Arctic Reservations

Arctic Reservations

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Building on Arctic – The API

Today’s blog post will be a somewhat nerdy diversion from the usual topics, touching on a very powerful feature available to outfitters that want to do something unique or powerful using the information stored in Arctic Reservations. This is achieved through the Arctic API (which stands for application programming interface). The Arctic API allows another computer program, or a website, to connect to Arctic Reservations in order to share information between the two programs. Although this might seem like a simple idea, it provides a phenomenal range of possible uses.

Originally, the API was designed to allow extracting live trip availability information. This allowed building custom trip listing or calendar pages that reflected trip availability. But since launching version 2, the API has been expanded substantially to allow a number of additional powerful features.

We even use the API internally for a number of newly deployed features. For example, the new calendar booking interface is built completely off the API. All the code associated with the calendar booking interface is included in our Github repository as an example for those outfitters that want to build their own custom booking interfaces.

Other uses of the API that we have seen include:

  • Our billing system uses the API to create and issue invoices, and record automatic payments details.
  • The API allows extracting accounting information, and has been used to automatically update a separate accounting system.
  • Contact forms on the main outfitter website can be tightly integrated with Arctic to automatically generate customer records and inquiries based on the provided information. (The Github repository includes a complete example of how this works.)
  • User authentication can be built around the API, as it supports OAuth 2. This allows staff to use their Arctic credentials to login to other services, simplifying login management.

The API is not for everyone, and often requires having a knowledgable developer. But for the ambitious outfitters who want to achieve truly custom features or very powerful automation beyond the built in features of Arctic. We are happy to help suggest ways the API can be used to achieve certain features as well (although we can not provide support debugging code).

For those interested in learning more about the API, we recommend checking our Github repository, which includes a comprehensive PHP framework for interacting with the Arctic API. In addition, it includes a number of examples, both trivial demonstrations as well as more real-world use cases.

Reports, Reports & More Reports

Some of you are winding down from the winter season and some of your are gearing up for the upcoming summer season and some of you are just pausing long enough to wrap up one season before plunging into the next. In any case, one thing you all have in common is the need for reports. Whether you need reports to help you gather the information to provide to the forestry department or you want to know how your business did last season or you need to adjust your trip rosters so that you have all the information you need to prepare for your guests, Arctic has you covered.

The “Reports” feature within Arctic recently underwent a pretty significant re-organization. We made the “Browse Reports” page more navigable and made all of the different reporting options available from one location. Now, when you access the “Browse Reports” page, you will see each type of report you can create and run within Arctic assigned to its own tab.

Browse Reports
You can access formatted lists which include reports like trip rosters, trip summaries, rental summaries, etc; filter reports with custom sets of filters and columns for the various “Browse” pages, allowing you to select, view and export specific information; financial reports like the “End of Day Balance” and “Financial Summary” reports; pivot tables, which can be used to gain insights about referral sources, daily guest counts, sales by business group and much more; and finally other reports which are Gantt-style reports for rental item usage and guide allocations.

Along with the reorganization of the “Browse Reports” page, we have added several new tools for allowing you to control report formatting as well as the ability to “Star” reports so the reports you use often will be readily accessible.

The report formatting tools allow you to control the PDF layout of your reports, including page orientation, font size and more. All of the report layout settings are accessible on the “Settings” page under “Reports”.

“Starring” reports puts these reports in the “Reports” section of the “Navigation” menu on the left of your screen. This is a great way to keep the reports you use often at your finger tips for quick and easy access.

Star

You can find out more about the types of reports available to you as well as information on how to build the reports you need along with “Starring” them and controlling their formatting in the Reports Chapter of the support documentation.

As always, feel free to contact support if you are having trouble generating a particular report or are unsure of the best report option to use to get the information you need and we will be happy to help.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Calendar!

Ok, so the title of the post is lame but the new calendar booking interface is sooo not lame. In the recent round of updates (did you catch our “Bird Song“?), Arctic introduced the ability to offer a calendar booking interface in place of the traditional “list” style interface we have always sported.

Isn’t it just fabulous?

Of course, as expected with new Arctic gadgets, we give you lots of control, you can choose the “List” format, the “Calendar” format or even mix and match the interfaces to use what works best for the type of trip being offered. By default, Arctic is set to automatically select the interface that will be ideal for the trips being viewed but you can override this selection and choose a preference if you wish.

Note: If your installation predates January 2015 then your default booking interface will be set to the “Trip List” since this used to be the only option.

For more details on how to rock the new calendar interface, check out the new “Booking Interface” guide in your handy dandy documentation. It will give you all the pertinent info to get the most out of the new booking interface options, and as always if you get lost or into trouble just shoot us an email. We’re better than Mighty Mouse.

Twitter Too? No Way!

Yes way! Not only do we have a blog but being a true a child of the 21st century, we also have a twitter feed. 😛 And guess what? It comes right to your Dashboard.

Twitter Dashboard

What do you suppose do we do with our little blue bird? We definitely don’t use it for nefarious purposes, although, that would be fun. We use our little bird to keep you, our beloved clients, in the know about important updates, newsletter publications and major occurrences, like last year’s Authorize.net outtages.

Our little bird will be tweeting away for the next several weeks as we roll out lots of new updates. (Is anyone else excited about this? I am.) There are tons of new updates that will be announced via our twitter feed so make sure you don’t miss any of the excitement and stay tuned for our bird song.

Dude, Arctic has a blog?

Ok. So I was very surprised and disheartened to find out many of you had no idea that Arctic has a blog which means all of our fun, witty, irreverent and pertinent posts are not being read. How could this be? I mean, I am not vain but I seriously don’t like talking to an empty room. I like an audience and a captive one is preferred. (It means you can’t leave. 😛 )

The solution? We bring the blog to you. Thus the creation of The Fix. Don’t worry you won’t be bombarded by useless and unwanted information. We will keep the posts relevant to the things that have been asked about or updates you need to know about.

Each edition of The Fix will have the most recent post, a few references to past posts so you can catch up easily if you missed a previous edition and a place for you to send us your questions or suggestions for future posts.

Now, you are in the know. Arctic does indeed have a blog and now a newsletter to boot. 😉

Giving Back

As we approach our tenth anniversary, we want to give back to the community. We have found three amazing organizations – all in someway related to our work – that we are supporting this year. With our origin serving the whitewater rafting industry, two of the organizations work to conserve and protect wild rivers: Western River Conservancy and American Rivers. In a different realm, but similarly important to us is the open source software community. Many components of Arctic Reservations are possible because of open source software, ranging from the operating system of our servers to the databases that store customer data. In appreciation of the community of volunteers who create such software, we are also supporting the Free Software Foundation. All three organizations are doing great work, and we feel lucky to be one of many providing a small contribution to their efforts.

Happy Holidays

We want to extend our gratitude to all the outfitters that have made 2015 another great year for Arctic Reservations. This season, Arctic helped a quarter of a million guests go on amazing adventures throughout North America. And with the exceptional feedback from the outfitters who use Arctic everyday, we made over 1,000 updates, introducing new features and improving existing ones. And there is so much more to come. Over the last five months, we have been working on a substantial update that will be going live in early 2016.

We want to extend a thank you to all our outfitters, and look forward to announcing many new and exciting updates in the coming months. We wish everyone a happy holidays!

To Batch or Not to Batch? That is the Question.

Version 2 introduced a subtle, easily overlooked accounting feature – the ability to track deposits and batches. Previously, Arctic would automatically assume all transactions were settled on the day they were run. This worked well for the most part but sometimes, especially when processing online reservations or online payments, a conflict would arise between the “End of Day Balance” report and the “Batch Report” from the payment gateway. Generally, this was caused because  payment gateways close batches at slightly different times. For Arctic a day runs from midnight to midnight, while the payment gateway may use a different time depending on their business hours or timezone. Sometimes you would find that Arctic was listing additional transactions that were not batched until the following day, or vice versa. This didn’t happen often but it made reconciling batches more time consuming and created small discrepancies in accounting reports.

In Version 2, we added a feature that allows you to tell Arctic which transactions run on any given day made it into your batch from your payment gateway thus ensuring the two reports always match. In light of this new feature, Arctic is, by default, set to batch credit card transactions. However, if you are unaware of this feature, it can cause problems with your financial reports and gift certificate available balances. When set to batch credit card transactions, Arctic will exclude transactions until the batch deposit is recorded, as it does not think the transactions have settled and that you have actually received the funds.

To figure out if you have unsettled transactions, go to the “Invoices” menu and click “Record Deposits”. If you open this page and find a lot of unsettled transactions, please contact us and we will be happy to settle these old transactions for you. You can do them manually but it is generally best to let us settle them for you as this will save you a lot of time and effort.

Going forward there are a few different options available for you for batching transactions depending on your installation configuration and your preferences. If you have Authorize.Net as your payment gateway, you can enable a special API that will batch credit card transactions automatically. If you are using a different gateway you can record your batches manually, or if you prefer you can disable credit card batching entirely. In addition, you can enable batching for manual transactions as well if you want Arctic to have very accurate accounting data.  All of these options are detailed in the “Transaction Batching” guide in your support documentation.

Again, if you find that you have lots of unsettled past transactions, contact support and we will be happy to settle them for you. Also feel free to contact us with any questions regarding batching transactions on your installation. You can email us at support@arcticreservations.com or call us at (601) ARCTIC – 9 or (601)272-8429.

Arctic Natural Disaster Relief

At Arctic, we care about each of our clients and know that without you, we would not be the company we are today. We value the community you have helped us build and want to do all we can to promote the success of each member of that community. We understand  the challenges faced by small businesses and in particular those of  the outdoor tourism industry. The most frustrating of these challenges can be Mother Nature because she is beyond our control but can effect our businesses substantially. This is why we have decided to institute a plan to assist those of our clients who are taking a beating  from Mother Nature. No matter what the calamity may be, drought, wildfires, mudslides, flooding; we want to help those of you who have been negatively impacted by these disasters.

We offer natural disaster relief for those of our clients who have had the majority of their active season interrupted by a natural disaster. The program will give you options to help you through the aftermath of a rough weather year. If your business has been beat up by Mother Nature, please contact us for more information about our relief options to see what we can do for you.

 

Updates Galore!

This week we will be rolling out a rather substantial set of updates for Version 2. The updates include things like the ability to have multiple guest-facing sites, better guide scheduling tools including a combined view for scheduling all upcoming trips, the ability to create evaluations for rental items, the ability to browse evaluation responses per trip type, trip, guide or rental and the ability to create sets of rental items. There are also a lot of other little updates and fixes that will be rolled out as well but these are some of the more substantial features being added during this update.

The ability to have multiple guest-facing sites will allow you to maintain two different guest facing sites that will be governed by the business groups the sites are associated with. Each site will only have access to the trips and rental items contained in the business groups the sites are assigned to. This feature will be especially handy if you have different sites that control or sell different aspects of your business. For example, if you have summer and winter businesses that are run as two separate divisions of your company and have completely different guest facing sites, you will be able to assign those sites to the appropriate business groups making sure the summer site only lists the summer trips and rental items while your winter site only contains the trips and rental items you offer during the winter. Or if you offer horse back riding on one site and multi-day hiking trips on another then you can create guest facing sites for each of these different web sites.

The guide scheduling tools are getting quite a few new useful tools. These tools include the ability to enter “Start Dates” and “End Dates” as well as the ability to enter vacation dates for your guides. These dates will let Arctic know when your guides are available to work and when they are not. If a guide is not available, they will not appear in the list of guides when you are scheduling trips. Also there is a new “Guide” page found under the “Trips” menu that will allow you to schedule your guides on all of your upcoming trips from one page. You will no longer have to go to each and every trip and click the “Schedule Guides” button to schedule your guides. You can use the “Guide” page and schedule your guides for multiple trips all in one place. Both of these features will make managing your guides in Arctic much simpler and easier.

In this update, you will also now be able to create evaluations for rentals. This is particularly useful  for lodging rentals. To create a rental evaluation you follow the same steps for creating a trip evaluation. Once the form is completed you will assign it to your rental business groups by going to the “Settings” page and choosing the appropriate business group from the blue “Business Group” drop down menu at the top of the page. If you have only one business group or plan to use the same evaluation for all of your rentals you will leave it on the “System – Wide Settings” business group. Once the appropriate business group has been selected go to the “Rentals” section of the “Settings” page and click the “Pencil” icon next to “Evaluation”. This will open the “Configure Evaluation” page where you will select the evaluation form you created to use for this rental business group and then click “Save Setting” to save your changes.

We are also adding the ability to browse evaluation responses per trip type, trip, guide and rental. If a trip, guide or rental has an evaluation form associated with it, Arctic will display an “Evaluation Responses” button on either the “View Trip”, “View Person” (for guides) or the “View Item” page. When you click these buttons, Arctic will display the responses specifically associated with the trip, guide or rental, you were viewing when you clicked the “Evaluation Responses” button. You will also be able to see evaluation responses per trip type. To see the evaluation responses related to a particular trip type go to the “Trips” menu and choose “Types”. On the “Browse Trip Types” page, click the new “Wrench” icon as shown here:

Updates 1 - 6-23-14

Note, you will only see the “Evaluation Responses” option in the “Wrench” menu, if the trip type has an evaluation form assigned to it. As you can see there are also other handy tools in the new “Wrench” menu, such as the ability to create trips, find trips, browse the calendar or the ability to delete an existing trip type.  As with the “Evaluation Responses” button when you select the “Evaluation Responses” from the “Wrench” menu the evaluation responses will automatically be filtered for that specific trip type. This is also true of the “Find Trips” and the “Browse Calendar” options also found in the “Wrench” menu.

Finally, the last big new feature being added in this update is the sets of rental items feature. This new feature will allow you to create sets of rental gear that can be rented all together as one item. Arctic will track the inventory associated with each item included in the set to be sure you do not over extend your inventory. This works particularly well for things like camping gear packages that included a backpack, tent, sleeping bag and camp mat. With the rental item sets you will be able to make a single item called “Camping Gear” that will include all of the individual rental items and Arctic will allocate the appropriate number of each item in the set each time someone rents “Camping Gear”. If you would like to use this feature, you must turn it on by going to the “Settings” page under “Rentals” and clicking the “Pencil” icon next to “Enable Rental Item Sets”. Once the feature is turned on you will see a new tab on your “Create/Edit Rental Item” pages that will be called “Set Items”. This is where you will add the rental items that should be included in the Rental Item Set.

Updates 2 - 6-23-14

We will be adding support documentation for all of these features in the coming days but if you have any questions or encounter any issues using the new features, please feel free to contact technical support. You can email us at support@arcticreservations.com or call (601) ARCTIC 9 (that’s 601-272-8429).