1. What is a hotel booking engine? A hotel booking engine is a hospitality software application that allows guests to reserve a property directly from the hotel’s website. With most travelers booking their stay online, hoteliers ought not to only rely on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Although these OTAs have their fair share of advantages, the hotel owner is required to pay a commission for each reservation received from them, which sometimes is hefty, especially for small hotels. A hotel booking engine helps in optimizing your property sales and revenue as the bookings you get are commission-free direct bookings.
Now we know that a booking engine is used to generate direct and commission free sales which increase a hotelier's profit margins, but how does it work? An online booking engine works by integrating into your hotel website and when reservations are made, the data is automatically passed onto your property manager system where the bookings are easily managed.
The booking engine can also be synched with your Facebook profile via the 'Book Now' button. This allows you to sell rooms and track bookings coming from your Facebook account.
We have already established that a huge percentage of your hotel bookings are done online, having a web booking engine on your website and Facebook account quickens the decision-making process of your guests, they don't have to start looking for a number on the site to call and book. They just easily click the button for reservation. A booking engine gives them additional flexibility as guests can easily self-serve and they can make their booking quicker.
i) As a property, you have so many benefits using a booking engine including:
ii) Increased conversions with a simple guest booking experience
iii) Elimination of manual entry and errors
iv) You effectively capture guest data for better decision making
v) Improve your efficiency as a business
vi) Simplify the administrative process for you and your staff
As with any product you purchase, quality matters. With a hotel booking engine you need to consider the following:
i) User-friendly interface - A good hotel booking system needs to be user-friendly for both staff and guests. A simple front-desk calendar view plays an integral role as it makes the reservation process simple. A booking engine should provide your guests with all the information they might want, including prices, room types, packages and what they should include to make the booking process as easy as ABC.
ii) Online payment integration - As a business owner, an online payment service gives your business the potential to grow your sales. Integrating an online payment option with your reservation system makes it convenient for your guests to make reservations and it also helps you to meet your booking/cancellation policies.
iii) Social Media integration- A booking engine that can connect with your social media pages is a plus. This will not only help you meet your customers where they spend a good amount of their time but you can also track your marketing campaigns across Facebook and Instagram.
iv) Google Analytics integration- Given most of your bookings come from online, you need to know exactly where they are coming from. Google Analytics integration will help you keep track of your website visits for crucial decision making.
v) Automated communication- Guest confirmation emails don't have to be done manually, your booking engine should be able to automate them, and that includes other communications such as travelling tips, promotions, and such.
vi) 24/7 support- We all know the hospitality industry never sleeps, if you encounter any problems with your booking software, you want a service provider who can support you 24/7.
5.How to choose hotel booking engine for your hotel
To choose the right hotel booking engine, you need to determine the type of property you own; consider property size, service offered and the amenities available, the number of rooms and your target market. All these details will allow you to understand the right online booking engine for you. Finally, the solution you settle for, should be guest oriented, it should help you in your marketing strategies as well as automate daily operations and it should be scalable to allow accommodation for future business growth and changes.
Having your booking engine integrated with your site doesn't end there, you need to ensure you get as much value as possible from it. Here is how.
i) Implement urgency messages - This can be done by drawing attention to the rates through urgent messages which make your guests feel like they are missing out and making them act. They are a great way of speeding up the booking process
ii) Set early-bird rates- Selling discounted early bird rates can greatly improve your sell out rate. You can track how the early bird rates perform via your booking engine.
iii) Interest guests in package deals- Entice your guests with package deals such as giving them an entry to an event, a drive to a nearby attraction site, a complimentary drink or body treatment. This will increase your bookings as these are offers make the package more enticing.
When an online booking engine is used optimally, it greatly reduces manual work, leaving your staff doing what they do best, which is giving your guests world class service. It also reduces errors as most tasks are automated and can also be your hotel's best marketing tool.
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