.

It will allow you to plan every detail down to the minute while allowing ample space for visuals and descriptive text that illustrate the customer's journey.

tour booking software

Your itineraries can be added to your booking pages and proposals to liven up your offering.

You'll also need to add emergency or support contact information on your itinerary pages so that customers can contact you should anything go awry. A nice touch would be to add a packing list to your itinerary.

Pro Tip: Look for tour booking system that adjusts to your clientele!

Look for software that allows you to make your group trip either public or private. If you're planning a group trip for an exclusive number of people, only people who you share the itinerary link with will be able to access your trip.

At the same time, it must have the functionality to make the trip public if you want to change access.

7. Customize Your Registration Form 

Being able to build a custom form to collect relevant travel-related information is a must in any tour booking system. Each trip and each tour group is different and will have different parameters and requirements you need to keep in mind.

This places high demands on the organizational tools in that they need to be flexible and cater to all situations and types of itineraries.

The answer is to find a tour booking system that provides a single point for everything so that you can finalize tour numbers, record attendee details, and start booking various elements of the trip all in one place.

tour booking software

Fields and functionality to consider on registration forms includes:

  • Basic information capture such as name, contact details
  • Text questions that cover issues such as food preferences and accessibility
  • Dates they'd prefer to take the tour or attend a retreat
  • Surveys if you want to gauge interest in features of a trip
  • Multiple-choice fields for selecting payment method or trip package
  • Checkmark questions to agree to your terms

Pro Tip: Look for a tour booking system that incorporates efficient booking options!

Include a registration form on your booking page and send interested participants a link to complete it. Once they open it, they can register their details and immediately make their deposit payment.

The benefit is, once submitted, you will see their information on your platform dashboard neatly organized according to each trip and participant.

8. Load Up Your Trip Management Dashboard 

With a comprehensive trip management dashboard built into your tour booking system, organizers can efficiently manage all aspects of their trip administration in one central place. Ideally, you're looking for a platform where you don't have to wade through a ton of information manually.

The information you need at your fingertips includes messaging participants, sending payment reminders, integrating booking into your website, and promoting trips on social media.

A trip management dashboard with all the bells and whistles reduces the need for manual spreadsheets and email chains, allowing tour operators to easily see who has signed up for a trip.

Through the dashboard you should also be able to issue refunds, manage cancellations, and set custom prices.

Pro Tip: Look for tour operator software that allows you to see your data everywhere!

Look for software that allows you to download everything related to a specific tour or trip into an Excel spreadsheet right from the trip management dashboard.

9. Do More With Zapier API Integration 

Tour booking system needs to be able to integrate with most of the popular platforms that are used around the globe. This requires an API that connects via Zapier and can bring thousands of platforms right into your booking system.

Zapier is used with an API to integrate with over 2,000 other web services that streamline tour operators' sales and marketing, client relationships, accounting, and communication systems.

Examples of these web services are marketing platforms such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact; CRM systems including Salesforce and HubSpot, as well as or accounting systems such as QuickBooks and  Zero.

It works through pre-programmed, zero-coding connections known as Zaps. These trigger actions allow tour operators to automate tasks and create workflows that streamline many of the time-consuming and repetitive daily work processes that come with running a travel business.

By automating workflows with triggered actions, Zapier integration can help travel companies speed up bookings, increase efficiency, and boost revenue.

Pro Tip: Look for a tour booking system that works for your business!

Through integrations, travel companies can automate workflows (including report creation) which can then send notifications and confirmations.

They can also automate client-facing services such as receiving reservations and issuing itineraries, and manage employee and customer service issues.

tour booking software

10. Sponsor My Trip! 

Contribution pages are an effective way for travelers to raise money to help pay for their trips. If you're organizing a field trip or educational tour, your customers may want to collect funding to help cover the trip costs.

A contribution page is an effortless way to raise funds and collect payments. And once built, users, can easily share the page with their supporters, friends, and family.

Booking software that offers contribution page functionality is streets ahead of others. Clients obtain permission to create their own personalized contributions page which they can customize with their own title, image, and introductory paragraph that describes the trip and why they are fundraising.

To make it easier for others to contribute, software should not force them to sign up, although you would want to capture their first and last name, and a way to contact them (either email or mobile phone number).

As contributions come in, the trip manager page will show the progress towards the outstanding trip balance and how many people have contributed money into the pot.

Pro Tip: Look for a tour booking system that allows you to grow your brand!

The URL generated for a contribution page can be shared directly to email, Messenger, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook - thereby boosting your brand on social media.

tour booking software

Last Words On Tour Booking Systems 

Whether you offer yoga retreats, eco-adventures, or foodie trips to Italy, you want to make the online booking process as simple and easy as possible.

At the same time, your booking software has to work for you by streamlining and automating tasks, while giving you the flexibility to adapt and scale up as the tourism sector evolves.

Efficient booking software is essential because travelers are increasingly using their smartphones for all leisure-time organization. It also needs to be backed up by safe, secure payment options and provide seamless registration so you can safely capture the most important data relating to the trip.

If you're starting out in the tour operating arena, or run a small travel business, booking software that offers free or basic functions allows you to start building your business without a hefty capital outlay.

As your business grows, invest in paid features that will give you more functionality and will set you apart from your competitors.