Adventure operators strive to provide their guests with an optimum adventure experience and at the same time operate their businesses in manner that expresses a deep appreciation and commitment for preservation of our natural ecosystems. This is no mean feat and many are leveraging technology to make it happen.
Adventure-seeking clients in particular are very aware of how a company conducts itself. Mat Unger, Adventure Systems Manager for Natural Habitat Adventures, Boulder, CO, notes that about 90% of their clients are providing email addresses for invoices and other documents, up from about 30% just a few years ago. NatHab has added secure web forms to their web site to collect necessary traveler information such as dietary preferences, medical history and passport information. This saves paper, postage and staff time because they are freed from the task of reentering the data into the reservation system.
Matt Zeugin, IT Director for OARS in Angels Camp, CA., said they have also moved to email for client communications and that the company has eliminated faxing lengthy rosters and passenger requirement reports to their remote operations managers. Instead, OARS has set up a web-based report site so that managers can log in from anywhere in the world to view concise reports. He notes this not only saves expensive fax paper but the reports are more up-to-date because the information is coming directly from the reservation system.
Remote access to the central databases is a critical technology for each of these companies. Micato Safari’s Technical Director, Sean Wilsen, reports his company has implemented an intranet (private web site for employees only) to share and coordinate resources among the company’s far-flung offices. Instead of printing, shipping, and filing content for brochures, documents, itineraries, manuals and other company communications, it is stored and transmitted via the web site. With offices in New York, Cape Town, Nairobi, Mumbai and New Delhi, Micato’s intranet has made a big difference.
NathHab has acquired several companies in the past few months and integration has been relatively smooth, reports Unger. “We created security accounts in our software and plugged them in, they are online with our reservation and operations system from Salt Lake City and Berkley.” Whether it is to retain an employee who must relocate or acquire a whole new company or brand, remote access offers a company many options.
The inherent complexity of the adventure travel experience also drives the development of their technologies. Unger points out that NatHab’s primary automation goal is to provide support tools for their customer service team, “In any interaction with the guest we want it to be correct the first time, there must be flexibility and system programming must be focused on minimizing human error.”
“If you are in the vast expanse of Masai Mara and you have forgotten something, you will do without; not exactly what well-heeled guests are expecting,” Wilsen said. “Sharing information through our global network gives us the quality control we need.”
Web tracking tools have been integrated into www.oars.com, www.nathab.com and www.micato.com. Unger reports that the cost per brochure request has dropped significantly since his company began tracking their web site visitor data. “We have found that ad placement on other web sites is more important than the key word search terms that we use”, he said. Wilsen, on the other hand has found that key word analysis has been more useful in the very competitive safari market.
Looking beyond analytics, OARS is incorporating social networking technology into its new web site. “Facebook and Twitter provide a virtual community for our clients and prospective clients”, Zeugin said. “Our YouTube channel has been a big hit.”
Green business is good business but without current technologies, it just would not be feasible. At the same time, clients are demanding more personalized service from operators, high tech enables high touch. The challenges are clear and fortunately the technology tools are available to help you succeed.