Visitors to get better deal with bookings

Visitors to Fiordland stranded without a reservation for transport and activities could benefit from a trial expected to establish the Conservation Department as a booking agent.

The department and Tourism Exchange New Zealand (TXNZ) have teamed up to allow the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau to process live bookings from October 1.

More than 130,000 visitors walk into the Fiordland Visitor Centre each year and DOC commercial channel manager Jake Downing said the system would help sell local transport and activity products to walk-in customers. The centre was one of the busiest in the country. With the new connection to TXNZ, visitor centre staff would be able to search live availability direct from local tour operators' reservations systems, make a booking, give customers instant confirmation and process payment to the operator on the spot, he said.

TXNZ senior sales executive Andrew Wells said the connection of DOC to the booking system was a new direction for the department.

The power of a visitor centre like Fiordland selling local activities with live connections to reservations systems could not be ignored, he said.

DOC would set and receive commissions and TXNZ would set a booking fee but those costs would be absorbed by operators, Mr Wells said.

Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre manager Christine Officer said the trial was being driven to improve customer service.

"If people are walking in and not getting all they can from their visit, that means we are not providing them with everything they want," she said.

The ability to take live bookings for tourism operators, especially those based in Te Anau, would help businesses fill any vacancies, she said.

If the system proved successful in Te Anau, the department would roll the model out to other DOC visitor centres throughout the country, Mr Downing said.

The Southland Times