There is a scene in the movie Brazil, a Terry Gilliam film, in which one of the characters gets killed by an overabundance of paperwork. Papers begin sticking to him, ultimately covering him from head to toe, and eventually taking his life. While this is a very extreme example of how paperwork can begin to take over one’s work life, in some industries, paperwork has indeed become a repressive and costly issue.
The multi-billion dollar tours and activities industry has technologically lagged behind other travel related sectors and is one of the industries suffering from a repressive paperwork problem. The airline and hospitality industries have both largely eliminated the requirement for paper tickets, paper confirmations, etc. Hotels are moving towards enabling guests to use smart devices to bypass the front desk, and airlines offer mobile electronic boarding passes. Indeed, in those industries, the only time a traveler actually requires any sort of paper is when they choose to print something out.
Unfortunately, even with all the new emerging travel technologies, tours and activities suppliers are still dealing with a massive amount of paper, starting from when the guest uses paper to gain entry to the attraction right up until reconciliation requirements. According to a research report by travel research firm Phocuswright titled “The In-Destination Experience: Shopping, Dining, Activities & Tours”, the in-person method for booking destination activities is still the most popular at nearly 40%, followed by calling directly, using online travel agencies like Expedia, and other non-mobile interactions (see figures below).
All of these various booking scenarios lead to a surprising amount of required paper transactions (in the form of receipts, confirmations, vouchers, etc.) in order to experience the tour or activity. Often, the paper delivered the traveler via an online travel agency needs a secondary piece of paper to be verified, and then yet another piece of paper is printed prior to the guest participating in the attraction. This is simply annoying to the traveler and is much like the way things were done in the 90’s not 2016.
In the same report, Phocuswright states that there are specific reasons why travelers do not tend to book attractions online. The primary reason noted is that tours and activities suppliers are not merchandising their products as well as hotels and other travel brands. They have poor activity presentations online, no option for mobile ticketing, and searching for attractions on the internet can be extremely confusing. Often, suppliers offer no real advantages to booking online.
Unlike more mature travel segments, there is also a lack of system integration. Only a small percentage of suppliers have electronic connectivity enabling their resale partners to sell their tickets electronically, meaning most transactions require a paper-based manual redemption process. More wide-scale use of electronic connectivity would decrease paperwork dramatically.
Paper needs to go
The excessive use of paper in tours and activities negatively affects all aspects of the business, providing friction at every touch point. It affects the guest purchasing the tour or activity, and it has use-cost ramifications for the supplier due to the need for reconciliation of vouchers as well as converting reseller paper to their own POS platform.
The most inconvenient issue is the fact that travelers still require a piece of paper to enter most attractions. Firstly, they must print the voucher. Secondly, they need to make sure that they do not lose it. If they are already in destination and they require the voucher to be printed, they need to seek out a business center to print it. Finally, when at the attraction, they have to wait in long lines so that operators can validate their paper vouchers. During the entry process, the traveler needs to have their paper voucher scanned, then issued a ticket from the operators’ ticketing system. The admissions staff usually does this. Unfortunately, these staff members are often overworked, having to recognize paper vouchers from hundreds of different resale partners in varying formats. This effort can equate to significant errors that will cost the attraction's owner and impact the bottom line.
Having staff manually count, verify for accuracy, and reconcile paper vouchers every day, many times a day is highly inefficient. In some cases, they must reconcile all paper with two separate systems (their ticketing/POS system AND their accounting system). They also need to manually invoice some resellers, while for others they need to manually review payment invoices for correctness. There is significant inconsistency in how things are handled from reseller to reseller, and it is almost always wasteful, inaccurate, and a lot of work. Redeam research shows that some tours and activities providers will spend up to $5 USD to reconcile each voucher due to paper handling costs and staff time.
To have a tourism business so focused on the use of paper restricts its capability to grow and meet the demands of today’s tech-savvy travelers. Channel sales people who are overworked begin to feel as if they can no longer deal with more resellers because the paperwork overload is too burdensome already. This lack of new prospect sales generation can be not only a moral killer - but also has an extremely adverse effect on the activity provider who is constantly rejecting new and possibly more innovative resellers.
There is no question the industry must find a way to eliminate paper from its landscape to stay competitive. The capability to accept mobile tickets, as well as the conversion of paper vouchers to a technological ticket redemption platform, is paramount for the tours and activities industry to thrive. The challenges that face this industry are not that different from the trials that travel sectors have had to deal with in the past, and have since begun to successfully overcome. It is finally possible, through the implementation of new technologies like Redeam, that we can - and will - make paper a thing of the past.
About the author
Alex Kremer is co-founder and head of product at Redeam an innovative technology company serving the tours & activities industry helping them streamline their operations and drive more revenues. He was previously Senior Vice President of Partnerships at Nor1, a leading hospitality merchandising provider. He joined Nor1 after it acquired Flextrip, a B2B tours & activities distribution network he co-founded. Alex is a 15-year veteran of technology startup companies, previously co-founding Cruvee, a business intelligence company for the wine industry where he led Business Development. Prior to that, he co-founded FanAxis, one of the world's first fan club management and merchandising firms in the music and entertainment industries. Alex is based in Boulder, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter at @axk.
Redeam is based in Boulder, Colorado and has developed a platform that enables attractions to accept paper vouchers and mobile tickets from any reseller using Redeam’s low cost, tablet based validation platform. Redeam also delivers a single, unified view of all tickets & vouchers accepted, giving an unprecedented view of daily, monthly and annual performance. Automatic reconciliation means less time spent counting paper and less administrative overhead. Redeam also enables resellers of attraction tickets to offer true mobile electronic ticketing to travelers on their mobile device using a single API. For more information, please contact us at www.redeam.com.
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