Tag Archives: online booking

Dubai Sports World Awards

25 June 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System

For the second year running, we have provided the online reservation software and booking experience for Dubai Sports World. 2018 sees the region’s largest indoor sports arena expand once again, to include gymnastics, street basketball and more; making fitness accessible to all.

Whilst DSW expands, so too does our partnership. OpenPlay’s Nikhil Obrai was in Dubai to assist with the smooth running of this year’s launch. We were delighted and honoured to be recognised at their 2018 award ceremony for our “continuous support towards Dubai Sports World.”

Since opening this May, an average of 5000 people have passed through the doors each day, all of whom have secured their slots using OpenPlay’s bespoke booking system. This number is expected to rise when Ramadan, an Islamic fasting ritual practised by the majority of the population, ends.

A staggering 46% of attendees are heading to the basketball courts, where Prestige Star Sport Academy (PSSA) is trialling young talent for an elite squad that will travel to Las Vegas for the prestigious Amateur Athletic Union Tournament.

With 25,000 metres of space and a dizzying number of bookable facilities and activities, DSW needed a booking system that could implement a host of complex features, whilst maintaining an elegant and simple front-end experience for customers. This year at DSW we premiered OpenPlay’s interactive booking maps. Created especially for the venue, the maps enable a fun, visually-stimulating booking process.

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Reducing Paper at Sports Centres

11 June 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System, Marketing, Operations, Technology

Whether it’s the rising threat of global warming, the stress of sorting through mounting documents, or simply a fear of papercuts; in the age of digitisation, paper and printing products are edging towards extinction. People are discovering that printing is an unnecessary expense, with the average small business spending £14K per year, according to research by software developers Reckon. Paper and ink are just the tip of a melting iceberg; hidden beneath the surface are the costs of keeping traditional filing systems, employee time, and machine maintenance.

Switch from paper bookings to online bookings

Paper is fiddly to manage and far from secure. Storing your data through a booking system like OpenPlay means everything is in one place and nothing gets lost. More importantly, no private information can be misappropriated (GDPR alert!). Our venue management software caters to block bookings, recurring payments, voucher codes and lots more. There is no longer a need to scribble or score out mistakes. Quickly alter, cancel, or refund a reservation and issue automatic confirmations to the customer. Unlike manual paper methods, our CRM (customer relationship management) system records your client interactions, so all information is up-to-date, relevant, and personalised. Ditch the Filofax and paper spreadsheets; a quick glance at your OpenPlay dashboard tells you your facility’s usage rates, financial information, and demographic breakdown.

Digital Registers

Digital registers not only reduce your printing needs, but they are kept up-to-date. Any last minute changes to registers are instantly registered in the system, meaning that instructors have an accurate register right up to the moment they begin their class. Bookings are coordinated with registers, so you can sign attendees can sign and out via the OpenPlay app, or instructors can sign them in via the coach app. You can also add notes, such as illnesses or allergies, to a client’s name, so your coaches and staff will be automatically updated.

Read more: Eliminate single-use plastic at your gym

Implement Recycling Bins

Sometimes paper needs to be used. The polar bears will forgive you for the odd printout, but only if you print back to back and only if you recycle. Create a recycling hub behind reception and print out posters to remind employees and guests to recycle… or don’t actually. Scratch that last point.

Other ways you can help the environment…

  • If you sell plastic bottles of water, why not swap to reusable bottles and provide water fountains.
  • Switch from paper towels to hand towels or energy efficient hand dryers.
  • Perhaps instead of music for classes, you can have your coaches sing or beatbox in between instructions.
  • Ban wrapping paper from the company’s Secret Santa; it is never a surprise anyway.
  • Switch off air-conditioning/ heating. Tell clients this aids muscle recovery and hope they don’t know any better.
  • A popular environmental fitness trend straight from LA is to drain your swimming pool of water and hold mock swim classes instead. Students have found that imagining the resistance of the water means that they are not only working their muscles but also exercising their creative minds.

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Sports coaches- Is admin keeping you off the pitch?

9 June 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System, Operations, Technology

Most sports coaches enter the profession because they have a passion for the game they play. It is the smell of the grass, the feel of a ball, a glove, a racquet in their hands and the joy of passing on their enthusiasm to fresh faces. Despite this idealistic vision, many find themselves stuck inside beneath a mountain of forms, blurry-eyed from excel spreadsheets, ears ringing from relentless calls. Admin comes with the territory, but not to the extent that the majority of coaches find themselves. You can make just one simple change that eliminates up to 95% of your admin, improves the service you provide, and gets you back onto the pitch.

Switch to an online booking system

Face-to-face and telephone bookings are drawn out, expensive and much less efficient than online reservations. Someone needs to be “on call” or in the office to process bookings. Bookings not only need to be online, but they need to suit both desktop and mobile. At OpenPlay, we provide bespoke booking systems that not only increase your sales and revenue but also a detailed back-end management system featuring a host of time-saving features.

Keep track of payments

The OpenPlay system flags any unpaid invoices, so you can quickly send payment reminders. Customer fees will be processed through payment gateways such as Stripe. We integrate with world-renowned services, which are safe and secure. With less cash on site, the risk of accidental or intentional loss of funds is virtually eradicated. Online payments also sync immediately with your OpenPlay venue management system, so you no longer have to log transactions manually.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

OpenPlay’s CRM system keeps track of your interactions with clients. Each time you converse with a client, you can be confident that your information on them is up-to-date, relevant and tailored specifically to the individual. CRM adds a personal touch that clients love. It makes such a difference when you can recall your last phone call with them and immediately reference their previous queries. It lets customers know that you value them.

The OpenPlay Pocket mobile app

Even with all the technology in the world, you cannot escape admin entirely. With the OpenPlay Pocket mobile app, you can at least take this small bit of work out onto the pitch. Take payments directly through your OpenPlay Pocket mobile app. Manage your coaches and employees via the app and only grant them access to their classes. Each coach receives their own registers, so they can tick off attendees and instantly see any essential health conditions. An important safety feature OpenPlay has devised and implemented is the unique pickup code for children. When parents cannot collect their child, they digitally sign the coach’s app, granting access to another adult.

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Making Use of Idle Courts and Pitches

23 May 2018 openplay Leave a comment Marketing, Operations

Sports venues have it tough. Peak times can be severely overcrowded, with double booked courts and a waitlist for classes. On the flipside, a sports centre at 11 am on a Tuesday can resemble a ghost town (cue tumbleweed and Western music). It is during these off-peak times, that money is sucked up through the air vents, making the margin of profit less and less. We’ve compiled our top tips to help you make use of idle courts and pitches.

Market to those who stay at home

Weekday mornings tend to be quiet, as most people are either at school or work. However, stay-at-home mums or dads could benefit from ‘Parent and Child’ sessions or ‘Tennis Bootcamp’. Retirees may enjoy playing if they have somewhere to chat over coffee afterwards. Consider running low-impact sessions that incorporate elements of pilates or work on coordination, strength and balance.

Bubble arena in winter

The bubble option is pretty pricey, so you must ensure you have the demand for it. Each winter, more and more tennis clubs are erecting poly air domes over their courts. The dome can be assembled and disassembled within a matter of hours. Air circulates within the tent via a fan unit (which also doubles as a heater). Bubbles require investment, costing around £55,000 for a single court. Once purchased the materials are yours to store during the summer months. They last between six and eight years, with replacement parts available at discounted prices.

Off-Peak pricing

This concept is pretty straightforward but essential if you want to increase footfall during these off-peak times. Adjusting your price points is a delicate balancing act; you don’t want peak time players to become outraged at the difference in price, but the saving needs to be enough to entice people in. A 15 to 30% reduction is a good goalpost mark for you to experiment between. OpenPlay makes it simple to adjust your pricing for each session so that you can play around with different options. If you get it wrong, try a new pricing plan!

Promote your pitches on a platform

If you’re a small venue, or perhaps a school with a football pitch, you may not be the obvious choice when people are searching for facilities. Having your facility on OpenPlay expands your potential reach, making more people aware of your services; you might say it evens the playing field.


Get in touch with nearby schools and offer class coaching sessions or host their sports day at your venue. These can be one-off days or weekly events. If they are not keen on taking slots that occur during school hours, perhaps you can run an after-school club. Offer to collect the children from school and walk them to your venue. Parents will be delighted as it saves them making an extra journey.


A dark court is an unplayable court. With night falling as early as 4 pm in December, if you do not light up your courts or pitches, you sacrificing after-school training and evening sessions. Floodlights are expensive to run, so many clubs operate them via a token system. Players buy tokens and insert them into the light slots, activating the lights for an hour at a time.

Get bookings online

Gone are the days when people will inquire in person or by phone; everybody is online. Reservations need to be quick, portable, and 24/7. By using OpenPlay’s booking software, you can accommodate last-minute bookings as well.

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Tech and Sports Venues: What tech will increase efficiency?

23 May 2018 openplay Leave a comment Operations, Technology

“Time is money”- So I’ll keep this brief.

Tasks that are performed by hand can be slow and filled with human error. Technology not only makes actions quicker, but can keep information regimentally categorised and constantly updated. In some cases, tech can reduce or even replace manual labour and will certainly increase efficiency. Let tech take care of tedious tasks, so you can put your energy and money into improving the customer’s experience.

Accounting Software

Let’s face it, unless you live and breathe Excel spreadsheets and number punching, doing your accounts is a pain. Xero, Sage, and QuickBooks are tools that will reduce both your paperwork and your time spent on a calculator. Their services are cloud-based, offering automatic invoice chasing and accounting from your mobile. They can be used by experts or novices and can work in tandem with an external accountant.

Online Booking System

OpenPlay provides bespoke booking systems that are specifically geared towards sports venues and activities. Our venue management software suits block bookings, recurring payments, voucher codes and more. Memberships can be managed via your dedicated members section, with integrated direct debits and invoicing. You can easily amend, cancel, or refund a booking and issue automatic confirmations to customers. Cash bookings will integrate with your OpenPlay account, enabling you to monitor your facility’s usage rates, financial information, and demographic breakdown. This leads to better scheduling and pricing plans which, in turn, results in maximised footfall and profit.

Internal Communication

Team meetings are not always possible, and emails are easily ignored. Slack offers a Watsapp style messaging service, that is designed for professional use. It streamlines communication within a company and allows for instant alerts, updates, and scheduling. The service is categorised by “channels” that you and your staff create. For instance you can create a “reception channel” that allows staff to swap shifts and keep on top of the rota. A “good reads channel” keeps your employees up to date with everything relevant to your business. With better in-house communication, goals are set quicker and employees remain on the ball.

Access Control

Gone are the days when people sign their name to enter your facilities. We have been using membership fobs and key cards to access facilities for many years now. But what about drop-in customers? Do they still have to sign a paper form? At OpenPlay we are developing an app that increases the flexibility of your access passes and decreases the queue at reception. The app automatically syncs with a customer’s OpenPlay booking, so access can be restricted to the day or even the hour of play. Not only can you adapt the time but also the area of the facility. For example someone who has booked a game of squash could get restricted access to the changing rooms and the specific court. We believe that the membership card is in its sunset years. It is only a matter of time before venues realise the potential of digital access.

Social Media Management

Buffer is a management tool for social media marketing. It links the various social platforms together in one neat hub. When trying to increase your online traffic, it is important that you post the right content at the right time. Buffer lets you schedule and queue posts days, weeks, even months in advance; helping you to increase efficiency. It realises that you may not want to post the same thing on Facebook as you do on LinkedIn, so you can tailor your posts to each platform. One of the best aspects, is that data recording is easily readable through your Buffer account. Track interactions and engagement on posts you have shared, so you can improve performance and greater understand your market.

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How to Generate Revenue from Parks and Public Spaces

23 May 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System, Operations

Free for the public to use, parks are by no means cheap to run. Grass needs to be cut, pavements swept, and all facilities should be maintained and put through rigorous safety checks. Local councils fund the bulk of a park’s running costs but, with over-stretched government budgets, sometimes this just isn’t enough. We’ve come up with a few ideas to help you run a profitable park.

Sponsorship of space

Memorial benches and tree headstones are favourites amongst the dead community, but the living also have a lot to give to parks. Whilst no one wants to spoil green fields with advertisements, there are plenty of sponsorship opportunities to take advantage of. Sports facilities, in particular, are lucrative spots. Tennis nets and goal posts can advertise sportswear brands or energy drinks. A skatepark can feature graffiti style advertising. Keep sponsorship in line with the ethos of the park; promotional content should not detract from the vista of the space. Consider naming your park after a local business or corporation, as part of a sponsorship deal. A sponsorship title is a big decision, as, admittedly, it lacks a personal feel, but it prove to be of substantial financial benefit to your park.

Maximise facility rental

Nowadays, people don’t bother with visiting a venue in person to book; everything is online. If you have facilities that are underused, you need to reevaluate your booking system. OpenPlay provides bespoke booking systems specifically geared towards sports venues and activities. Stagger your price points for prime and non-prime time slots, to maximise usage potential. Don’t just rent to private individuals, but encourage coaches to hire out the space for coaching and activities.


Introduce photography permits for media outlets or wedding and lifestyle shoots. Anyone wanting to host a special event at your park, such as a sporting event or even a party, should request a permit. Apart from the added fees, these will generate, it helps you to keep track of any significant gatherings set to occur on your grounds.

Licensing from fitness instructors

Parks are perfect spots for personal trainers, who would otherwise have to pay premium prices for indoor facilities. Just because you’re a public space doesn’t mean that businesses should take advantage. You can also ensure that fitness operators at your park, hold appropriate qualifications and are fully insured and hold liability. The Royal Parks charge between £350 and £1100 plus 6% commision for fitness licences. This is a key step to take if you want a profitable park.


Host sporting events that encourage families down to the park. Inflatable obstacle courses, movie nights, a jazz band and picnic event- the opportunities are endless. Have your park ranger give nature lessons to children, where they can plant a flower.


A particular hub on the weekend, cafes can be a lifesaver for early rising parents freezing on the sidelines of a football pitch. You only need a small stall or hut to provide coffees, teas and ice-creams. Drinks and snacks go down a treat and have a huge markup.

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Mapping out the Future of Sports Booking

22 May 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System, Marketing, Operations, Technology

We are excited to finally share with the world our brand new, shiny, interactive maps! Want to add a little glamour to your booking page? Our booking maps make the booking experience user-friendly and fun (even more fun than it already was). Dubai Sports World has already gone live with their interactive maps, and guess what… customers love them.

Google maps have changed our perception of our streets, parks, and cities. We can now tell how long it will take to walk to a venue, how big a park is, and access detailed information about the terrain. Online maps allow us to see the size and geography of nearly every building or space on earth (except for North Korea and parts of Stockton-on-Tees).

Now, at OpenPlay, we are integrating personalised maps of your venue, with your bespoke booking system. The interactive maps help new players determine the layout and quality of your facilities. Players can see if a pitch is surrounded by trees, which will provide shade from sun or wind. They will also learn if the facility is accessible or if there is space for spectators to watch. Don’t want to play on a middle court? Yeah, us neither. With a visual layout available as part of the booking process, customers can choose their favourite court or pitch.

Any facilities that are unavailable will show up in grey, so players can clearly see how busy the venue is. Clicking on an icon will bring customers straight through to the next section of the booking process. It’s that simple.

Every technical advancement that makes booking sports easier, is an advancement for sports participation. Our interactive maps are visually stimulating, making your facilities memorable and, alas, more bookable. These are the first of their kind, with potential to be advanced further. Who knows where they will lead us to in the future…

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Burgess Park: Uniting a City Park

17 May 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System

Burgess Park is on a mission to become a highly connected, community inner city park. It is already a vibrant space, but busy roads cut through its disjointed facilities. The sports centre is in high demand; many of the facilities are bursting at the seams, running at 92% capacity during peak times. Phases One and Two have been completed and much welcomed by the community. Phase Three sees the revamp of the park’s west side and sports centre. Once complete, this section will match the prestige and functionality of the rest of the park.

Burgess Park aims to “future proof” the sports hub, helping it to meet the demands of its expanding sports clubs. The refurbishments will deliver greater flexibility and capacity for these activities. Two new all-weather 3G pitches will be suitable for club level football and rugby, as well as catering to lacrosse and other sports. The Plaza space generates opportunity for social engagement and healthy interaction.

Fujitsu is sponsoring this Burgess Park revolution. The IT company are ensuring that the city park uses the latest technology and are pushing the current facilities to “work harder” and work smarter. All seven clubs within the park will offer online bookings and memberships powered by OpenPlay. With many of the coaches and organisers working voluntarily, it is essential that they do not waste time punching numbers and filing paper. Online bookings free up their time to engage participants and actively contribute to the ethos of the park.

HighRise is a new feature that we, at OpenPlay, have developed specially for Burgess Park. The first of its kind, this model could be rolled out to all chain facilities and government councils. HighRise tracks anonymous data, helping venues to understand the demographics of their clientele. HighRise’s data analysis is a valuable tool for marketing to potential customers, but also to see what proportion of the population is absent from the park and what should be done to entice them in. OpenPlay HighRise offers daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reports for each specific club. As this is a united and inclusive park, there is potential for the park’s managing directors to view the anonymous data of all of the clubs separately or combined. They can compare and contrast: see what works and what wastes resources. This knowledge will improve their services and increase participation.

This project creates a vibrant community for park users and a comprehensive data hub for park directors. It is an exciting venture that could pave the way for a more inclusive, business savvy approach to sports participation.

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How to fill dead time at Sports Venues

15 May 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System, Marketing

While philosophers and cosmologists have debated for centuries if time and space are infinite, for the everyday life of a business leader, time and space are very much limited. Whether you run a gym, a local sports club, or any other type of business, the saying “time is money” applies, and anytime your assets are not in use they are subtracting from your profit. It is a sad fact in the life of a sports venue that there are periods of intense sprints, where keeping up with demand is near impossible, and sedentary lulls, that means that staff have little to do. Off-peak makes up a huge proportion of a sports centre’s working day, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you fill dead time and keep the flies from settling.


So at OpenPlay, we do people’s admin for them. Yay! Admin most likely took up a large chunk of your working day, so how do you fill this gaping hole when your bookings are already filed, your customer communication automated, and your registers pre-organised? Alas, you can fix this first-world-problem; there is always more to do. Why not take some time to plan your social media posts. Use a social scheduler such as Buffer so that you can organise posts days, weeks, months in advance. You can track customer engagement and plan your marketing strategy accordingly.

Staff Training

No company wants to pay employees to lounge around, and very few can afford it. So there is nothing left to dust, no towels to fold, and all your staff can do is watch the clock tick. They have maintained the quality of your venue, so now they can improve themselves. eLearning allows your team to update their skills and stay on top of their game. Perhaps they can refresh their safety knowledge or complete a biology course. Large companies may choose to create their own training programmes. For smaller businesses, the YMCA provides comprehensive sport-focused courses.

Off-Peak Pricing

Off-peak falls during the times when most other businesses are grinding away. 9-5 every weekday is too much time to write off as “dead time”. Reduce your prices and target retirees, stay-at-home mums or dads, freelancers, and night shift workers. Tailor your classes to suit the off-peak demographic. Why not experiment with Tennis Bootcamp, Parent and Child sessions, or low impact classes such as pilates, swimming, and cycling. The ever-growing cost of ownership/ rent makes a vacant court or deserted pitch a bitter sight. Get in touch with nearby schools and offer class coaching sessions or host their sports day at your venue. Promote drop-in prices and discounts for block bookings.

Expand your booking potential

Our team at OpenPlay have helped numerous organisations maximise their resources, by providing them with bespoke booking systems. This simple to use software covers all aspects of running and managing an indoor or outdoor sports venue, from a comprehensive members solution to block bookings and recurring payments for larger customers. OpenPlay’s tailored service means that we cater to a multitude of facilities, from tennis courts to sports halls and even non-sporting related resources. OpenPlay also manages an online directory that connects sports facilities to new potential customers so that you can maximise your booking potential.
Vist http://openplay.net/ for more details.

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Best UK Payment Gateways For Online Booking

11 February 2018 openplay Leave a comment Booking System

A payment gateway is an e-commerce application that authorises online payments. It is the online version of a card machine that you would find at a shop till. All sales websites must choose a programme that is safe and reliable, as it will store sensitive customer data and will deal with any payment disputes and refunds.

On-site or Off-site?
At OpenPlay we mainly deal with on-site payment gateways. This is because your payments will be received directly through your website, which looks professional and trustworthy. The reverse of this is an off-site payment gateway, where customers are led from your site to that of a third party (eg.paypal). This option can seem drawn out and inconvenient to customers, so there is a greater tendency for people to leave the site before completing their booking. On-site payments make the checkout process seamless and lead to more customers completing their bookings.

There are three main companies offering payment gateways in the UK. All three companies offer secure payments with excellent support…


Stripe is the gateway that we, at OpenPlay, recommend. Founded in 2010, it is relatively new to the scene, but it is fast becoming the popular choice due to its quick set-up (it takes just five minutes) and easy integration with an e-commerce website. Stripe only offers onsite payments, preferring to keep your customers on your website and thus increase the number of completed purchases. Stripe is also ahead of the game in terms of features, with innovative developments being rolled out all the time. It has the capacity to save data, so recurred billing (e.g. monthly memberships) is automatic and repeat purchases are speedy. It is also the most efficient system for mobile payments.
*Once you’ve set up your account, it will be integrated with your OpenPlay account and seamless booking will commence.
Monthly payments: £0
Transaction fee: 1.4% plus 20p (European cards), 2.9% plus 20p (non-European cards)

This is the preferred system of accountants as it is delivered by the accounting software company Sage. SagePay not only offers online payments, but also contactless, over the phone and those made through EPOS systems. It is a highly secure payment gateway and is recognised by all major banks and card companies. SagePay is used by startup businesses and global brands alike. It is often the chosen brand for small companies, because of its comprehensive customer support.
Monthly payments: £20.90 (Flex plan: up to 350 transactions per month) £45 (Plus plan: 500 purchase per month). If you have more than 500 per month you will be placed on the Corporate plan which offers bespoke pricing.
Transaction fee: 0%

The most globally recognised brand, it is highly trusted by even the most novice of consumers. One of the issues with PayPal is that customers presume you need an account to book through the system, which in fact is not the case. Customers can choose between using their PayPal account or paying with credit or debit card. PayPal works as an off-site service, so their system will pop up as a separate frame within your website. It has a slightly clunkier feel to it then the other two providers.
Monthly payments: £0
Transaction fee: Depends on the volume of your sales. If you take less than £1500 per month it’s 3.4% plus 20p. £1500.01-£6000 is 2.9% plus 20p. £6000.01-£15,000 is 2.4% plus 20p. The percentage continues to drop as your sales intake increases.

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