Hampshire County Council's Outdoor Centres Leap Ahead
HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is ahead of the game when it comes to new digital technologies, implementing a booking system back in 2013 for a countryside initiative.
With an innovative idea to set-up bookable BBQ spots in country parks, Hampshire County Council (HCC) started taking online bookings to increase efficiency and the public's access to some recreational features and facilities.
With four outdoor activity centres in operation, HCC needed an effective system in place to manage its multi-site bookings. Having already implemented Booking Live for country park bookings in September 2013, the Council made the decision to roll the system out to Calshot Activities Centre.
Owned and managed by the Council, the Centre is the largest of Hampshire's outdoor activity centres, offering a wide range of exciting water and land based activities. Historic hangars accommodate a state of the art climbing complex, the only indoor velodrome in Southern England and a dry ski slope.
With this range of features, Calshot is able to provide activities all year round to the public. Although the centre provides a huge amount of activities, only 15% are currently bookable online via their website.
Visitors at Calshot can learn everything about a particular activity in one day. During the climbing course, attendees are shown everything from how to put a harness on to abseiling. They are then able to come back and use the centre for recreational purposes.
The centre is open 7 days a week, with the Council also running residential courses for schools and other organisations. Calshot is busy all year round, but the nature of the activities offered changes with the seasons. In winter they focus on indoor courses, e.g. skiing and climbing, whereas in summer the focus shifts to water.
Calshot aims to have their summer activities - including windsurfing, kayaking, power boating and sailing - set up to be booked online imminently, with winter activities online by the end of the year.
With policies on how websites should look, with guidance on accessibility, Hampshire County Council needed a system it could tweak and tailor. As a large organisation, working with a third party while meeting policy was at the forefront of their decision process.
One of the biggest achievements since implementing Booking Live was the ability to take card payments online. The majority of their bookings are now made at 7 or 8 in the evening, something which wouldn't have been possible if they had not introduced booking software. They are increasing accessibility for their customers without the need for additional paper or staff resources.
HCC's Outdoor Activities Centres have big plans; they're aiming to have 80-90% of all courses and activities open to the public and available for booking online by the end of 2015.
The Centres are keen to cement their presence in the 21st century and hope to introduce further enhancements with the ability to book activities via mobile apps and self service terminals in the Centres. They want to ensure their customers can access their services effortlessly, continue to use their facilities on a regular basis and recommend them to their friends and colleagues.