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Visit Scotland | Alba

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1. Why online availability and booking is vital

  • Unforeseen visitors

    Help manage visitors who arrive without a booking. Think of spur of the moment visits whose numbers you cannot control.

  • Crowd control

    • It's a tool to control the area / radius where visitors come from. For example, within X miles of the visitor attraction, or within certain postcodes
    • Manage visitor flow around the attraction / experience in a controlled and safe manner


  • Information

    Ensure that visitors are aware of all terms and conditions at the time of booking.

  • Special features

    • Set timeslots for visits by date and time
    • Set durations for each visit
    • Support contactless payment


  • Record keeping

    Maintain records of visitor numbers and demand (you will have to base staffing requirements on both).

  • Preparation

    Put arrival checks / procedures in place as appropriate. Think of ticket scanning devices, queueing etiquette and staffing requirements.

  • Continued contact

    Maintain contact with customers post-visit and request feedback as necessary.

2. How do I choose an online booking system?

Check which online booking system best meets your business requirements.

We don’t endorse or recommend any system over another. The following list represents only a small fraction of booking systems available. The ones included have Scottish clients or account managers working in Scotland.

3. Case studies of businesses who have utilised online booking systems

  • The Scottish Crannog Centre and FareHarbor

    The Scottish Crannog Centre is a living history museum at Kenmore, Perthshire. Customers who booked and paid at the attraction made most bookings before the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). The pandemic necessitated the need for the business to be able to manage (and limit) capacity.

  • Glasgow Life and Tessitura

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) resulted in the closure of all Glasgow Life venues and visitor attractions. This made an online booking system was essential to reopen attractions and venues.

  • Cluny Activities and BookingHound

    Cluny Activities used a booking system that let them change how many households can book one slot at the one time. During the pandemic, it ensured adherence to all government track and trace procedures. From 2020, online booking has become essential and online sales have risen exponentially as a result.

4. A procurement checklist for booking systems

Browse booking systems

Please make a note of everything you need from a booking system, using our checklist.

  1. 1

    Find out:

    • Where your current bookings come from
    • What the required effort will be
    • If there are any financial costs such as a commission
    • What each booking costs. Think of staff members involved, time to process each booking, advertising / marketing costs
    • If the cost of bookings will change when people book online


  2. 2

    Carry out thorough research into the options available:

    • Look at similar business’ websites
    • Act as a potential visitor
    • Check how easy / difficult it is to book using potential booking systems


  3. 3

    Use Capterra

    Capterra is a useful source of information on booking systems. Plus, it contains lots of customer reviews. You can use it alongside your online booking system's details.


  4. 4

    Create a shortlist

    Create a shortlist of your top five solutions and then do some more research. It may be useful to speak to other similar businesses at this point. Ask them about their experiences of using a specific booking system.

Decide on a booking system

Once you've got a good idea of what's on offer, you can decide which booking system is right for you.

  1. 1

    Contact suppliers

    Speak to each of your shortlisted booking systems and negotiate rates / prices. They may have special offers aimed at businesses in particular areas or for specific business types.

  2. 2

    Have a test drive

    Some suppliers offer free trials which can help ease anxiety and make the switch a bit easier. At first, you may wish to keep things simple with only one or two booking options. For example, don't use any complex packages / multi-ticket options until you’re more confident with the system.

  3. 3

    Make your decission

    Make your decision and select a booking system. It’s always easiest if you change to a new system outside the main visitor season so plan accordingly. Ensure you communicate the changes to all staff members especially those who you will expected to use the new system. Organise staff training sessions with your selected supplier.

  4. 4

    Read the fine print

    As part of the sign-up process, ensure that you’re happy with the supplier terms and conditions. Think about stuff like contract renewal, cancellation policy and payment terms.

  5. 5

    Review your system

    Reassess your choice regularly (at least annually) to ensure that:

    • You’re getting value for money

    • You’re receiving an appropriate level of customer support

    • There are no solutions available more suited to your requirements

5. Which online booking system is most suitable for my business?

Different online booking systems offer different functionality. It’s important to select the booking system which best matches your business needs.

Download and use our "Functionality for booking systems' tables to:

  • Assess your business requirements
  • Identify which system is most suitable for you

Functionality for booking systems

Published April 2023

Interactive checklist to identify which system is most suitable for your business

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