Catch up on the Connections Webinar

If you missed our webinar on connections – we’ve written up this blog to share the details, Q&A and upload the presentation slides and audio recording. We have separated the presentation visuals and sound for ease of following due to the live technical glitches and delays. 

Presentation slides

Audio recording

The panel of speakers begins 15 minutes into the webinar.

15:00 Craig van Rooyen – Tour d’ Afrique

24:00 Erica Gardner – New Frontiers

33:00 Chris McIntyre – Expert Africa

46:00 Terri Boshoff – Wetu

52:00 Nicole Kanz – The Elewana Collection

1:00 Questions

 

In this webinar blog, we’ll introduce you to ResRequest’s online sales options and then focus on why connections are important to the trade. We spice things up even more when each of our panelists responds to questions we’ve put forward to them. Questions that address what makes connections so important to their business model.

We’ll start with the basics. The screen you’re looking at shows a room inventory on ResRequest’s availability calendar.

 

Your inventory is set up in ResRequest and adjusts as your team books, blocks or cancels bookings. This means ResRequest is your inventory hub and we see it as our responsibility to make sure that your sales partners can easily check your availability and rates, and make bookings.

 

 

When you implement an online sales strategy you should consider three target markets. They are:

  • Your direct customers who enjoy shopping on your website
  • Agents who would like to buy and sell your product and who prefer instant response rather than delayed communication with your res office
  • and mass market Online Travel Agents like Expedia and Booking.com who depend on online responsiveness

Direct bookings

Direct online customers are a priority for us. We are constantly upgrading our booking plugin, ResNova, and enhancing our booking form which are ideal tools for this sector. Our booking tool for direct customers gives your online guests the ability to book directly from your website. They get an instant response and result – which is what online shoppers expect.

 

OTAs

 

For Online Travel Agent sites, we support a connection to Expedia which is further extended to Hotel.com and Venere.com. Our connection to Booking.com is complete and currently in certification with them. We also support 100s of OTA platforms via channel managers.

 

But these are not the only agents who work with online programmes, traditional trade agents have extended their business models to include online bookings to ensure they’re able to capture guests searching on the internet. These agents specialise in different locations which makes holiday shopping a breeze for customers looking for an experienced-based trip. This is definitely a market you should be working with. And how can you work with this market?

 

Agent connections

 

One of the great features of ResRequest is that it is a cloud-hosted application. This means you can give your agent a login so they can check your inventory, rates and make bookings. It’s a manual connection but something you absolutely should make use of to support agents that work with manual or isolated systems.

 

But what about agents that do have an in-house software application? These agents don’t want to be routed to a manual login or re-routed to different web sites to find out rates, check availability or secure bookings. These agents have implemented in-house solutions to be competitive in the online space. To have that competitive edge, they need instant access to availability and rates for quick quoting and they need to be able to make a booking to close the sale before their customers go Googling. They need to bypass human interaction at the transaction level.

 

Many of these agents also extend their booking services to a web interface offering a B2B2C platform. This is to ensure they can service online shoppers, much like OTAs, but with their specialised knowledge and skills translated onto their website.

 

We generally see that agents with high volume profiles have automated in-house and online solutions.They do need to be a certified integration partner of ours for you to connect their system to your ResRequest system.

 

We have direct electronic connections to over 40 specialist agents and online travel agents and the list is growing…

 

So how do these connections work?

ResRequest connections

An API, which is an application program interface, is simply an interface that allows two systems to communicate with each other. So, with our API, and some custom development, we are able to connect your ResRequest system to your agent’s in-house system.

 

If you’re still asking yourself: “Why would my agents need an electronic connection?”

 

A reminder of the two strongest motivators: The first is that many specialist agents now incorporate an online sales model – so they can attract travellers 24 x 7, essentially competing with OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia. This model needs an automated booking engine in order to satisfy their online shopper. To support automation, connections are needed.


The second reason agents need connections is that some agents have implemented an in-house system to speed up their business processes. Their holy grail is fast quoting and sale closure. Implementing a connection between your ResRequest inventory, rates and bookings and these agent’s systems, generate sales for you more easily which means you keep doing business with them.

 

A question we’re often asked is: “Can I control what these “connections” can see and do in our system?” Absolutely! Each connection is linked to a user you create in ResRequest with controlled access.

 

Questions that we posed to our agent panelists:

  • What’s changed to make online sales more important?
  • Why do agents need to see availability, rates and make bookings?
  • What are the essential components for connections to work for you?
  • What frustrations do you have with the industry or technology?

 

Questions that we asked our customers – safari accommodation providers:

  • What impact has using API connections had on your business?
  • What would you say to other suppliers who are unsure about working with connections?

 

Questions that were asked during the session:

Q: How do you handle waitlist in your system?

A: Erica – Waitlisting is a challenge. We can hold a waitlist booking, however, we prefer to hold a confirmed reservation. It is also a manual process.

ResRequest – From a software perspective, an agent who makes a booking and exceeds the number of rooms available has to give a reason when holding the rooms. This will automatically be created as a Waitlist booking.

 

Please note: Even if ResRequest supports certain functionality in the API – the agent buyer who has done the development to their system may have opted out of some of the available functions as they do not require them for their business practice.

 

Q: Does it help to see ‘‘provisionals’?

A: Yes – it is very helpful for agents to see if provisionals are being held when they view your availability. This will encourage them to still consider your property rather that look somewhere else when your lodge appears full. They cannot see the actual booking details, only that provisionals are being held on the dates that are search for.

 

Q: How much would the operator see if they were given access?

A: You can fully control the access that you grant to an operator, ie: view / read only or create bookings / update. You can also limit the properties, room types and even the number of rooms at room type level. Also the rates that are only applicable to a specific agent can be shown.

 

Q: Is a email notification sent once a booking has been made by an agent?

A: It all depends on what development has been done. Our API has the information available for a notification to be generated however if an email notification is not set up then a ResRequest customer would only see incoming bookings via the Req Received button / report in their system.

 

Q: How do you deal with different rates for same rooms, i.e. International vs SADC?

A: Multiple rates can be assigned to an agent contact and toggled to select the correct rate for quoting or booking.

 

Craig – In Tourplan we always load our contracted rates first. If we don’t see the correct rate, then we sometimes need to query this – however if multiple rate categories are given ie: STO, RACK and BAR then we have more options to book the property. Please note: We can only hold confirmed bookings and cancel a booking in Tourplan. We do not see any Waitlists or Provisionals, so unless you are going to oversell your property and make more rooms available we are limited in what we can book. Bigger properties tend to oversell.

 

Q: Can you only look up the availability of a specific camp or supplier?  

A: Yes

 

Q: Is there any way to look up availability of a region and show results of multiple camps?

A: Not at this stage with this type of direct connection.

 

Q: Is there an API adaptor to get rates of the camp via ResRequest and upload these into a system like Tourplan?

A: We do support and send rates via ResConnect. Our Channel Manager and OTA interfaces support bulk rate push, this is developed to map to the OTA’s / Channel Manager’s interface.

 

Q: Does ResConnect offer a Close To Arrival (CTA) tool within the API to reduce dead nights?

A: Not yet! We’ll get to this.

 

Q: Is there a way to filter Wetu properties based on availability?

A: Not currently. Availability is not a searchable feature in Wetu.

 

Q: Do you need to be on a higher package to get the Live Availability option in Wetu, or can anyone listed on WETU have access to this tool?

A: Two part answer here:

  1. As a Supplier: you do not need to be on a higher package to show availability for your property, however, each supplier needs to opt into showing the availability with their relative availability provider. It is not something that is automatically activated.
  2. As an Operator: you do not need to be on the highest package to see the live availability of the properties who do have it.

 

Q: Are the users of Tourplan happy with the ‘confirmed’ only status they offer when connecting via API ResResquest?

A: Tourplan do not currently cater for provisional bookings; however, our API does support provisionals.

How to get connected?

 

Now that you know more about the importance of this space for your business you’re probably asking: “What do I do next?”

Here’s all you need to know about getting direct connections set up. All you need to do is email us and one of our connections team will confirm all the setup details, such as the user permissions for the connecting agent. This setup takes approx.1 hour and is charged at our standard support rate.

 

Some agents only have view functionality enabled, however, more and more operators are moving towards wanting to create bookings. So, if they are able to create bookings they will request this access. It is up to you to decide on the permission you wish to grant, however we do encourage legitimate confirmed bookings to be held where possible.

If you have any questions about this process please drop us a line

For the full version of the webinar – you can find it uploaded onto YouTube here.

ResNova website plugin just got better!

ResNova, our website booking plugin, has had a facelift. That’s right – we’ve released some enhancements so you have even more display options when it comes to this nifty availability and booking tool.

The ResNova plugin enables properties that use ResRequest to embed availability and rates anywhere on their website. This availability and these rates can be shown either in a calendar matrix or a quick search format, or even both! You have the option of just showing availability, or enabling bookings, and even linking up to a payment gateway to enable payments during the booking process. All of this is seamlessly integrated to a ResRequest reservation system.

The latest enhancements to the website plugin include: showing rates on the calendar, setting a ‘No children’ option and showing an availability count.

Some properties that don’t offer a child rate need their customers to know this. They may be able to accommodate children in some rooms, but not all, so they can apply the ‘No children’ setting to each property and room individually.

Along with other customisable functionality in the calendar widget you can choose to show your actual availability or limit your availability, e.g. to 2, so users can see some space is available without displaying your exact availability.

We are continually developing and adding new features to this much-needed industry tool.  For more information on the ResNova website plugin or to find out about using ResRequest contact us on info@resrequest.com and you may be able to take advantage of this plugin.

 

Digitlab Digital Marketing Trends workshop

ResRequest Digitlab

Have you ever thought about how certain adverts appear in your social media feed or why Youtube has so many video adverts? These are all signs of the current digital marketing trends.

Members of our marketing team attended a workshop hosted by Digitlab. With a focus on digital storytelling and digital marketing, the event kicked off with a session on video and storytelling. The elements of the story were likened to a Trojan horse. A story is a means to get people’s attention and the message is embedded in the story. All good stories also have a clear beginning and end. Video is one of the growing trends in digital marketing trends and the session progressed.

Virtual reality is another trend that is becoming more predominant as a sales strategy. Businesses can create an online virtual reality experience which allows customers to see what the product or service will be like.

Programmatic buying using data to drive specific products to customers by gathering data on their interests and needs through their interactions.

This leads us on to big brands which are the brands what collect this data by enabling people to interact on their platform, and thus gather data based on people’s behaviour.

Finally AI, or artificial intelligence, is using technology to mimic human intelligence to allow marketers the opportunity to reach segmented audiences through using AI. For example, AI can analyse people’s search patterns on search engines to allow marketers to place their adverts for maximum exposure. Chat functions on websites are also an example AI.

Digital trends are increasingly a part of marketing, and recognising this and taking advantage of the trends can only be helpful to any marketer.

ResRequest and Expedia are now connected

ResRequest-Expedia

We have some exciting news! Expedia, the world’s largest online travel company, now has a connection to ResRequest. ResRequest is constantly improving its product and connectivity between suppliers and buyers is a strategic focus. With our new Expedia connection, properties using ResRequest to manage their reservations can now connect directly to Expedia without a channel manager. 

 

Connections allow us to increase our client’s sales and improve business efficiency. Connections between the supplier and buyer mean that rates, availability, and bookings can be distributed electronically. Our connection to Expedia gives our customers the ability to sell their stock on Expedia partner platforms including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, Egencia, Hotwire, Trivago, Venere.com and several Expedia-affiliate channels.


The Expedia connection process is simple. Contact Expedia to register and specify that you’d like the Expedia connection to ResRequest (email Neil or Darren). Once the commercial agreements are in place with Expedia, our support centre connects your ResRequest and Expedia system together. Your rates and availability are distributed and updated on Expedia, directly from ResRequest. Bookings made by Expedia are automatically highlighted in ResRequest for your central reservation team to review, along with an email. All you need to do is manage your profile information on Expedia – they’re really helpful and have a team to assist with these housekeeping items.


There is no recurring fee for this connection. ResRequest does not charge commission for bookings made by Expedia. A once off setup fee of approximately 1 hour is billed at our standard data set up rates which are R390 / $40 per hour for 2017.

 

You can track the success of the connection as bookings are automatically linked to an Expedia agent and an Expedia source. Your marketing team can run their favourite report to track bed nights, yield, average length of stay and revenue filtered or grouped by the Expedia agent or source.

 

Customers have already started using the connection. We have over 40 properties active with the ResRequest-Expedia connection.

 

Join this growing number of customers and start selling your bed nights fast and easily!

Blocked pop-ups blocking ResRequest?

ResRequest popups

Have you ever landed on a web page and a pop-up immediately blocks the web page content? Pop-ups are usually blocked on web browsers because they’re generally advertisements but in ResRequest, pop-ups are menus and entry screens because ResRequest works off a pop-up based web interface. If pop-ups are blocked on your browser, you might have been experiencing problems accessing some content or even the entire ResRequest system.

Luckily you can enable pop-ups just for ResRequest and this blog will guide you through how to do this depending on your chosen browser. Below are the steps for the two browsers that we recommend you use when working in ResRequest: Chrome and Mozilla FireFox.

  1. Chrome

Open Chrome and your homepage will load. Navigate to the top right hand menu icon, as shown below.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 3.05.47 PM

Scroll down to the bottom of the Settings page, and click on the Show advanced settings link.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 1.51.03 PMNavigate through Advanced Settings and select the Privacy section, under which you will find the Content settings section.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 2.01.48 PM

Click on ‘Content settings’ and scroll to the ‘Manage exceptions’ section. Here you can specify to exclude ResRequest from the pop-up blocker. Add ‘live.resrequest’ if you are working on an offline environment and ‘yourcompany.resrequest.com’ (replace “yourcompany” with your web hosted URL prefix i.e. nyatilodge.resrequest.com).

2. Mozilla FireFox

If you are using Mozilla FireFox, follow these steps to allow pop-ups from ResRequest.

Open Mozilla FireFox and click the menu button in the top left corner of your homepage and choose Preferences.
Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 10.59.42 AM

Select the Content panel and choose Pop-ups.

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.01.40 AM

Click on Exceptions and you can add your ResRequest site to the list of ‘allowed’ websites.

Add ‘live.resrequest’ if you are working on an offline environment and ‘yourcompany.resrequest.com’ (replace “yourcompany” with your web hosted URL prefix i.e.  nyatilodge.resrequest.com).

Following these steps will allow you to work on your ResRequest system and keep those annoying pop-up adverts away. The best of both worlds! If you have any further technical questions, please email support@resrequest.com.

 

Clean it up

ResRequest- clean text

You’ve probably heard of plain text and rich text but do you know the difference and the effects of each one? In ResRequest, many modules use plain text to sort and store information and so making sure your information is in plain text is important.

 

What does it mean when we say rich text?

 

Documents created in applications such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs automatically add extra features such as fonts, spacing and capitalisation. This formatting adds code, or special characters, to the text and creates what is termed rich text because it has this extra, hidden formatting.

 

How does this affect you in ResRequest?

 

Have you ever had a problem where your rooming calendar locked down, rates were displaying incorrectly on an external connection or even where a guest contact name was randomly showing on the description of an extra? These are all examples of the effect of using rich text with special characters in the ResRequest system.

 

What can you do to avoid special character issues?

 

This is frustrating for you as a client and causes delays as we resolve the problem. Fortunately, there is a solution for which we can thank Jonathan Hedley at Amazon (thanks Jono!). Jonathon created a web-based tool which converts text to plain text very easily!

 

Below are the easy steps to follow to convert any text to plain text. You can then use this plain text in the ResRequest system without any hassles!

 

Step 1:

Go to Jonathan’s site, Convert Microsoft Word to Plain Text

Step 2:

Copy the rich text and paste it into the first window.

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 10.46.46 AM

Step 3:

Hit the clean button.

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 10.48.57 AM

Step 4:

Copy the ‘clean’, plain text from the bottom window and paste it into the relevant ResRequest field.

 

Step 5:

If there has been a loss of spacing or capital letters, you can edit it accordingly.

 

Step 6:

You’re done!

 

The most important area in ResRequest where you need to use plain text is your ResNova plugin. Copying text directly to ResNova from Microsoft Word or Google Docs will cause broken links and disrupt the functionality of ResNova. Populating your ResNova plugin popups with clean text can be done easily on the ResRequest business structure. Watch a tutorial on how to do this – bearing in mind what you now know about cleaning rich text!

 

The conversion to plain text is vitally important and we hope that this blog will assist you in converting your text, preventing errors and ensuring smooth ResRequest functionality.

 

Step up your server

ResRequest server specs

The saying ‘change is inevitable’ is certainly applicable in the technology sector. This is a positive change as we have new products to solve problems, improve online storage and facilitate tracking. As with most new technologies, however, there are often unforeseen consequences.

 

This is true for servers. Servers are the core of ResRequest’s productivity. If a server goes down, we can’t work – and neither can you! It is, therefore, essential that we maintain and run our machines as efficiently, and cost effectively, as possible. As a ResRequest client, your servers are also key to your property’s productivity. As ResRequest improves its product, we want to help you to optimise your server so that your business is always at its most productive and making full use of all the ResRequest enhancements.

 

When working at a small lodge with a handful of users (1-5) there is no need to go over the top with a large server. Below is a list of the minimum server requirements that we recommend:

 

  • i3 Duo Core CPU
  • 10 GB free hard disk space
  • 4 GB RAM (system memory)
  • Windows 7 or above
  • Linux
  • iOS – must use Parallels

 

This is just a guideline. If, however, the machine you are using as a server is also performing multiple functions, it would be advisable to improve your server capacity to run all the other programs parallel to ResRequest, without causing performance issues. More RAM is always the easiest and cheapest way to increase performance.

 

In closing, it’s good to know that if you are running an offline environment, we suggest letting ResRequest set up unattended access on TeamViewer. This will allow us to access the server when needed without prompting for TeamViewer details.

 

We are constantly improving our product and with a suitable server, your property will be able to capitalize on all aspects of ResRequest to enhance your operations.

 

Please contact us if you would like more information or advice.

How a 24 year old started a $70,000-a-month online business and travels the world

ResRequest blog

Written by Tanza Loudenback

Aileen Adalid entered the corporate world at age 19 after graduating from De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, with a degree in business management and had a combined year of training experience under her belt at huge multinational companies like Nestlé, Unilever, and Siemens.

But the trilingual Philippines native quickly grew envious of the flexible lifestyles of “digital nomads” she met while freelancing on the side in Manila.

At 21, after spending two years working as a product controller, which paid just $300 per month, at Deutsche Bank, she realised the corporate life wasn’t for her. She was increasingly intrigued by both entrepreneurship and travel, so she left her job with about $600 in savings in April 2013.

For the next year, Adalid freelanced in graphic design, web design, SEO management, and online marketing, sustained largely by one stable client contract that earned her more than double her previous salary. The best part: The flexibility enabled her to travel frequently to places like France and Thailand.

After a year of freelancing, Adalid,with a friend to start an online Amazon retail business called Adalid Gear, a health and outdoor accessories company, and relocated to Belgium on a student visa after being accepted to a graduate program at the University of Antwerp.

When her namesake business took off a few months later, Adalid left school and switched to a partner visa, with the help of her Belgian business partner, to focus on growing the business. To get the company off the ground, they started by carefully researching the market to discover the most in-demand products.

Their dedication paid off. Adalid Gear, which sells sports and outdoor gear, now has average monthly sales of $70,000, and has established markets in the US and UK.

She also revived her one-time teenage diary blog, I Am Aileen, fashioning it into a lifestyle and travel blog that has gained traction among online travel communities.

Adalid herself now earns about $5,000 a month from the business and “affiliate partnerships, sponsored posts, and social media shout outs” related to her travel blog. And thanks to brand and tourism board partnerships, Adalid often scores free travel and accommodations. But she doesn’t accept everything she’s offered. “I want [the blog] to remain authentic, personalised, and uncluttered … besides, I already earn most of my ‘keep’ from my online business.” Thanks to travel freebies and discounts, she says she’s able to save about 70% of her income.

Adalid typically works less than four hours per day on Adalid Gear, mainly handling research, marketing, promotions, and communication, allowing her to go on a trip from her home base, (now back in the Philippines) at least once a month to destinations throughout Europe and Asia.

Adalid’s nomadic lifestyle has taught her a few lessons about productivity. “Being constantly on the move can ruin anyone’s focus, rhythm, and pace, but I’ve discovered that it can be easily solved by doing slow travel and finding the right balance to how you do your workflow.”

Adalid is back in the Philippines now with plans to make Spain her next home base. Her long-term goal is to continue to grow her businesses and to travel to every country in the world.

First published on Business Insider

Will daylight savings time affect my ResRequest?

ResRequest blog

Daylight saving time (DST) or summer time is when people adjust their clocks forward by one hour during the summer months so that evening daylight time lasts an hour longer. DST is particularly prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere where the summer days are long and winter days are short. DST allows people to make the most of the longer summer days and the clocks are then adjusted back at the start of autumn.

While DST benefits people, it can disrupt electronic equipment and computer software often adjusts automatically for DST. At the end of October, many countries in the Northern Hemisphere will reset their clocks to adjust for the end of daylight savings. In Africa, only Namibia, Libya, Morocco and Western Sahara observe daylight savings.

As South Africa does not observe daylight savings, it is important to ensure that your computer is not set to automatically adjust for daylight savings so that ResRequest continues to function correctly.

If you need assistance with this, all technical queries can be directed to: support@resrequest.com.

Your online presence and ResRequest web pages

ResRequest web pages

Written by Jennifer Coppinger

What is the value of having a great website?

Having a website is no longer optional. Having a positive online presence through a website and social media platforms has become essential for almost every business and service. The quality of these sites and platforms is constantly evolving in the up-beat and competitive digital era that the majority of the world’s population has rapidly embraced.

You may ask why? A website is merely a marketing tool that doesn’t truthfully communicate the quality of the business or service. Or does it? There is method to the madness. A website is always accessible, it offers a chance to keep your customers informed, it grows your potential target market to a global scale and it can talk to every potential customer at the same time – there are only a certain number of phone calls you can take in a day! It’s often the first aspect of your business that people see and you know what they say about first impressions!

For many businesses, websites are a tool, a space for customers to view products, make reservations and even pay online from anywhere in the world.

What has your ResRequest system got to do with this?

Although ResRequest is your in-house reservations and property management system, remember that you still have some public facing pages. These public web pages are made up of your login page, your public availability calendar and quick search and may also include a Pay Now page if you have opted to use this functionality. All of these web pages can be extremely powerful in driving direct bookings to your establishment.

So if you’ve been skipping ahead with the times and have redesigned your website, remember that you can get these ResRequest public pages updated too. Just send us an email and we can get these pages redesigned for you to accommodate your new look.

ResRequest web pages

screen-design-2

Please be advised that these changes are billable at our standard support charges.