The past week has seen a massive shake up of critical business platforms in the North American passenger vessel industry. On Friday, July 1st, we learned that the pioneer in Reservations and Ticketing systems, TJ Software was sold to ACME Technologies. But a bigger shock was hearing Monday that Zerve was abandoning its customer base and closing shop. Whether it’s Canada Day, July 1st or the 4th of July, the last thing we as business operators want to deal with is changes to our mission critical enterprise systems that are our lifeblood. In July!!
Thankfully, our business is not affected. We were a TJ client for 20 years. A very satisfied client. In 2013, our business model changed when we acquired a Trolley operation. Starting with that season, we made the switch to Destination Manager from Virtual Ticketing Solutions of New Orleans.
I first met Mike Brydon in 2009, owner of VTS, when he came to Toronto for a Canadian Passenger Vessel Industry conference. I was intrigued because his lead client was Gordon Stevens’ operation at New Orleans Steamboat. I met Gordon in 1993 when I went to New Orleans to check out TJ. I soon learned that the system that Mike had built for Tina and Gordon at NOSB was based on TJ features and functionality but with modern software architecture.
It took me 4 years to finally make the change after lots of due diligence and another trip back to New Orleans Steamboat. The critical factor in my decision was that Destination Manager is a client based system vs. event based. This meant we could add numerous events, services, details, all with customized notes, tickets and documents to a single reservation.
In the 4 seasons since the move, I have no regrets. It has been a stable platform and a great relationship with the developer. Our business in that time has doubled, our internet bookings, now ten times what they were. This season, we’ve developed a full City Pass with Destination Manager that allows visitors admission to a dozen attractions, cruises, trolley, museums, events using one ticket sold at one price. We’re very excited about our K-Pass program.
Over the 25 years I’ve been attending the American PVA conferences. I’ve seen and investigated dozens of ‘Ticketing’ systems. For the first 15, it was Terry Heenan and 3 or 4 different vendors each year. In the last 10, they have been many more professional outfits with great products. But ‘Ticketing’ is the easy part of our needs. We need a system that manages the matrix of unique, multiple capacity and function vessels, complicated departures, trip legs, meals, services, function details, notes, contracts, documents, and so much more. Every time I put to a system developer that I needed a system that can do multiple capacity with sightseeing, lunch, packages, presold services on one departure with a particular boat, the answer is usually ‘we can have a look at
Destination Manager or VTS is not perfect, no system is. But when I spoke with a friend of mine, abandoned by Zerve with tens of thousands of dollars in limbo in future reservation after today, I was very glad to have a solid, local server based enterprise system, depositing payments everyday through my credit card transactor. The money is on our bank, not in the cloud.
I can’t imagine what some operators must be dealing with right now. But I’m writing this letter to recommend the VTS solution that I have come to rely on.
Either myself or our far more competent reservation team leads would be happy to speak with any fellow Passenger Vessel Operator about our VTS system. More strongly than ever, I’m glad we’re with Mr. Brydon and his team.
Since we have been utilizing The Virtual Ticketer Program since 2009 we have found it to be very effective in our day to day operations whether we are selling our Steamboat NATCHEZ Riverboat Cruises or our Gray Line Bus Tours.
The main benefits that we have acquired from using this system are:
- Tiered rate structures
- Ability to customize tickets and create tickets for various cruises, tours and special events
- Ability to enter services and modify any future price changes
- Unlimited rate codes per event
- Maximum flexibility and integration between components of the system with ability to format
- Variety of products/events that can be structured quickly and easily
- Easy picture of reservation status with which to make operational decisions
- Reservations can be made for multiple tours and packages, with only one reservation number
- Quick Mode for front line sales during peak periods
- Detailed Transaction Log for history of each reservation
- Easily edit reservations for changes
- Accurate and easy tracking of sales for entry into the financial accounting system
- Credit card payments, billing, commissions, wholesaler/ticket seller rates
- Payments can be applied on one tour or all tours within a reservation, without making multiple payments
- Service items can be broken down into unlimited general ledger accounts
- Centralized controls of data
- Various levels of security/access
- Easy to read reports with option to export
- Truly a Windows based system
It has streamlined the ticketing of passengers and allows us to board the vessel and busses faster and is simultaneously tracking sales as well as marketing information…which we can then use to increase future sales.
Whether the passengers are celebrating a birthday, wedding anniversary or family reunion, The Virtual Ticketer allows us to invite them back to celebrate with us again next year.
Our front line sales personnel make a reservation and the information is immediately available to all of our departments…Management, Food and Beverage, Accounting, Sales and Marketing. We can then always be prepared for the proper number of guests from the correct quantity of food to having enough party hats to properly celebrate New Year’s Eve.
With the many benefits of The Virtual Ticketer any organization would undoubtedly be pleased with the increase in sales and productivity that this system provides.
Our business, Lake George Steamboat Company, utilized TJ Software for 14 years, beginning in 1997. Although that system managed ticket sales adequately, our company struggled with the accounting and reporting features, and found the system confounding and counter-intuitive. We made the change to the Virtual Ticketer in 2012, and have found it all we needed and more.
The system works equally well for all: from the ticket seller to the managers to the accounting department, also for the marketing and the charter departments. The Virtual Ticketer has tremendous flexibility and capacity we have not even begun to touch, it has been well designed and relatively easy to understand.
Shane, Mike, and the other staff at Virtual Ticketing Solutions have been very responsive, capable of making any changes or adaptations necessary for our business, working with us to solve glitches even to the point of changing their system if necessary. The technical support is excellent.
Since we began with VTS, we have seen a 31% increase in our internet sales. We are looking forward to the new version of the web module. We are completely satisfied with VTS and would NOT think of changing to a different system. We find VTS has all the capability and versatility necessary to carry our company forward into the future.