‘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.

Centauri announcements

We want to keep giving you a great product…Here’s our very latest features and updates.


A new online booking plugin for your website

We are super excited to release an online booking plugin for your website, ResNova.

ResNova is a customisable booking plugin that feeds your availability from ResRequest to your website. We’ve developed two versions of ResNova – one for a standard HTML website and a second plugin for our WordPress fans.

Here’s what ResNova looks like..

(Images courtesy of: Tongabezi Lodge, Zambia & Remote Africa Safaris, Zambia)

 

Our early adopters Great Plains are innovators from saving rhinos to new technology. They quickly asked to be first in line to test drive our plugin on their WordPress site. We love how their site integrates the plugin and matches their stunning branding.

If you’d like to use our plugin the next step is to contact us and sign up as a beta user. We’ll do all the back end stuff and then we’ll point your web designer to our plugin setups.

And there’s more in the pipeline..

ResNova currently supports credit card payments through PayGate SA and we’re planning to add more vendors to this list. We are also aiming to release a version of ResNova that supports multiple ResRequest customers so you can easily display your neighbour’s availability with yours to make booking circuits super easy for the trade.

 


Your lodge in the spotlight

Version 6.3

Our version of vegging out in a Google-Pod is scrolling through photos of all the gorgeous lodges we work with. We thought it would be a great idea to develop a way that your online trade customers could see the same pictures from your availability calendar – so this week we snuck in this awesome little feature…

To show this new picture carousel just upload photos of your property and rooms from your online ResRequest server and you’ll get some great visuals on your calendar.

These photos are also available through our API so if you’re using ResNova or designing your own booking page for online bookings, you can grab these pictures from ResRequest.

In the pipeline… We’re planning to add a Google map with your lodge co-ordinates to make it even easier for the trade to book their circuits with you.


Let’s do the timezone toggle

Version 6.3.2

Sometimes you need to understand what time your team made changes when you’re in a totally different timezone to them. To help you do that we’ve implemented a timezone-toggle that let’s you change ResRequest’s audit trails to your timezone, or your team’s timezone.

We added this for you to help you work with ResRequest and not worry about counting out the 24 hour clock after battling the red eye flight. Here’s how to use it. Look for the clock on your shortcut bar. Click that and you’ll see the timezone you’re set up with.

You’ll also find the timezone clock in your important audit screens so you can toggle time, anytime!


“Hey guys, we’re launching a special!”

Version 6.2

Sometimes someone in marketing comes up with a great idea, “A rate discount to incentivise travel”. It could be discounting the last night of stay, or discounting one itinerary leg when the booking travels across properties. So idea in hand, the marketing team call a meeting and enthusiastically tell their reservation’s team about their special rate, but they’re met with blank stares.

We understand the blank stares because we know how much work changing rates can be. That was – until our new Special-rates module was released.

To help your marketing team get the smiles they deserve we’ve created a Specials modules to easily apply discounted pricing. Now you can create specials, automatically apply them to bookings and check how your special’s performing.

Here’s how easy it is to add a special…

 

Setup your specials using discount combinations based on pax, number of rooms and more.

The option to add a special even pops up when you’re making a booking (top) or you can go back and add it to an existing booking (bottom).

 

      

 

Your system administrator can also sleep easy at night because we’ve made sure that it’s all access controlled.


Availability is sorted with pre-booked blocks

Version 6.1.0

If you’re running big pre-booked group bookings and you offer package deals, then block bookings is the ideal feature to manage your availability.

Block bookings let you create and save itineraries that can be repeated and linked to one or many agents. If you don’t use them – we’ve got that sorted – they’ll expire just like a provisional booking. If management want to know how your blocks are performing – just point them to our simple ‘Allocation’ reports.

Quick tips & tricks

Go back!

We spend a lot of our day moving from a contact record, to availability, to rooming then back to the contact record. It didn’t take long before we realised, we wanted to do it much, much faster, so our team magic’ed up a quick way to go back to the last contact, reservation or report we’d been working on. To avoid confusing this with the browser ‘Back’ button, we called them the “Last” buttons. In fact we created 3 “Last” buttons: go back to your last calendar, contact or reservation. If the button’s bold, it means that you’ve been there since you logged in and, if the button has a drop down arrow, you can look up the last few records you visited. We use them so often that they won a permanent spot on our toolbar.

Need more real estate? Just add another screen!

Are you a multi-tasker? If you are, you can work even faster by adding one, two or three monitors (assuming you’ve got ceiling room!). Once you’ve added the hardware, just open multiple ResRequest windows and drag your favourite screens onto each monitor. Oh and if you don’t want to add more hardware, remember you can open as many ResRequest windows as you want, and just toggle between them!
Look out for the “open new window” icons on your toolbar…
icons-newWindows

Is your page too small? Just zoom in!

If it’s a Monday and you need a little extra help to focus your eyes on your data, just zoom in, or out for easy viewing of your ResRequest pages… If you’re a Window’s fan, use Ctrl and + or to zoom in or out. While Mac users can do the same using the Cmd and + or  keys.

Short cut keys

If you love shortcut keys, these tricks are just for you …
From any ResRequest page 
  • F5 will refresh your screen
  • F9 opens the reservation Quick Search (use the * before and/or after search words to substitute for any unknowns)
  • F12 opens the Quick Date Search, add your date and *boom* your availability calendar loads, pronto!
From the Rooming Calendar, select a reservation and …
  • F4 adds room numbers
  • F5 load guest details
  • F6 opens extras for the booking
  • F7 opens the reservation’s financial details
  • F8 finds a reservation on the calendar
For Mac users, remember to add Function (fn) or Command (cmd) key before pressing the F# key.

Add your own attachments to your reservation docs 

If you work with attachments often, we can add them to ResRequest, so you can attach them to your emails as fast as Santa’s sleigh. Our tutorials show you how.

Create your own signature, for a personal touch!

Setup your own signatures and email messages (yes, that’s plural!) so that you can add a customised reply to your messages (yes, you can cheat and make your template, personal!). Take a look at our support site for help on setting up email templates, and checkout our online tutorial to find out how to work with them.
 

See your business clearly

Written by Paula Chaplin

This is the time of year you start looking forward and trying to gauge what the year ahead will bring. If you happen to be in a region beset by issues (perceived or real) negatively impacting tourism (terrorism, ebola, government unrest etc) – this is probably quite a trying exercise. Unfortunately we can’t help you predict the future – our crystal ball is still downloading…

But what we can help you with is forecasting data in ResRequest – which you can interpret (because no-one knows your business like you do) and try to spot booking and travel trends, which may give you a reasonable idea of what next year will be like.

To that end – we have put together some reports (all of which you can pull out of ResRequest) – and added some graphs (we used Google Spreadsheet, but you could use Excel or Numbers) – to give you an idea of the kind of information you can get from ResRequest, and different ways of viewing it.

The numbers we’ve shown are fictional, and not representative of any company’s actual business. The point of this mailer isn’t the figures – it’s the concept of data interpretation and visualisation.

We show you below how to pull the reports which are feeding these graphs – but your company will be set up in a unique way, possibly with properties, accommodation types or rate types that should be excluded from statistical/revenue reporting. If you want to be 100% certain that you are looking at accurate and relevant data – please get in touch so we can go through it with you.

It’s important to note that our reports are only as good as the data you capture. If you are not capturing data consistently – your reports will not give you an accurate or complete picture of your business.

The information I used to create these graphs was pulled from either the Sales Analysis or, my personal favourite, the Financial Analysis Report. To find this information, and much, much more, I’ve prepared a guide on how to use the Financial Analysis Report. If you prefer that we talk you through this step-by-step just drop us an email. Enjoy!

Future bed nights: comparing previous years

Looking at what your bed nights were like this time in previous years, relative to how the year turned out. (To pull information for this graph: you need to run a report per year and stitch the information together. To see bookings as of 1 Nov 2013 for 2014: Travel Dates = 1 Jan – 31 dec 2014, Create Date = 1 Jan 2000 – 31 Oct 2013. Group by Status, showing Bednights.)

Booking lead time

Look at booking trends – how far in advance do your reservations come in. (To pull this report look at the FAR – Group by Create Date, and look at Arrival Date. Export the report and create a variance column between Arrival Date and Create Date – this is your lead time.)

Revenue compared with Yield

We know you are interested in yield, not just bed nights. By combining your revenue and yield on one chart, you can see pricing trends for each property, or year.

(To pull information for this bar graph, I ran the FAR report, grouped by property, showing net revenue and yield.)

Recognise your top agents

You need to know which agents are your top performers. By plotting your top agents for the last 2 years, and your forecasted agents for the next year, your marketing team can quickly see who to check-in with, or applaud.

(To prepare data for this chart, I ran the FAR report, grouped by agent and sorted by revenue.)

Know where your business comes from

Knowing where your business comes from can be an effective tool as you develop your marketing and sales strategy. Measuring your reservation source shows you which campaigns were the most successful.

(This report was easy because my database had source code information, I generated the results using the FAR report, grouping by source code and sorted by revenue.)

Trending markets

See where your business is coming from geographically by tracking reservation nationality or tracking where your agents are based.

 

 

 

(This was super easy, I ran the FAR report, grouped by the agent postal code and sorted by revenue. The trick to this chart working is that your agents must have their postal (or physical) address details recorded!)

Introducing our new release CENTAURI

We are excited to announce our version 6.0 release, named CENTAURI. In this release are behind-the-scenes changes, including an upgrade from PHP4 to PHP5 and a database change from MySQL to MariaDB. This forms the foundation for lots of great, new modules already in development.

Also in this release is a graphics facelift. Our new graphics have been inspired by Google for a simpler, modern look, which includes new buttons, larger fonts and vector icons. Here’s a snapshot…

 

 

Have you ever wondered why we name our releases? For years creative software developers have developed code names for their releases. It’s about creative thinking, creating excitement about a release and synergising a vision for a new phase of a product.

Where our release name, Centauri, comes from. We feel that the stars evoke a desire to explore, they conjure feelings of creativity and magic. The stars inspire us with extremes of myth and science, total control but completely random and beautiful. From the name of the closest star to our solar system, Centauri was the perfect choice for this release. Of course, the fact that every geek is totally fascinated with Vulcans, Romulans, Clones and Ewoks certainly helped!

Our Centauri launch party was complete with glow in the dark decorations and gold-dusted chocolate brownies from Daniela’s.

 

Centauri highlights
Centauri includes great new features you’ll love. Look out for the locking of the calendar header, new report filters and an interface to Tally accounts. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store.

highlights

 

Full audit trail
Our crew are so excited about our audit trail enhancements that they’ve put a video together to show you what’s available to you in this release. With this nifty new enhancement you’ll be able to see details of all edits made to reservations. Along with a new report, this becomes a powerful tool for you to audit reservation changes.

audittrail

 


Tally Accounting interface

If you’re a fan of Tally Accounting solutions, we’ve got great news for you! This release introduces a financial interface to Tally Accounting systems. This means that if you use Tally, you can seamless batch and post your invoices from ResRequest into Tally.

Of course if you use great accounts products like Pastel and Quickbooks, we’ve already got those interfaces well implemented at several clients. Just give us a call to find out how you can streamline your business processes by posting your invoices and payments straight from ResRequest to these popular accounting apps.

 

ZRA certifies another ResRequest customer

The Zambian Revenue Authority put us through our paces and another ResRequest customer is certified.

The Zambian tax authorities require that any business producing Tax Invoices from a computer system, has to have their specific use of the system certified. This certification means that VAT registered customers are able to claim input VAT supported by such invoices. The certification process entails a session with ZRA representatives for them to satisfy themselves with the controls and security features applied. ResRequest meets the requirements and we are familiar with the certification process. We recently assisted another customer in achieving this certification.

Are you interested in a direct link to Africa’s finest properties?

Our interface product, ResConnect, offers you stock, rate and availability access to Africa’s most luxurious and remote destinations. This service is now available FREE.

ResConnect links Agents, Tour Operators and Online Travel Channels to ResRequest inventory, rates and bookings.

• Quick and Easy Setup
• View Availability & Rates
• Create Bookings Electronically

How to Connect:
When you are ready to start the technical connection we will send you our service agreement (NDA) and introduce your developers to our developers. Your developer will receive access to a test site and our technical documentation.

Once you have established commercial agreements with your property partners from our client list, our call centre will setup the links to connect you with your selected properties.

Connection Charges:
Use of our API is free.

Should you require our services to co-ordinate setup with our customers or development assistance this is billed at our annually published support and development rates.

For more details on how to get set up, contact us on:
Email: info@resrequest.com
Telephone: +27 (0) 35 772 5615
Website: www.resrequest.com

ResConnect is developed and supported by the ResRequest Group.