Hotels of all sizes, be they small, independent properties or large, big-name brands, are now offering members of the public the opportunity to book stays directly through their websites. It’s a great way of cutting out any middle men and ensuring all revenue goes directly back into the hotel (aside from any credit card fees, of course). This process is carried out by a hotel booking engine, which is linked up to the hotel’s website to automate the booking process once users click through. If you’re yet to offer this option to your guests, you may find you’re lagging behind the competition somewhat and you may be keen to rectify this by installing a booking engine on your site.
However, with so many on offer, how do you know which one to go for? Your booking engine must drive as much traffic as possible to your site but also result in conversions, so it’s essential to get the right one for you at the outset.Here are some of the criteria that we would highlight as essential considerations when making your selection.
1. Cost You absolutely must stick to a product that suits your hotel’s budget, but the most important thing to remember even if you can afford to splurge is return on investment. If your booking engine costs £50 a month to run but you’re only making £35 back, then it’s not good value. However, if you’re paying £50 and seeing £150 come back in, it’s much better.Don’t forget to look at how much you’re saving from online travel agents’ fees too, as not having to pay them to make your bookings could represent a significant saving that should also be taken into account.
2. Reliability and scalability Always check the track record of your booking engine provider before purchasing. If users have complained that sites are regularly offline at busy times, don’t go for them.Also, ensure the product will work with the technology you already have as well as that you might put in place in the future, such as a property management system.
3. User-friendly It’s no good having a booking engine with all the bells and whistles if nobody can use it – and that counts for both would-be guests and your staff. Seek out those that are intuitive and offer good training in the form of video tutorials prior to implementation.On behalf of your guests, look for an engine that doesn’t take more than about five pages to complete the booking, otherwise it could harm your conversion rate.
4. In line with hotel branding Image is very important when it comes to hotel marketing and if your booking engine has a completely different look to your own website and logo, that’s not a positive thing. Keep everything streamlined as a coherent whole if you want to build trust.
5. Mobile compatibility The number of hotel bookings made through mobile phones and tablets is growing every day and it’s essential that your website works on such devices. This goes for your booking engine too – make bookings easy and instant. A poor mobile experience could cause you to lose a guest instantly, which makes your marketing efforts a waste of time.
6. Statistical analysis Finally, ensure your booking engine collects plenty of data about your guests, including occupancy rates, length of stays, busy periods and number of guests per room. This will allow you to analyse information, better market your hotel and improve your revenues in the long term.Not all bookings are created equal, so hopefully this will go some way towards helping you choose the one that suits you.