Booking holidays online was one of the first popular uses of the internet to sweep the world. As soon as people realised they could check out hotels across the globe, look at great prices and explore resorts from the comfort of their own living rooms, they were hooked. Today, with the internet now a ubiquitous part of our lives, things are no different. In fact, we have got more attached to online travel over the 20 years or so that our homes have been linked up.
According to Statista, online sales of air travel, hotels and online travel agents grew by around six per cent in 2015, with this figure expected to grow from $534 billion (£411 billion) to $762 billion by 2019. Given this phenomenon and the immense funds it generates, it is essential for hotels to have a booking engine in the modern climate. A hotel booking engine is simply a software application that allows guests to reserve rooms via the property’s own website, as well as third-party sites it is listed on. People like to use this function because it is more convenient; they don’t have to call the accommodation they wish to book and wait for an appropriate time for the concierge to answer the phone.
Instead, they can carry out their booking in the middle of the night of they so wish.Here are some of the benefits that booking engines can offer for hotel owners and marketers.Price updates With your own booking engine, it’s possible to log in and alter prices at any time and for any reason, whether that’s to lower them due to decreased demand or raise them slightly at busy periods. You can even come up with exciting package deals for your target audiences and add them to your portfolio if you think of something that would appeal and go down a storm. Better visibility Having your own booking engine allows you to make the most of modern hotel marketing practices such as longtail keyword search engine optimisation, without having to increase your promotional budget significantly.This has the advantage of making your hotel more visible to the would-be guests who might be looking for somewhere similar to your property via sites like Google – and allowing you to compete with the much bigger chain brands.
Greater convenience Allowing guests to make bookings online is considerably more convenient for them than only permitting reservations on the website and then getting them to fill in forms upon arrival at your property. Skipping this step of multiple data inputting after a long journey might encourage them to view your hotel favourably – and then book with you again in future.Functions your booking engine must haveThere are lots of different programs and providers that will allow you to start using an online booking engine for your hotel, so it’s mostly a case of shopping around and seeing which will be the most suitable for your property. However, as a general rule, here are a few functions that your software shouldn’t be without if you are to maximise convenience.
1. A visual calendarIt can be tricky for people to remember dates off the top of their head, particularly if they are trying to recall when their holidays need to be while they’re on the bus or at their desk during their lunch break. Having a visual calendar on which people can see where weekends fall and click to select arrival and departure dates is hugely useful and can speed up the booking process significantly.
2. Secure payment functionsA professional payment process is vital if you are to avoid issues with guests’ payment going through, but it is also crucial to reassure them that their sensitive information isn’t going to be endangered in this era of cyber hacking and thievery.
3. Automated emailsThis is quite a basic function, but guests expect to have their booking confirmed once they have taken the plunge and added their credit card information, so set up automated emails to do the job for you. You could also add an email reminder just before they are set to travel (with potential upgrades they might like) and a ‘thank you for your custom’ message once they have checked out.
4. Reports and data analysisGood hotel booking engines will collect data about guest purchases and preferences so that hotel owners can analyse it and tailor their marketing more carefully in future, so don’t forget to check yours has this functionality. You can also use it to check the performance of your property at different times of the year.There are lots of hotel booking engines available, but whichever you’re thinking of, it’s a good idea not to delay getting one in place as soon as possible if you’re to retain your competitive edge.