The Adventure Engine Blog

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ae-logo-smallThis is the blog area for Adventure Engine. Here you will find articles about marketing, business and other interesting happenings in adventure travel. There are also links to articles on product release updates, “how to’s” and other user information. You can use the drop down menu above under “Tips and News” to get different categories, or you may also type keywords into the search bar to the right to filter articles with those words. If you click the article title, it will open a separate page with that article alone.

Refined Function for DMC’s and Inbound Tour Operators

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in System Knowledge Base, Tour Management | 0 comments

Most inbound group tour companies, FIT operators and DMC’s are not that interested in online sales processing and bookings for several reasons. They use booking systems internally, keeping the access limited to staff, and trusted agents. But we’ve now made an option that will make online agent bookings much easier, help cash flow, make your company more competitive in the agent market and boost security. (Here’s why you might want to think about tapping into an agent network.)

Travel agents prefer to use their client’s credit card to pay for tours directly to supplier, thus avoiding the merchant fee and any hassles regarding who is responsible for the services provided. This is how they sell most tours, airline seats, and hotel rooms. But this creates security issues if they make deferred payments (storage of  client card info) and, more particularly, when the booking is on the phone and they process a  “card not present booking”. These are higher risk transactions and merchants pay higher fees as a result.

The new agent login option we’ve made now allows the agent to create a deferred payment at the time of the client’s booking. The system then creates the client account and then sends a login and the “invoice to pay” instruction to the client by email, so they can pay directly using their credit card. The agent never needs to see the card. The agent never touches the client’s money.

This can be very useful in reducing the risk of charge backs on the credit card bookings. Since the client reviews price, inclusions, dates and approves all the terms and conditions directly you have a clear case to  prove consent.

Operators now also have a foolproof measure to prevent default of payment from agents and improve cash flow simply by taking the credit card info direct from the client.

You can set the system to release documents only when all the information you need is completed and all payment made. Once payment is made, your automated emails can be triggered to provide whatever information you want clients to have: receipt confirmation, pre-trip advice, vouchers,  post trip feed back, link to Trip Advisor review etc.

There is a lot of information now that you can now use:

Pull all agency and staff bookings in report to show sales, commission, net, productivity, history etc during particular time period.

Option on agency bookings to show full retail price less commission = NET  or…  simply calculate and display at net only.

Other reports special to this type of operator are BED NIGHT reports, rooming lists, guide manifest etc.

Plus you can now also create marketing campaigns to past clients, encouraging them to book again.

There’s more implications to using this new booking option and we’d love to chat with you about it and see if it can work to improve your workflow and cash flow.

Contact us by phone, skype or email.

Genesis of Summit Tour Software

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in System Knowledge Base | 0 comments

genesis of summit touir softwareWith so many companies out now selling online booking systems, we thought it would be useful to review how Adventure Engine (AE) Summit tour software is designed different.

For a bit of history, in 2004 AE was one of a very few businesses that pioneered the online booking revolution for small tour operators and by 2011 had built accounts worldwide with a large variety of tour operators and other tour providers. Here is a brief synopsis of highlights.

2004 – early pioneers of online cloud based booking management systems for activity, accommodation and multi-day tours filling niche that hotel software couldn’t with easy to book online shopping carts

2005 – advanced inventory(resource) management. Manage real time availability not only of ‘seats on tour’ but of limited resources such as kayaks, cabins, guides across unlimited tours, courses, rentals and activities and unlimited online sites and carts

2006 – add agent interface – assign agent to a booking, agent login access, track-able agent portals for online bookings

2008 – system access for customers to manage registration info, medical forms, passport info etc directly to system database and make balance payments on their own

2009 – custom documents – vouchers, rental agreements, waivers, reminders, feedback etc

2010 – advanced vendor and cost management tour operator system launch

2011 – mobi friendly!

2014 – 3rd party system integrations

2015 –version release 1.4.1 (email the group, tax in pricing and other additions), version 1.4.2 new colour coded availability calendars and new cutoff date options,   version release 1.4.3 (shopping cart consolidation and abandonment tracking)

2016 – multi currency and multiple languages translation

We built a core database that could be adapted to individual users, since we found that almost all our users had different requirements. We further advanced with optional add-ons for specific needs like shareable inventory items, multi currency, and custom language shopping carts.

The result is that Summit tour software can provide booking and client payment services for small businesses but has a deeper set of core functions for more complex businesses. Knowing still that every business is a little different we left ability to customize the system code to accommodate this. Summit is the best marriage between a privately developed, custom built system and something “off the shelf”. It’s flexible and scalable and can manage all the complexities of your day to day operation.

The cost of flexibility, complexity and scalability is that Summit requires training to use. Since more upfront data is required to be entered in a correct sequence in order to build “the base” it can seem complicated. The plus side is the value of being able to manage a lot more products and generate more marketing and sales data in reports. Once learned, it opens up a lot of doors to add on new services to your product line and services to your customers.

Agents as Allies

Posted by on Jun 14, 2017 in Offline marketing, Online Marketing | 0 comments

laptop bookingAt Adventure Engine the term “agents” actually means any third party that might sell your tours or programs. But let’s start at the beginning and talk a bit about what first comes to mind, travel agents.

Upon the rise of the internet it was widely predicted that travel agents would become obsolete. With the rise of online agencies like Expedia and airline booking sites it seemed like this might be the case and there was a fairly large cut in the presence of brick and mortar agencies.  But since 2008, there has been a change and there are interesting facts being revealed.

First, according to an article by Covington Travel on their website, “Travel Agent Use is On the Rise”

“Reservations by travel agents actually account for one-third of the $284 billion U.S. travel market, according to a New York Times report. From Millennials to seniors, more travelers are giving up on DIY travel and seeking out the advice of expert travel advisors. In fact, according to ASTA, 41% of Millennials are making travel reservations through travel agents – more than any other age group. Online travel agencies are experiencing a year-over-year reduction in usage because travelers continue to find benefits in working with a live travel agent.”

But here is another interesting fact from the website, “Affluent travelers in particular use travel advisors.”

“(Travel marketing company) MMGY has found that the percentage of affluent Americans who plan on booking trips through travel advisors is rising. It reported that 17% of Americans with incomes of $125,000 booked one or more trips with an advisor. And 24% of those making $250,000 or more used an advisor.

By next year, MMGY predicts that 21% of well-off travelers with incomes of $125,000 or more plan to use an advisor. And 29% of those with incomes of $250,000 or more plan to do so.”

Agent, advisor, consultant, counsellor, what ever you want to term them, they are potentially valuable team members in the sales channel. Retail agents don’t often book individual suppliers like rafting companies or day tours, but they do book them indirectly through local, national, or international operators or DMC’s.

DMC’s etc, are “agents” too, as far as Adventure Engine terminology goes. They are right in the middle and it would be a best practise for them to offer commissions to other “agents” downstream.

A last type of “agent” in Adventure Engine lingo are any local businesses that refer customers to other local tour providers. Hotels, b and b’s, visitor information centres, other operators are all examples. There is a brisk business selling day programs to cruise passengers through the cruise line. But don’t forget local travel agents if you are in a cruise port. They can target cruise passengers not willing to pay the cruise company’s markup and they offer better rates for buying locally. Several local travel agencies specialise in this business.

Regardless of how you go about it, getting referrals and bookings from your other local businesses is a very viable channel and it’s all available to set up very easily with Adventure Engine. Track bookings, take payments, and account for commissions, it’s all a part of the AE program.

Regardless of where you are in the supply chain, the agent functionality module can be very useful to help generate incremental sales.


Online Liability Waivers

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 in Tour Management, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Many if not all tour operators now make use of some kind of online terms and conditions to make sure their clients understand the payment and cancellation rules.  A common condition of sale is that the customer must acknowledge and accept the company’s waiver of liability, releasing the company from any responsibility should some kind of incident take place while on the tour or activity. But, just how legal are these waivers, online or offline? I decided to do some research and found some surprising information.

online liability waiver? photo skiing off a cliffHow do operators protect themselves from claims seeking damages for people that were injured when taking part in activities they knew were inherently risky? Skiing is a good example. There are so many accidents waiting happen when you strap on a pair slippery, awkward boards to your feet, for the ultimate purpose of sliding down an icy steep hill with bumps, rocks, trees, and other obstacles right in your path. Nobody puts a gun to your head to do this, in fact people line up for it. Operators rely on the use of waivers of liability as their defense against a law suit should someone seek damages. Is this really a legally enforceable document?

In British Columbia, there was an article published by Carters Professional Corporation  about a zipline operator that was sued when two people collided. The plaintiffs brought suit against the operator but the courts upheld the operator’s defense which was the waiver. This review is well worth a read to understand what might happen in BC.

On the website there is a somewhat different report from 2010. They state,

” The waiver of liability seems to have entered all levels of organized recreational and athletic activities. Without signing a waiver, you are unlikely to be allowed to participate in any activity outside of your own back yard. The reality is that many of the waivers proffered by organized recreational and athletic activity providers would not be enforced by Ontario courts. These courts have a history of approaching waivers with great caution. In 2008, two trial court decisions deviated from this long-standing trend. In Cejvan v. Blue Mountain Resorts Ltd., [2008] O.J. No. 5442, a snowboarder was denied compensation for his injuries when he struck snow-covered steel pipes on a groomed run. In Isildar v. Kanata Diving Supply, [2008] O.J. No. 2406, the dependents of a man killed during a scuba diving instructional course were denied damages for their loss of the deceased’s care, guidance, and companionship. Notwithstanding findings of negligence in both cases, damages were denied because of waivers.”

Things are much different in New Zealand where the state covers costs for injuries. Under the heading”Am I Covered?” is the following text,

“Everyone in New Zealand has 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, no-fault comprehensive injury cover through ACC. Find out what is and isn’t covered, and what happens if you’re injured while travelling overseas or visiting New Zealand.” There is a section at the bottom of this linked page for operators and self employed individuals to get into the system.

In the United States, online contracts were recognized by the Clinton government. On their website Sadler Sports and Recreation Insurance state ”

A waiver/release agreement has two primary protective purposes:

  1. Contractual exculpation, which uses contract law principles (waivers and releases are contracts) to excuse a sports organization for its simple negligence; and
  2. Providing real evidence of the sports organization’s warning of inherent and other risks thereby triggering the common-law assumption of risk (AOR) defense under tort law.

The article is quite detailed and points out that while many states uphold waivers, there are some that will not.

John Wolohan, Professor of Sports Law, Dept of Sports Management, Syracuse University writes in a 2014 article,

“We have all heard the warnings that waivers are not worth the paper they are printed on, and while it is true that some courts do not like waivers and will void them if possible, in must be noted that in at least 45 states a well-written waiver, signed by an adult, is the most effective tool available to sport and recreation providers and their employees against a negligence lawsuit. With the myth of the effectiveness of waivers still around, it is therefore not surprising that some sport and recreation providers are concerned about the legal impact of online or electronic waivers. For example, if a sport and recreation program requires its’ participants to go online and sign a waiver before being allowed to participate in the event, will it carry the same legal weight as off-line or traditional paper waivers?”

The Law Depot website in the  UK gives some insight into the situation there in this article ‘Release or Waiver Agreement FAQThey start by defining what a release is.

“What is a release agreement?

A release agreement is an enforceable promise not to proceed with a legal claim in exchange for money or other compensation. Essentially, a party (the releasee) gives money or other consideration to a second party (the releasor). In exchange, the releasor agrees not to sue, press charges, or otherwise take legal action against the releasee.”

What do you think about having an online waiver that your clients use a check box to agree to your terms, conditions and waivers of liability?

We’d love to learn and we’ve created on online survey to give us a little insight into what operators might want. We’d like to invite you to take only minute or two to fill it out. You can access the page link to the survey here.