How to avoid overbooking as a tour & activity provider in 2022

After a rough couple of years due to COVID, things are finally looking better for tours and activities providers. In fact, tourism figures have reached record highs in 2022. Johannes Reck, CEO of GetYourGuide, has stated that the popular OTA is registering double to triple its pre-Covid numbers in all the major countries where it operates. With business looking so strong, it may be tempting to try to make up for the time lost by accepting as many bookings as possible from a wide variety of channels. In theory, this seems a great way to increase your revenue, collect more guest reviews, and get back to doing what you love the most—helping visitors experience all the great things to see and do near you.

Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful, opening many different distribution channels can lead to overbooking situations where you have too many people signed up for your tours. Contrary to what one would think, this isn’t a nice problem to have. In similar cases, you have to either reschedule or cancel bookings; there’s no other way around it. Both these choices can significantly impact the overall guest experience and can lead to negative reviews and refunds. Between managing so many sales channels and dealing with the challenges of running a tourism company on a daily basis, I know how easy it is to get into a situation where you have sold more tickets than available. To make things a little less complicated, I have created a guide that will teach you how to avoid overbooking.

Why do overbookings occur?

Overbookings can occur for plenty of reasons. Sometimes it is due to human error, and other times, it is due to systemic issues. It is essential to understand which of these two types of problems is the leading cause of your overbookings. While training can help your staff avoid mistakes that they usually make when managing reservations, systemic issues can be trickier.

Systemic overbooking issues happen when you accept bookings from multiple channels (such as OTAs, direct, walk-in, etc.) and receive two reservations for the same spot on your tour. If you’re lucky, you can just hire an additional tour guide and split the participants into two or more groups. Keep in mind that this is the best-case scenario. In reality, we all know how difficult it is to hire a guide with short notice. Reducing overbookings can be challenging, but with my tips, you’ll be able to improve the situation in no time.

Four ways to reduce overbookings

If you’re asking yourself how to avoid overbooking, you can try the following strategies.

Increase staff training

If you’re receiving a lot of overbookings due to your staff making mistakes when using your reservation system (it doesn’t matter if it’s an old-fashioned notebook, an Excel spreadsheet, or a dedicated software), I’ve got an easy fix. In these cases, it is always good to organize a training refresher for existing employees and ensure that new hires fully know the importance of entering reservations correctly and thoroughly.

If you work with OTAs, you may also want to teach them how to open and close inventory on their admin portals. While some owners and managers prefer to keep these channels off limits to staff, the last thing you want is overbookings coming in during a high-demand period and your team has no way to close them.

Offer incentives to the guides for last-minute tours

Another option to limit overbookings is by offering extra benefits for freelance guides who take on last-minute tours. It goes without saying that the most effective incentive is a higher pay rate. Based on the size and value of the overbooking, this may or may not be worth it. While this strategy doesn’t help reduce the number of overbookings you receive, it eases the impact they can have on guests.

Reduce your distribution channels

Suppose you are experiencing overbooking because you have too many channels to manage and not enough hours in the day. In that case, you can think about cutting the number of distribution channels you work with. They could be some underperforming OTAs, wholesalers, local resellers, etc. When considering this option, focus on the ones that create more work than value.

Sadly, this choice could be detrimental to your bottom line because it limits the reach of your business. This is particularly true for OTAs, which often have an international audience, and you know how difficult it is for SMEs to reach overseas customers through typical marketing strategies. Luckily, there are a few other options that you can try first before limiting your distribution channels.

Use a booking system.

A booking system is one of the best ways to reduce overbookings. A complete booking solution empowers you to sell tickets online, receive reservations, and manage your distribution channels, which may include online travel agencies like Viator, GetYourGuide, and Expedia, as well as local resellers and your own website. These booking solutions allow your clients to book directly through your website and, at the same time, they show your actual capacity on every channel in real time. They can generally integrate with both your website and OTAs to provide a seamless management system where you can open or close your availability as needed. Similarly, the inventory is automatically adjusted when bookings are made or canceled.

A booking system can also help you stay organized by creating guest lists for your tours or activities, sending out automatic confirmation and reminder emails to your guests, and generating sales reports. They can even send out emails reminding your customers to leave you an online review so potential guests can see how amazing your services are! Thanks to these features, you can save a significant amount of time which you can use to focus on growing your company and keeping your guests happy.

Regiondo, the all-in-one solution for the leisure industry

With more than 4,000 customers around Europe, Regiondo is the leading booking system for tours, activities, and destinations. Regiondo allows you to sell tickets online, manage bookings, and connect with the leading OTAs. It gives you all the tools you need to grow your business faster. With our software, you can create your offers once and push them through 230+ sales channels without managing each listing individually. The integrated channel manager will show the correct availability on every platform in real time, helping you avoid double-bookings.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about how Regiondo can help you streamline your business, reduce overbookings, and sell more online.

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Update 30 August 2022: The article has been updated for clarity.

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