Why using excel may be harming your tour operator business
Do any of the above sound familiar? Yes? Don’t worry, we totally understand! In fact, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone. These are all complaints we’ve heard from tour operators like yourself over the past 10 years, in fact, it’s complaints like these that inspired us to get into this industry in the first place!
There are many reasons businesses like yours experience these restrictive feelings, but possibly the most common reason we’ve encountered time and time again is that tour operators and travel agencies are outgrowing Microsoft tools as a back office solution…to put it simply: Microsoft Office simply isn’t cutting it anymore.
The Microsoft Office suite is currently used by over 1.2 billion (yes, BILLION) people. It touches almost every industry in the world, and the travel industry is no exception. There’s certainly a reason for its popularity in our space: it’s familiar, often comes baked in with new computers, and is a great option for small travel agents just starting out. When things start to get busy, and you inevitably start to expand your operations is when using it for you back office processes can cause growing pains.
“Okay, I see what you’re saying…but I’m not entirely convinced”
We thought you might say that, after all, Excel and Word have been your trusty companions for all these years. So, instead of just taking our word for it, we’ve dived a bit deeper into the growing pains you’re currently experiencing to better understand how they affect tour operators and what you can do to circumvent them.
You’re Double and Triple Checking All of Your Quotes and Itineraries
It’s better to be safe than sorry, right? We think so too, BUT (there’s always a but)… we’re also aware of the fact that tour operators like yourself are losing hours in productivity by double checking everything, and that isn’t helpful for you, your staff, or your customers! Tools like Microsoft have simple checks in place, but they are not custom made to identify mistakes in your itineraries, meaning your quotes, bookings, and itineraries are more susceptible to human error.
There’s every chance that all that time spent double checking isn’t even ensuring 100% accuracy. ScienceABC explains that when checking our work our brains arrive at meaning before the analytical part of our brains get a chance to catch up and spot errors in words or numbers you’ve just written. Essentially your brain knows what it wants to read, tricking you into seeing words rather than individual letters.
In our 10 years in the industry, we’ve seen avoidable mistakes made that have cost tour operators thousands due to incorrect seasons being applied, date errors, pricing being out of date, transposed figures, the list goes on. If you’re still not convinced, Forbes and other research institutes, have found that over 80% of all spreadsheets contain errors, which are costing businesses billions every year.
Your Offering Requires so Much Customization That It Takes Your Team Hours to Complete One Itinerary
You’re a tour operator that specializes in tailor-made itineraries. We know that behind those beautifully crafted travel experiences is hours of work designing, and putting together itineraries. All of that time spent on itineraries makes it incredibly hard and costly for businesses like yours to expand their operations, with the only option being to hire numerous new staff.
Tour operators like Your Safari, who specialize in tailor-made photographic Safaris have a story that is unfortunately all too common. “We could spend 3 to 4 hours, sometimes more, on a complex custom quote,” explains their financial director, Jon Vince. Your Safari decided to transition away from Microsoft tools started using a solution specifically for tour operators (surprise…they choose Tourwriter!) “We can now create these quotes in minutes, meaning we can spend our free time planning new marketing activities,” explains Jon. There was a happy ending for Your Safari, but unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Tour Operators are still stuck with processes that take hours longer than they need to.
How to Bypass These Growing Pains
So as scary as the title “Excel may be harming your business” sounds, the reality is that Microsoft Office is simply not a system that will work for tour operators forever, particularly when it comes time for you to grow. Thankfully for you, there is an entire industry that’s developed over the past 5 to 10 years which revolves around making your job more scalable (hooray for technology!)
Tour operator software can have a broad interpretation, but at the crux of a good tour operator solution is automation and functionality that has been designed with helping travel businesses become more efficient. At Tourwriter we have a vested interest in minimising time spent on creating documents, be it quotes or itineraries or anything in between – we truly believe that creating quality, tailor-made itineraries doesn’t have to take hours.
As an additional bonus, Tourwriter is also set up to help you become GDPR compliant! If you aren’t familiar with the GDPR legislation, we’ve written a blog that will answer your questions around what it is, how it will affect your business and what you need to do to become compliant. For tour operators, the implementation of GDPR means that storing your customer’s personally identifiable information on a non-encrypted platform like Excel is no longer an acceptable business practice. Switching to a dedicated tour operator software such as Tourwriter will allow you to address the new data protection requirements now and in the future.
We understand that changing systems can be a daunting task, so here are a few extra resources which might help you if you’re thinking about scaling up and supercharging your back office software (go on, we dare you!)