As useful as they are at publicising your hotel, no hotelier appreciates the chunk of commission that OTA’s swallow up. From many of our previous posts you can find guidelines on how to drive direct bookings, but first things first- you need a booking engine.
What is a booking engine?
A booking engine is a software application that secures online reservations.
According to The Global Online Accommodation Booking Market 2018 report, nearly one-half of hotel booking revenues will be made online by 2022. With such an increase in online bookings, a booking engine is a basic necessity for even the smallest of hotels today. However, with so much choice of booking engine providers, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your hotel. What should you be getting from it? Which features are most important to your hotel, and which can you live without?
Integration with your Channel Manager
As important as your website is, it’s only one of your digital channels. To prevent unavailable rooms being booked by oblivious and soon-to-be irked guests, it’s vital that your booking engine integrates with your channel manager. This will ensure that your room inventory across all of your online channels is automatically updated and that everyone is on the same page!
Net Affinity works with all major channel managers and offers integrations with a number of channel managers and PMS systems. Furthermore, when integrating and connecting, you are fully supported by one of our team members so the transition is seamless! Communication and support are two other vital features to go alongside your booking engine.
Compatibility with mobile and social media sites
According to our Q3 Data Device Trends report, mobile now sits at the highest ever mark of 60% of total website traffic across all of our clients. Mobile bookings are a huge part of today’s landscape and will be even more important in the years to come. It is absolutely essential that your booking engine works seamlessly on mobile, or you will lose bookings. This includes a responsive booking engine as well as mobile reports and strategies.
It’s flexible to your hotel’s needs
At the very least, your booking engine should meet your hotel’s needs. To figure out what exactly these needs are, keep your guests in mind. Firstly, consider where they come from. Does the booking engine display all the languages that they speak, and currency that they pay with? Secondly, do you see success with voucher sales? If so, does the booking engine provide online voucher redemption? Or perhaps weddings or corporate bookings make up a large contingent of your guests. If this is the case, does it offer wedding and corporate booking modules? These are just a few questions that you should ask yourself when considering if the booking engine gives your hotel the features it needs to succeed.
Your booking engine should provide you with transparent, in-depth insights into your hotel’s performance. These insights should include direct conversion rates, bookings via desktop and mobile, average length of stay (ALOS), and revenue from packages and promotions. Ideally, you should be able to use your booking engine reports to find demand and booking patterns that will help you with your revenue and marketing strategies. As well as this, a booking engine provider will supply expert advice and improvement based on this data and best practises.
Features to help you build guest relationships
The better the guest gets to know you, the more likely they are to stay again in future. Personal relationships are essential for driving direct bookings and your booking engine should allow you to create and build these with e-mail communications. For example, you should be able to send automated pre-stay emails with information about the guest’s stay several days before arrival. Similarly, post-stay emails should be available and include an invitation for guests to review their stay.
At the end of the day, take your list of needs and wants and match that up with what a given booking engine provider can deliver. Look for the features that are most important to you, for example a robust mobile solution or a depth of reporting that lets you know exactly how your booking engine is performing.
A good booking engine is absolutely vital to your hotel’s online success. Is yours helping you succeed? To discuss whether our booking engines fit the bill for your hotel, talk to one of our team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.