e-Commerce Strategy

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Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

Online selling is a very exciting area to add to your sales strategy. We’ve seen many of our customers celebrate increased profits when they implement and manage an effective online strategy.

Key elements for your eCommerce strategy

Each element will need effort from your team to prepare the strategy, implement, maintain and review it – we call this the PACstrat (of course I couldn’t resist slipping in that bit of Pacman-geek-speak!).

With an effective eCommerce strategy and a dedicated team, increased profits result through new sales and/or through more efficient business procedures.

The importance of an eCommerce strategy

You have plans for increased profits but where will your increased profits come from? Whether it’s increased sales through new channels, closing sales or working more cost effectively, a very likely source of your increased profits will come from a well managed e-commerce strategy.

Online booking words like Look To Book, Credit Cards, OTAs, GDS’ and Channel Managers very quickly get marketing and sales teams dreaming up these profits and increased occupancies. Their enthusiasm is catchy – but plug those buzz words into Google, hit enter and the volumes of search results leave you feeling like there’s not enough bandwidth on your laptop – let alone enough to get your eCommerce strategy up and running.

With this being such an overwhelming business strategy, hoteliers often make the fatal mistake of approaching eCommerce as a sales after-thought or a fishing expedition. They think that randomly implementing a few connections and a few technologies will bring the profits they seek – and they often come miserably short. They celebrate the ad hoc booking instead of comparing it with all their overall sales strategies. These customers rarely claim true online profits – in fact many of them go horribly wrong and just confuse the market or create price disparity which weakens their product and can negatively impact other carefully nurtured sales strategies.

Implementing and deploying an eCommerce strategy is a business decision – one that’s as important as your existing sales strategy. It needs a dedicated team to workshop, manage, track and refine your eCommerce plans.

So, whether your focus is maximising direct sales or making working with your partners more efficient, you’ll need to: define an eCommerce strategy, add technology to achieve it and allocate resources to ensure that you get the profits your marketing and sales teams promise. This means you have a lot of work ahead of you.

As the online inventory and availability distribution hub, ResRequest plays a key role in working with our partners and customers to identify online booking options that work for you.

To help you kickstart your blueprint to success, we have identified the online booking options available to you, their pitfalls, successes and general industry trends.

Distribution Options

Your website. Your investment in a great web design is to excite customers about your product and lead them to buy. Once your customer has made a commitment to purchase, they ask for price and availability, which culminates in a sale. For this reason close to 90% of our clients proactively engage in showing rates and availability on their website.

Luxury / remote lodges have been less confident of the value of creating bookings and processing credit cards directly from their website. Reasons for look-to-book reluctance includes fears that guests will not be able to arrange complicated transfers. In addition lodges are concerned that automating bookings sidesteps the value of building a relationship between the customer and their product. To top these concerns, many lodges are wary of how trade partners may react to them openly targeting the direct market. As a result of these concerns for many years we saw a trend of caution to creating bookings online. Many customers only displayed availability with easy-to-use enquiry forms – but this trend is changing.

Online consumers expect to be able to book online and they trust that you have implemented solutions to make their booking uncomplicated and to resolve any potential challenges. As this expectation has changed so our customers have found ways to counter online booking challenges, they’ve implemented simpler online rates, easy booking forms and resolved transfer concerns with online or central reservations solutions.

Your business partners. Over time, marketing groups have formed with the objective of stimulating travel in niche markets – sort of stitching itineraries together. Some of these groups are commercial ventures, while others are informal associations born from like-minded neighbouring properties. Over the last few years we have seen an increase in interest for marketing groups and regional availability, where independent / neighbouring properties are interested in publishing availability on a collaborative web-page. This is a market sector that is growing in popularity and benefits both direct guests and travel trade.

Specialist agents. Ask any agent or tour operator and they will tell you that a large portion of their success is the skill with which they are able to quickly prepare a customised itinerary. Giving specialist agents access to your stock means that agents are able to prepare and respond to requests for quotations faster then their competitors. More then 90% of our clients allow agents to access stock with their own ResRequest login, with close to 20% allowing agents to create bookings directly into their ResRequest system.

To enable agents with their own systems to electronically extract rate and availability from multiple clients, we have developed an auxiliary product, ResConnect. Approximately 90% of our clients have established relationships with our agent partners who use ResConnect. Many of our ResConnect partners display availability directly on their website in order to compete with OTAs and GDS’. If you’re considering working with OTAs and GDS’ you should definitely be considering giving your loyal travel partners controlled access to their rates and your availability.

Online Travel Agents (OTAs) / Global Distribution Systems (GDS). Travel sites reported significant 2014 revenues: Expedia $5.7 billion, Amadeus at E1,3 billion. With revenues like these it is understandable that every hotel would love to tap into those markets. So why are remote hotels cautious of tapping into these very lucrative channels?

Concerns include the effect of boycotts by specialist travel agents and tour operators. Lodges also fear that channels will create a price war climate that will ultimately result in cheapening their products and forcing rack rates to drop. In addition lodges have logistical fears that these channels may have no concern for the guest’s knowledge or ability to transfer to and from complicated, remote locations.

Over the last few years we have seen many customers tap successfully into these channels. It takes effort and evidence shows that once the connection is established, and the right marketing effort is applied, the results are well worth it. As more products become available on these channels we expect to see OTAs and GDS’ introducing ways to help remote travellers with complicated transfers – for now it’s not a problem at all – our customers playing in this space simply make the transfer arrangements as an added on service to the traveller.

You may ask, how much effort is really needed for an online channel to sell my product? Getting return from this sales sector takes a lot of resources, time and work. Consider each travel portal as a new business relationship except, unlike traditional agents, you need to manage your own rates, your online listing and you need to learn how each travel portal works so that you can optimise sales over your competitor’s listings. Start with a few channels and, once you’ve monitored the trends and your team are experienced in working with this space, start expanding to more relevant portals.

So how does ResRequest make this happen?

ResRequest covers all your distribution needs with our own direct connections and via channel managers. The diagram below illustrates our distribution blueprint.

 

pacstrat

ONLINE OPTIONS

Online bookings are about reaching online customers and working more efficiently with your business partners through electronic connections.

What’s available?

ResRequest’s Online Bookings module lets you connect to online users electronically; distribute your availability and rates, and make bookings through online channels and your own website. Your online strategy will include one or many of the online services available to you in ResRequest. Some of these connections are direct and some are available through our Channel Manager partners.

DIRECT SALES
Ideal for your online-savvy clients and repeat customers.

Show availability and rates on your own website and give your customers the ability to ‘book and pay now’.

Your website:

1. ResRequest: Brand and use ResRequest’s online booking form and credit card gateway, or let your web designer use our interface (API) to develop your own booking form on your website. Alternatively use our booking widget, ResNova, on your WordPress or general website.

2. Channel manager: offer a direct booking form available via any of our partners channel manager.

FaceBook: Add a booking widget to your Facebook page using some of our preferred Channel Managers. A ResRequest widget for FaceBook.

TripAdvisor: Via selected Channel Managers, list your stock alongside popular OTA’s to increase your chance of a booked next to your ratings.

Circuits: Using the ResRequest interface (API) create circuit bookings within your own products or collaborating with other ResRequest properties.

SELL TO YOUR TOP AGENTS
Help your top agents compete with online travel agents by giving them an online edge.

Give your selected agents access to ResRequest with a secure login.

Give your preferred agents controlled access to ResRequest by adding them as a ResRequest user. Let them lookup availability and make bookings to increase their chance to quote quickly and book efficiently.

SELL TO AFRICA’S TOP AGENTS
Distribute your stock to Africa’s top safari agents.

Connect your stock and bookings to specialist agents and tour operators using our electronic connection programme, ResConnect.

Sign up as a ResConnect customer through our call centre. A ResRequest user is created with restricted permissions. The user is linked to each ResConnect partner via our bridge.

SELL VIA OTAs and GDS’ (Online Travel Agents & Global Distribution Systems)

Connect to OTAs and GDS’ and leverage access to thousands of global agents and travellers who are searching for a safari vacation.
Use our Channel Manager partners to distribute your inventory and rates and make bookings to OTAs like Expedia, bookings.com or GDS’ like Pegasus and Sabre. Our Channel Manager partners include: Nightsbridge and SynXis.

Select the Channel Manager that suits your distribution needs, budget and reach. Your account is setup with the channel and then we connect ResRequest for you. The last step is that you manage your profile and rates on your preferred travel sites.

 

Proactive Reservations | Managing your reservations & maximising your channels

What do you do if your establishment is too small to rent or manage a reservation software solution?

Have a look at Proactive Reservations has to offer…

Proactive Reservations have years of combined international and local experience in various hospitality and tourism positions and offer in depth knowledge of all aspects of front office, hotel reservations and tour operating. Their team members have worked for a number of highly regarded companies and offers expertise in:

• Hotel openings

• Property management system set ups

• Set up and implementation of standard operating procedures

• Product and content implementation

• Set up and managing of Channel Managers

• Set up and managing of OTA’s

• Revenue Management

• Training of staff

They pride themselves on their quality service delivery and providing a means of maximising your revenue opportunities for your property.

SERVICES

Implementation and Management of OTA channels

By providing a simple streamlined process for all distribution updates so hoteliers can minimise errors for channel management and in this way, increase revenue. They manage the online profiles and implement a revenue strategy on behalf of the property or marketing team, along with uploading of information and new set up required and can continuously monitor what the OTA partners are introducing and what the trends are showing.

Implementation and recommendations of systems

Proactive Reservations implement and recommend the best systems for each individual property which leads to a better user experience and increased sales.

Training of Reservations staff

Training your staff can improve business performance, profit and staff morale. Giving them the tools to contribute to the business and building their self-esteem will improve productivity and customer service. A reservations audit is done on the processes applied within the day to day running of the property and recommendations on improvements are made. Furthermore, they can facilitate training on time management, telephone etiquette, email correspondence with the customer and more.

Reservations recruitment

Assisting with the placement of the right candidate with the correct experience to match the property requirements is another one of the many services they provide.

BOOKINGS TO COMPLEMENT YOUR REVENUE STRATEGY

Online distribution is key to maximise your revenue opportunities. Reach across multiple channels and platforms.

CHANNEL MANAGERS

In order to maximise the effectiveness of listing on various booking sites, Proactive Reservations recommend that all clients utilise the integration of channel managers. These channel managers provide the capability of accurate availability being displayed and ensuring the property is available to be booked. Through their partnerships with some of the world’s leading travel and tourism organisations, they can guarantee improved online visibility.

The team at Proactive Reservations facilitate and manage the engagement with the OTA partners and set up new agreements on behalf of clients and upload images, text, packages, special offers and standard rates.

 

For more info or a quotation contact Joanne: info@proactive-reservations.com

What are connections?

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To be competitive in an increasingly online and automated space, Safari Agents and Tour Operators have implemented software applications that manage their business needs. A software application is the first part of their solution, the second part is electronic access to your system (to view rates and availability and make bookings) so they can prepare quotes and book directly from their solution. This process saves time and helps them compete with online agents.

What does a Tour Operator get with access to rates, availability and booking?

  • The ability to compete with online travel agents
  • Agents can effortlessly build itineraries
  • Prepare quotes quickly, in any time zone
  • Confirm bookings in a few quick steps

What’s your part in this?
Electronically connecting your agent (the buyer) to you (the supplier) is a change in the traditional way of making a booking. Agents are improving the tools they use to book so they can be more competitive, responsive and offer dynamic pricing. The booking process is changing from phone calls and several emails to using automated electronic bookings from systems designed to give Agents a competitive advantage. Your part is to recognise that your agent needs your support to leverage this competitive advantage.

What agents already use this connection to ResRequest?
Specialist agents like, Expert Africa, Bushtracks Expeditions, Go2Africa, African Eagle, Wetu and Wilderness Safaris have developed connections to ResRequest through ResConnect. As agents recognise the power in this connection, more and more have signed up to ResConnect to make it possible to sell Africa’s finest properties using their business tools.

Tourplan operators are also able to connect directly to your stock. The following agents using the Tourplan system are now able to connect to our ResRequest customers and will be requesting booking access permission: African Ample Assistance, Abenteuer Afrika Safari, Africa Travel Group, Cheli & Peacock, Discover Africa Group, Elewana Travel Ltd, Inspirations Travel & Tours, Jenman African Safaris, Live the Journey, New Frontiers, Personal Africa Travel, Safari Destinations, Springbok Atlas – South Africa, Tour d’Afrique, Team DM UK, Tourvest Holdings Brasil Eventos S.A., Sense of Africa, Tourvest Destination Management, Travel Wild Botswana, Uitkyk Holidays, Vintage Africa, Wild Africa Travel, XO Africa Travel and &BEYOND.

What are the steps to connect?
Once an agent has developed a connection between their booking system and ResRequest they will request permission to access your properties. You or our call centre setup their user account and you define what they can see and do in your ResRequest system. Our call centre then links this user to the agent’s ResConnect account which enables them to electronically connect to your rates, availability and make bookings.

We have recommended to ResConnect agents that only confirmed bookings are booked, however each relationship will need to be managed on a case by case basis.

How the setup works:
When you allow an agent to create bookings, the ‘Req Received’ button (at the top right corner of your screen) will flash and show the number of bookings received. These bookings need to be assigned to a consultant and checked.

Do we support editing and cancellations?
We do not support edits to bookings, however when amendments or cancellations are requested, an email will be generated to the supplier.

Will implementing an electronic connection change the relationship with your agent?
No – you’ll still work with your agent as a human – you’ll still meet with them at trade shows and sales visits, but the actual booking creation can be electronic.

Will this help you sell more bed nights?
Absolutely! New agents you have not worked with, will be signing with your property and existing agents, who prefer an automated booking process, will electronically incorporate your property into their itinerary building.

Can you control what the agent can see and do in ResRequest?
Yes, an agent will only see rates and room types allocated to their user profile and they can only look up availability and make bookings if you say they can.

Should you consider limiting an agent’s user access?
Limiting the agents electronic access is like owning a Ferrari and not adding the petrol. When we launched ResConnect 10 years ago, Agents only wanted a way to check availability and rates but now the trend is to create and cancel bookings. Why? Because it saves so much time and improves efficiency for your agent. It gives them a competitive advantage over other online sales platforms.

What happens if agents start booking and cancelling frequently?
Electronic connectivity makes checking availability and making bookings so easy that it will very likely be tempting for your agent to frequently hold space and cancel. Initially some agents may not realise this makes more work for you. Remember to set your reservations that don’t materialise to ‘Deleted’ and if your agent’s actions are causing more work for you – show your agent their conversion stats and ask them to find ways to streamline the process to avoid a negative rating with you.

What can you do if your agent does not have a system but they want a similar competitive advantage?
That’s easy – give them a login to your ResRequest system. Here’s what this means for your agent:

We would love to hear how you benefit from this business to business solution, get in touch if you would like to share your thoughts.

Changes that impact your email

At the end of February we received notification from our email provider, Mandrill, that they would be moving to a more secure method of emailing which would require verification of email senders when sending mail via their web service. The change is in line with a global move to reduce SPAM and have resulted in a new business opportunity from other vendors to step into the gap.

Mandrill notified us with short warning that they would implement these changes on 01 April. The implication would negatively impact our customers since it meant that every user who sends an email from ResRequest (agent, direct or staff member) would need to be registered by their system administrator as a verified email address. This is not a ResRequest specific issue but affects any / all applications that facilitate outgoing mail. As we were unable to work with these restrictions we needed to change our email provider from Mandrill to Elastic Email.

 

How does this effect you?

Emails being sent from ResRequest have an Elastic Email [mailto:mailer@elasticemail.com] On Behalf Of XXX as the “From” address, and for security reasons these have universally been put in place to prevent combat phishing in particular.

When clients reply to your emails it will automatically fill in the reply address. We are unaware of any situations where the email does not recognise the original sender’s email address on the reply.

Does it affect everyone?

Note that not all email clients display the “On Behalf Of” message and these recipients will be unaware of the problem. Microsoft Outlook users are affected which unfortunately means a large proportion of all email recipients.

Will the problem persist?

This change was unexpected and there is a large community looking for solutions to the issue. ResRequest is also considering different solutions so that the mail “From” address would emulate your own email.

It was not a decision made by ResRequest but instead it was made by most mailing companies globally. We are investigating how we can resolve this for a more professional presentation of your email “From” address when using our web server.

What can we do to help?

Elastic mail is a new mail providing service and therefore doesn’t have a large footprint in the industry, In light of this, a few things need to be taken into consideration.

A lot of SMTP (that’s your mail providers) don’t have elasticmail.com listed as a trusted domain, which means that emails might be sent straight to spam.

White listing the domain or email address for elastic mail in your SMTP will always mark those mails as legitimate. Your agents can do the same for speedy mail and easy deliverability. The email address to add is mailer@elasticemail.com and the domain is elasticemail.com.

Centricity | Guest Surveys, Online Reputation Management, Image Library

Centricity provides three separate solutions to the hospitality industry – Guest Satisfaction Surveys, Online Reputation Management and an Image Library solution.  Through an integration with ResRequest you can automate the sending of post-stay guest surveys and receive high quality guest feedback and comments in real time.

In addition to guest surveys, Centricity also help hotels to monitor and manage their online reviews from key travel review sites such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia.com and Facebook.  With the Online Reputation Management module you can see all of your online reviews in one location and reply to them directly from Centricity.

Images sell hotels and the Image Library solution helps hotels to move their image libraries to the cloud, so that your images are more accessible and easily shared directly from the cloud when needed.

Love your agent

One of the major advantages of moving away from an excel booking sheet and onto a central reservations system as sophisticated as ResRequest is that you can leverage your availability to increase sales.

We know that the online realm can be a little bit alarming – and knowing how much access to give and to whom is a worry we all have. Especially those of us who feel connected to our bookings and don’t want to cede control to the anonymous web!

One of the “gentlest” ways to leverage your availability is to give agents you trust, who already know and sell you, a certain amount of access to your system.

You can do this in several ways:
1. You can give agents access to your system – as you would someone in your office with a login – but with limited rights.
2. You can use our plugin ResNova to put your availability onto your website, and you can tell your agents to check there.
3. You can allow agents to access your system through their system – using ResConnect. This only works if they have a system which interfaces to ours. We are happy to supply you with a list of these specialist agents and tour operating system that we connect directly to.

Today we are talking about #1

Add agent conact

You can setup an Agent in your system as a User – and decide how much access you will give them to your system. You can specify which Properties and Accommodation Types they can see and which Rate Types they can use.

You can give them the right to:

1. See availability: and decide whether you will show actual numbers, or just available / not available.
2. Hold space
3. Make a reservation

When a booking comes into your system from an external source (which is what we consider an Agent User to be) – the booking goes into the Req Received area on ResRequest, which means you have to accept the booking into your system, and can thereby keep track of new bookings coming in.

If you would like to give agents access – or have already done so – you might find this little video useful. It explains to agents how to access the system, and how to make reservations (if they have the right to do so).

 

On safari in the Congo

http://www.safaritart.com/on-safari-in-congo/Written by: Carrie Hampton alias the SAFARI TART!

Seasoned travellers will be interested in the Odzala Discovery Camps in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park of the remote north of the Republic of Congo’s river basin. It’s the world’s second largest tropical rainforest after the Amazonand one of the earth’s largest lungs, playing an essential role in global climate control. The region has been a National Park since 1935 – making it one of the oldest on the African continent.

Odzala has other faces than the rainforest with vast savannah in the south and wide, meandering rivers crossing the region. A distinctive feature of Odzala are marshy clearings in the middle of an ocean of trees called bais. Even the shiest inhabitants of Odzala like forest elephants and gorillas come here to drink and take in precious minerals and salts contained in the bai soils.

Birds, Mammals and Primates
Over 400 bird species and 100 different mammal species are found here, including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and red-tailed monkeys along with forest buffalo, sitatunga (a rare sight anywhere on safari) and duikers antelopes not much larger than rabbits. Herds of shy forest elephant move along ancient pathways, avoiding the 70 villages, some with just a handful of inhabitants. The local people are primarily Bantu and forest dwellers (pygmies).

There are three camps; Ngaga, Mboko and Lango. 

Ngaga Camp in primary forest just outside the park boundary, overlooks a beautiful open glade and is within overlapping ranges of several groups of western lowland gorillas. Two of the gorilla groups are becoming habituated to being watched. It’s a focal point for world-class research and gives unforgettable primate encounters. Ngaga Camp’s unique design evokes the fun of childhood tree houses, with six canopy rooms with wraparound walkways.

Mboko Camp has 12 guest rooms extending along the banks of a tributary watering a lush meadow-like savannah. It’s the interface between tropical rainforest and grasslands, with hundreds of towering termite mounds creating an other-worldly panorama. Watch out for the forest buffalo, forest elephant and spotted hyena.

Lango Camp with it’s six bedrooms has one of the most arresting views of any camp in Africa! Raised high the camp spans the forest gallery and beyond to the marshy bai, which holds a magnetic attraction to huge flocks of green pigeons and grey parrots, as well as herds of forest buffalo by day and forest elephants by night. In the south-central part of Odzala with its variety of converging habitats and rivers, the highlight is travelling on the waters in by motorboat, traditional mokoro or kayak and exploring the streams and marshes on foot in safety – a truly immersive experience!

One thing’s for sure – you will be one of very few who have visited this remote area and if you get there before me, I’ll be very jealous.

 

How to get guests in your bed – a strategic guide to get more bookings

Analyse clients

Written by Mqondisi Gumede, Man and Machine

One of the difficulties of marketing in travel is that it is a very large place that boasts an incredible array of beauty. It is a never ending pageant of scenery, culture, beauty, culinary delight, diverse experiences and accommodation establishments at their best décor and service.

In such a situation, most hoteliers will have found that, as justifiably proud of their establishment’s charms as they are, there are other establishments with different but no less compelling offers to potential guests.

In this situation, what are hoteliers to do? Our response is to develop a strategy.

One of the hallmarks of strategy is to answer the question ‘WHO?’ first, before you answer the question ‘WHAT and HOW?’ (To understand why this order is important, I make the argument in the post – A strategic marketing approach to get a date ahead of Brad Pitt. In essence being tactical, approaching this problem from a first ‘WHAT’ and ‘HOW’ perspective, will render you far less likely to succeed than approaching the challenge from a first ‘WHO’ then ‘WHAT’ approach.

Gaining clarity on who for all businesses, especially hotels, has so far been a very difficult affair. Recent conversations have pinned hopes on big data, hoping that, if businesses had more data they would be better at generating insight. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that we have today are businesses that have a greater amount of data but generally still have the same scarcity of insight.

In your pursuit of understanding the ‘WHO’, it is important to focus on insight. Here are the 2 main reasons:

1) WHY is the power.

In the movie The Matrix Reloaded, Neo (the One) goes to visit the Merivingian. An entertaining passage of dialogue ensues that culminates in the Merivingian asking Neo: “Why?” The star of the movie hesitates and offers no answer, the Merivingian, incredulous, admonishes him saying:

“…Why is the only real source of power, without it you are powerless. And this is how you come to me: without why, without power, another link in the chain.”

Then, he dismisses him in the following fashion:

“But, fear not, since I have seen how good you are at following orders, I will tell you what to do next. Run back, and give the fortune-teller this message:…”

In the world of appeal, nothing can be more valuable than understanding why people do what they do. Imagine how you could change your marketing, your Facebook page, your website, if you knew why people travelled at all and why they choose the travel experience providers they do.

This is perhaps the most important prerequisite to being able to have a compelling offer in a crowded travel and tourism industry, if you can understand the why of the people that are likely predisposed to choosing your establishment.

As difficult as it is, there is no greater guarantee of success in marketing, online or not, but locating the reasons, the why, of your target market’s travel choices. This may not be the fastest or easiest route but it is the surest route to marketing and booking success:

2) Start by getting a better understanding of the people who have stayed with you before.
Many businesses go after more and more data when they do not use the current data they have to gain rich insight which remain the same even if they analysed 100 times the data.

To avoid this huge missed opportunity, think of all the people that have booked at your establishment and all the conversations you’ve had, all the reviews and social media mentions that you’ve read about your establishment and answer the following questions.

i. Try and list the 3 largest groups of people that emerge.
ii. Once listed ask yourself and/or key members of your team, why they chose your establishment?
Once you have the first answer, ask “why is that important?” and as you get an answer repeat the process for 5 whys.

If you don’t get beyond 2 or 3 whys, it signals that there is some work to do in understanding the motivations of your targeted audience and would not keeping your marketing activity to a moderate level until you can have this conversation very casually with your new guests over the course of the next weeks.

Once you can get to 4 or 5 whys for the top groups that stay with you, you will now understand why they travel and why they make the travel choices that they do.

This insight, will start to shed light on who your audiences are and the best way to prosper in trying to appeal to them.

In our next blog post we’ll discuss how to apply this new found power. If you feel you need more detailed analysis, we at Man&Machine combine the understanding of people, strategy, marketing and digital and put them together in a way that works best to get you more guests to your establishment. We will be able to apply a host of techniques that can provide you with a clearer view of the people who have stayed at your establishment as one of the inputs to greater marketing efficacy in the online space.

 

 

SATSA conference highlights

Written by Natasha Bame

I had the privilege this year to attend the annual SATSA conference which was hosted at the Fancourt hotel in George. It was an ideal opportunity to get to know our partners and other tour operators personally, putting names to faces and building the relationships. Also, it was a great space to meet all sorts of different folk related to tourism and keep up to date with the trends and frustrations of the industry.

The content was relevant and the format of panel discussions allowed for everyone to have their say. The great rates debate had everyone agreeing that we have to continue to hold in tension, the old and the new ways of doing business – using dynamic and static rates where appropriate and accepting that there is still a need for hard copy brochures along with a greater online presence.

We discussed our part in conserving Africa’s wildlife and the value of emerging markets. Transformation and responsible tourism were key threads which provoked delegates to think about what impact they can make – right where we are, in our businesses.

All in all it was a well rounded couple of days, witnessing the relationships which have formed through the association and learning more about the different players in the game. In the minister of tourism’s address we were encouraged to keep going despite the challenges within the sector, and to continue to partner with each other as we do business.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Jack and the bean sprout’ | explaining electronic connections

Written by Alex Moore

For the non techy ‘Jacks’ amongst us, it’s not so easy to get our heads around how electronic connections work and we definitely don’t want to be left behind in this fast moving online world.

To try and explain the concept for those who unfamiliar with tech terms, we have drawn out the elements of connections to show how they link together.

API (application program interface)
Wikipedia defines an API as “[A] software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types. An API defines functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows definitions and implementations to vary without compromising the interface. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks. A programmer then puts the blocks together.”

API’s were designed as technical communication tools to communicate between servers, programs or applications and to push existing information from one application to another.

The bridge
The bridge is a link or router that connects an API call to the principal/client (database) for which it’s supposed to be. So when an API call comes in, the bridge will know where the ResRequest client database is for that call and will route it to the appropriate server and database.

Sprout
Sprout is an API converter/translator and it’s designed to store information and act as communicator between our API, ResConnect and others, such as NightsBridge‘s and SynXis‘ API. It has ‘push’ and ‘pull’ data functionality. With NightsBridge and SynXis APIs, Sprout allows NightsBridge and SynXis to pull information such as stock, rates and even create reservations. It can store up to two years of client availability and will update all transferred information every 5mins.

ResConnect
ResConnect is the service offered by ResRequest – this is our API which gives specialist agents and tour operators access to live availability and rates of ResRequest clients, by electronically communicating with their own internal systems and even offering the functionality to book.

OTA’s and GDS’ via channel managers
To get stock even more wider spread – online travel agents (OTA) such as Bookings.com and Expedia and global distribution systems (GDS) like Amadeus, can display ResRequest client inventory via a channel manager. We interface to Nightsbridge to place your rooms on these online platforms.

Going forward, we hope that you may not be too daunted to get involved with the possibilities that this magical ‘bean sprout’ has to offer.

Our future development plans include an upgrade of the user interface and sprout update failure notifications.