Ten reasons why tourism SMMEs should turn to digitalisation
Never before has the strength and resilience of the tourism industry been tested as heavily as it has in the past few months. With only limited business tourism possible, no clear indication as to when South Africa will allow interprovincial travel, and no sign of when the borders will open for international travel, it can be difficult to remain positive.
But, the world will travel again. Travellers will once again fly to our beautiful shores, they will connect with our culture, laugh alongside us, go on swims, hikes and adventures. That is why it is important for our industry to get ready to welcome travellers and show them everything our country has to offer, from the known landmarks, to the exceptional experiences in our rural areas.
To achieve this, we need to bring innovation and digitalisation to everyone in the tourism industry. Many tourism SMMEs in South Africa still rely on manual booking systems. Whether through habit, fear of change, fear of technology or uncertainty around the costs involved – or a combination of all four – many are resisting the shift to online booking systems.
A real pity, because an optimised website combined with a simple (and fast) online booking solution will not only save you time and money – but can also maximise your booking potential.
Here are ten reasons why all tourism SMMEs need an online booking system:
1. Today’s customers are online …
Last year, according to The South African Tourism 2019 Annual Report, nearly sixty per cent of the 10.2 million international tourists recorded last year were below the age of 34 years. That’s right: six million international visitors to our shores in 2019 fall into the youth category.
And with the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) predicting that younger travellers (18-35), who appear to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, will be among the first to begin travelling once again, youth travellers (and their wants and needs) will become more and more significant.
And one singular characteristic of this group? They are tech-savvy and online.
2. … and want to book on your website
Skift’s Millennial and Gen Z Traveller 2019 survey shows that both Millennials (23 – 38) and Gen Zs (16-22) are researching, comparing and booking online. Their devices may differ (laptops, tablets and smartphones), but they want ease and convenience – which means booking directly through your website or social media platform, not sending an email or picking up the phone.
If your website is easy to navigate and connected to an effective online booking system, you’ll convert more interest to bookings and avoid losing customers along the way.
3. You can reach more people
Online booking systems, like the much-anticipated Jurni Booking Tool, can help connect SMMEs to the market in new and exciting ways. They increase your visibility (among customers and intermediaries) and allow you to reach more people.
Of course, you can also list your establishment on international and local websites (like TripAdvisor and booking.com) which will also broaden visibility and exposure.
4. You’ll appear professional and reliable
An up-to-date, easy-to-use and effective booking platform gives your enterprise credence and credibility. This will be one of your first interactions with potential customers, you want to appear professional, offering a slick and effortless service.
5. It’ll save you time
Say goodbye to manual entries and admin: an online booking system automatically updates your records, and you are able to manage booking requests, changes and confirmations; customer communication and feedback; and payments – quickly and easily.
6. You can accept immediate bookings and payments from around the world …
Youth travellers around the globe are comfortable in an online world. They compare prices, read reviews and make considered decisions, but once decided they want to book quickly – they are an immediate generation. An online booking system is perfect for immediate bookings from all corners of the globe.
7. … 24/7
In addition, an online booking system is ‘always on’, allowing customers to book 24/7, no matter their time zone – or yours.
8. You can accept last-minute bookings …
An online booking system also shows up-to-the-minute availability. Rather than assuming it’s too late to secure a booking, potential clients can see immediately if you can accommodate them (even at the very last minute).
9. … and can reduce no-shows
Clients that have booked over the phone or via email, but not yet paid, sometimes fail to arrive. It is a frustration – and completely avoidable. A good online booking system will take deposits, as well as sending out SMS reminders and email notifications.
10. You can offer add-ons and packages
Even better? Load all your offerings and add-ons onto the booking platform. Interested customers should be able to choose from a range of rooms, experiences and add-ons. Think combo itineraries, package deals and value-adds (e.g. sunset cruises or spa deals).
Ultimately, an effective online booking system will place your offering directly in front of an engaged audience (i.e. those actively ‘shopping’ for a product or service) – and allow you to engage with your customers in a professional and dynamic manner.
Sign up to Jurni’s booking tool today free of charge and start getting ready for tomorrow, when South Africa will once again welcome visitors from all corners of the world.