Group bookings have been inevitably affected by the covid virus, but the tourism industry will be hoping 2022 is the dawn of a new era as the pandemic starts to abate.
With many attractions operating restricted visitor numbers and a reluctance from organisations to plan too far in advance, it has been a challenging two years. This article focuses on the challenges faced in retaining and reintroducing group bookings and how TOR’s Maxim system is supporting clients in that process.
One attraction which has experienced an inevitable drop in group bookings during the pandemic is BA i360, the observation tower on Brighton beach which affords visitors 360 degree views.
Anna Prior, head of marketing and trade sales, said: “Pre-covid we were starting to see a lot of international tourists visit BA i360 – groups and overseas tourists were a significant sector of our market – and obviously international tourists have yet to return.
“Our team has adapted swiftly and effectively to the challenges. Naturally we have implemented many new measures to keep visitors and staff safe, but also ensured that our team doesn’t lose sight of the fact visitors are here to have a great experience, not to dwell on covid.”
Another of TOR Systems’ clients, Staffordshire-based National Memorial Arboretum, has endured a tough period after coach tour operators and friendship groups understandably cancelled bookings as a result of the pandemic and resulting restrictions.
Faye Brant-Key, group sales and booking coordinator, said: “It’s great to see that so many groups are now keen to return to the Arboretum and explore everything our site has to offer.
“Whilst the pandemic continues to present challenges, the Maxim system has meant we could easily keep on top of both new enquiries and bookings that remain on-hold from 2020/21. Maxim greatly helps our team by ensuring we are able to deliver important visitor information directly to bookers.”
Maxim enables Faye to adapt the information which the Arboretum issues to group visitors, including pre-visit emails which help to highlight any change in regulations and explain any resulting changes to the visitor experience. The system is very easy to use so team members have been easily able to fill in where required.
Another organisation, Parliament Education, which offers free visits for schools, colleges and communities, has also benefited from Maxim.
Sarah Bagg, of TOR Systems, said: “Parliament Education has been using Maxim’s back-office functionality to manage their group educational bookings for a few years now. This year they will also have the added benefit of going live with Maxim’s online group portal, with the aim to reduce the back-office resource dramatically.
“Allowing the group booker/teacher to book online when they have time, with the aim to significantly reducing call wait times on the Parliament booking office, provides a better service and more flexibility for schools.”
So how does TOR’s Maxim system make group booking easy?
As well as in-depth functionality to book and manage group bookings by the more traditional route, i.e booking forms, telephone/email inquiries, the Maxim portal allows group leaders to book independently online.
It will allow the user to select anything from arrival times, workshops, lunch times, assigning resources, as well as any bespoke information that is required, ie dietary requirements.
For a schoolteacher, or group leader to be able to book when they have time, means they don’t have to wait for bookings to be confirmed. This provides greater flexibility for the booker and frees up back office resource at the attraction.
Summary of Maxim’s Benefits
- Intuitive, user friendly and quick booking process
- Easy to access customer and booking information
- Automates previously manual processes
- Supports multi-site, locations, sessions, events for groups which want multiple workshops/activities across many locations
- Diary-search for quick availability look-up
- Configurable up-selling opportunities, enabling the attraction to upsell retail items to a group booking that are linked to the visit
- Produces itinerary, e-confirmations and proforma
- Configurable customer fields, to support operations and CRM
- Marketing segmentation for CRM – all data added to the system can be used to create marketing communication, pre-visit emails, payment chasers, or post visit communication
- Unique timeline for a full view of availability
- Multiple changes to bookings, all fully audited