Tour Operator Reservation System Saves Marriages

How the canopy tour industry uses tour operator reservation system

Michael Smith, President of AdventureSmith, Inc. responds to questions about Resmark Systems as a reservation and marketing solution for the Canopy Tour and Challenge Course industry and tour operators in general.

Michael has 16 plus years experience in the challenge course industry as a facilitator/guide, builder, manager, trainer, and business consultant and holds degrees in Wilderness Leadership and Master of Training and Development. Michael has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies as a business consultant, facilitated hundred of challenge course programs for schools, teachers, and youth organizations, authored and published climbing guides, worked as a Chief Field Instructor for the Outward Bound School, and managed challenge course programs. Through his work as a consultant in the canopy tour field he has helped to design and launch more than a dozen canopy tours in the United States, Canada, and abroad and has provided training, site feasibility and business planning services to more than 40 canopy tour and zip line operations. Michael is currently the President of AdventureSmith, Inc., a niche consultancy focusing on business consulting, marketing, and staff training for zip lines, canopy tours, and adventure parks. He is extremely excited about his two newest projects: www.ZiplineNirvana.com, a social networking site for zip line and canopy tour enthusiasts, and ArborTrek, a new canopy tour company with locations under development in the Northeast United States.

Q: How quickly is the canopy tour industry growing?

Canopy Tours first came to the United States in 2003, but it was not until 2005 that the boom really began. As of the end of 2009, there were 85 commercial zip rides, canopy tours, and zip line tours in the U.S. and Canada. By mid-summer 2010, I anticipate there will be 120 tours (an increase of 41% in the first half of 2010). For more information, please refer to the Zipline statistics and trends on the Zipline Nirvana Blog.

Q: What problems or challenges were you trying to solve when you found Resmark?

Unlike Aerial Trekking Courses and Zip Rides, most canopy tours and zip line tours rely heavily on reservations. While tours can occasionally accommodate walk-ups, walk-ups create staffing, screening, and risk management challenges. Well located and marketed canopy tours will often serve 250-350 clients per day during peak season. To manage these numbers, an efficient reservation process is necessary; ideally that process would allow for 24/7 access to data and for clients to easily book online.

In seeking a solution, I explored more than 15 different systems. While there were a number of systems that offered some of the features I was seeking, many lacked efficiency and from a functionality standpoint, they were limited. Resmark was clean, efficient, and powerful. As a marketing specialist, the integration of the marketing toolbox was the icing on the cake.

Pricing for reservation systems is across the boards. Systems were available from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. As a web-based software developer, I was looking for a product line that I knew would have a long life cycle, would see continuous development, and would be well supported. I found all of those criteria in Resmark. From a value standpoint, Resmark won hands down. Further, it was one of the few systems I researched that showed a positive ROI.

Q: Why do you recommend Resmark to tour operators over other systems?

It’s simple.

  • The system has a clean, user-friendly interface that instill confidence in end-users when booking.
  • On the backend, Resmark is powerful and has the necessary features to grow with businesses if they have multiple product lines, elect to diversify their offerings, or wish to become a reseller for other tours.
  • Resmark offers integrated marketing features that reduce marketing costs and improve the front-end and follow-up experience.
  • Resmark is a supported product line with a bright future. We’re talking about the storage and accessibility of critical business data. I have to be confident that any product I recommend my clients use will continue to be secure, will have new features added, and will be well supported in to the future. While I tested many less expensive products, most of the product lines lacked long-term vision and high-end support.
  • From a marketing standpoint, Canopy Tours are the “sexy” item that sells. Operators who understand this can leverage their marketing to sell other tours, lodging, and products. Resmark’s ability to setup agents, embed the booking process into other sites, and to establish relationships to sell tours for other operators provides opportunities for operators to dramatically grow their business beyond a single product.
  • It provides owners the ability to run reports, track marketing, and pull critical business data necessary to make good business decisions.
  • Resmark automates many of the most time consuming and mundane functions of the booking process greatly reducing staffing costs and improving customer service.
  • Anecdotally, of the twelve tours I have helped to install since 2005, four operations elected not to invest in a reliable online reservation system. Those four owners are now divorced. Could Resmark have saved their marriages? Hard to say. What it could definitely have done is reduced the stress of non-stop phone calls late in to the evening and the fear of lost income if the phone was not answered. It has been my experience that tours operating without a good reservation system frequently underperform. It has also been my observation that tour operators without an easy-to-use online reservation system arrive at the office each day to a full or near full voice mailbox. During the busy season, some calls can go a full day or more before it can be returned. That’s bad business, especially when many of the most common questions and requests could easily be handled by Resmark.


Q: What would you say to tour companies who are having a hard time with the cost of computerized reservation software like Resmark?

Resmark is not appropriate for all tours and must be calculated accurately in to the business plan. My experience in reviewing business plans is that new tour operators almost always underestimate the time required to book tours and send out confirmations. Everyone looks at the revenue side of the business and almost no one looks at the expense side.

For modest size tours (those serving over 10,000 clients) and up, the cost of Resmark is often completely offset by the reduction in staff wages. For larger tours concerned about giving away a percentage of their revenues, my recommendation is to charge a convenience fee or service fee of 1% to all customers. You could even charge a 2% service fee and make a small profit. Most guests will not complain about the additional fee and you will cover the costs of Resmark.

When it comes down to it, if a company has to justify the cost of a good online reservation system, it is likely that they have already made a series of poor business decisions. While there are a few examples of tours whose business models do not require a reservation system like cruise-fed or resort-fed tours serving a single client, most businesses have to plan it into their expenses.

Whether a company elects to use Resmark or another system often has more to do with how the owner views the world. Are they the type of person that see long-term value and return on investment or are they simply looking at upfront costs. Having worked with numerous CRM systems and web-based solutions, I can honestly say that each time I have selected a product based on a one-time fee and not a license with continual support, I have been disappointed and often had to invest significantly more in the future to transfer data to a new system.

Q: How can tour operators take advantage of Resmark to make their business more efficient, save time, or save money?

Automation is one of the top reasons I recommend Resmark. Analysis of many of the tours I have worked with show that most reservations occur early in the morning or after normal business hours. Clients have three options: 1) carry a cell phone at all hours, 2) spend money staffing an office early in the morning and late at night, or 3) install a user-friendly online reservation system. It’s a no brainer in my mind.

The ability to collect customer data online or over the phone and automate custom responses leads to cost savings, happy customers, and happy staff. After all, who really wants to constantly be entering data and tinkering with Word templates and e-mails when it can be automated. Automation allows key staff and customer service representatives to focus on what they should be doing (servicing customers’ needs and growing the business). Instead, I watch a lot of underperforming business pay good money to have their staff simply enter data and send out confirmations. What a waste.

As an owner, I value the reporting features. Reports allow me to more efficiently schedule staff, plan for the future, track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and check on the bottom line. In the past, these were functions that required tying up other staff on the phone or manually compiling data. Through Resmark, reports are available 24 hours a day from anywhere in the World provided that an internet connection is available.

Q: How can tour operators take advantage of Resmark to increase sales?

Achieving great success in the canopy tour industry is a matter of leverage. The ability to setup agents and to leverage the marketing capacities of many agencies rather than just your own is the single most strategy to growing a business quickly. Resmark makes the process fast and simple.

For operations with multiple tours and products, the up-sell features built in to the Resmark System are top notch. Whether as part of the booking process or through automated e-marketing, Resmark provides options for operators to build the process once and benefit for months.

See a demo of Resmark Systems today!