It’s hard to believe that in the not-too-distant past, people wanting to book a hotel had to either ask for assistance from a travel agent or take their chances at finding somewhere to rest their head once they had reached their destination.Not only was this expensive as there was no chance of comparing rates, but it also threatened the prospect of being left without anywhere to stay.
Today, everyone with an internet connection has the chance to browse rooms all over the world from the comfort of their own living room and to secure reservations before they have left for the airport, all thanks to the online booking engine.This is the software that facilitates the booking of travel products such as hotels and flights directly by the customer, without the interference of any third party. You can easily implement a hotel booking engine on your own site.What’s more, there has been such an increase in the booking of accommodation online that there is no excuse not to if you don’t want to lose out to your competitors, even if you only own a small B&B.How booking engines workA booking engine will allow you to sell your rooms directly via your own website, but also through other portals such as online travel agents and even Facebook if you’re advertising there.Some of the features yours will need to include are:
1. A calendar Always choose a booking engine that has an intuitive visual calendar, as it makes it much easier for would-be guests to see when they want to check in and what availability you have. This reduces the likelihood of them making errors in the booking process and requiring external help in completing their reservation. It also means they won’t have to manually input dates, which can be off-putting and may result in booking abandonment.
2. Secure payment facilities It’s absolutely vital that you make sure your guests’ data is protected from prying eyes, so install a booking engine that keeps their information safe. You should also publicise the fact that you’re doing this on your booking engine page, as it adds extra reassurance and could make people more likely to make a reservation with you.Don’t assume that your guests would prefer to ring up or email you to complete their booking and hand their credit card details over, as most people are actually more likely to feel secure inputting this information online as long as they know it’s safe to do so.
3. A database for guests’ information This is for your convenience rather than your guests’, but it is still an essential feature of any good booking engine. In the past, data had to be stored in multiple spreadsheets, but this made life difficult in terms of getting them all visible at once, plus it was also open to errors if someone failed to enter details into the correct pages or boxes.With a cloud-based booking engine that allows you to search one single database, you have all the information you need at your fingertips, wherever you happen to be. This is likely to improve customer service and also reduce the burden on your staff on a day-to-day basis.
4. Automatic email confirmation Good booking engines will allow you to ensure that your guests receive an instant confirmation of their booking by email as soon as they have paid or confirmed their details, which is reassuring. However, it also means that your hotel can send out things like reminders as the stay approaches, newsletters and feedback requests, all of which can be useful for marketing purposes and potential upsells.Benefits of hotel booking enginesAs we have already discussed, there are plenty of benefits that hotel booking engines can offer you.
However, a few more include:
• Booking outside business hours Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices today, travellers are likely to be looking for hotels in their relaxation time, perhaps while they watch TV in the evenings. If they see your hotel and decide they want to make a booking, you don’t want them to have to wait until office hours before they can do so just in case they’ve gone off the idea by then. Having a booking engine means they can book at any time and still get that confirmation.
• Real-time notifications This is something that is becoming ever-more useful these days, but automatic software means you can send guests updates straight to their phones if you need to, whether that’s a code for self-check-in or an offer for an upgrade. Booking engines make this really easy and also reduce the likelihood of no-shows.
• Reduced reliance on front desk We’ve already mentioned that booking engines mean travellers no longer have to take pot luck on hotel room availability, but they can also reduce the reliance on your front desk too, which frees up your staff to do other things. Guests will reap the rewards in terms of better customer service, since it means they can perform tasks on your website in advance and not have to spend time in queues when they get to you.How to choose a booking engine There are lots of booking engine providers available, so choosing one is really a case of taking a look at what your requirements are and then considering flexibility and cost. It’s better if you go for one with a fixed monthly fee and no contract as opposed to a pricing structure based on a percentage of commission, as it’s likely to save you money in the long run.
Once you’ve got a booking engine, have a play with it and train up your staff so they’re familiar with the ins and outs. As soon as you’re up and running, you should find the benefits are demonstrable in no time.