What is a web booking engine? It can be defined as an application that appears on hotel websites or social media sites and which can be easily used by visitors to make reservations directly online. It is a simple and straightforward web booking system, but a hotel booking engine has to be tied to proprietary software that knows what inventory (rooms or reservations) are available, how to accept payments, and how to lock in the dates and rates selected.
In the past, a booking engine system of this kind was unheard of and hotel reservations had to be made via telephone, writing, or directly at the front desk. Clearly, the use of an online booking engine presents a rare opportunity to streamline operations and make the very most of a technology like the web.
If you are unsure as to how that might happen, let’s revisit that initial definition of a web booking engine to build the answer. First, it indicates that it is an app or web booking system that can appear on a website as well as on social media.
Social media is one of the best ways to market any business because it is almost entirely free of charge. It is also open to a global audience, and while that might not be a valuable thing to an array of businesses or industries, having direct access to the entire planet through a single channel or space (and at almost no cost) is invaluable to hoteliers.
Rather than a limited array of potential guests, a hotel booking engine makes the entire world a potential audience. As one expert in hotel apps explained, most travelers today book online, and that has left many hoteliers relying heavily on OTAs or Online Travel Agents. While this exposes the property to a much wider audience (boosting the average numbers of reservations substantially), it comes at a hefty price. Typically, commissions are around 20% of the booking fee.
While it is possible for hoteliers to boost prices and ask guests to absorb the costs, it usually means losing out on reservations. Why? Because website visitors can often sort listings by price and shop around for the lowest and most competitive rates. So, it is the hotel that has to absorb the costs, and this means diminished profits.
Bring a booking engine system into the mix, however, and there is suddenly no need for that OTA (or at least a much smaller need).
How Does an Online Booking Engine Work in Your Favor?
Rather than delving too deeply into the technicalities, suffice it to say that a web booking engine is an app on the primary hotel site, which accepts reservations and channels them into a PMS (property management system). This syncs with Facebook profiles, too, and allows guests to book rooms while remaining on the enormous social media site. It gives synchronous data (rates, availabilities, and so on) at both sites, and even lets guests post their bookings.
A web booking system is also going to be “integrated” into other third-party apps and software, including channel managers. These should be seen as essentials for small to medium-sized hotels. They are, essentially, a replacement for individual OTAs. They work like a simple distribution and collection system.
For example, your hotel has its own PMS and it tracks the rooms available, rates, and more. It can integrate with a channel manager that disseminates this same data to a handful of OTAs and similar travel-oriented sites that all feature a hotel booking engine. When someone books through any of the channel manager sites, the data returns through the manager and to the PMS.
Clearly, a booking engine system of this kind reduces operating costs, but it brings other advantages. It allows for self-service, which is a preferred form of booking used by travelers all around the globe. It is secure, fast, and may even end up driving more traffic to your native site. This is because a lot of the online booking engines don’t offer the same “perks” that your hotel’s native website supplies.
The use of web booking engine options also gives your hotel the appearance of a fully modernized, ultra-professional business. It makes converting quick and easy, eliminates manual entry and the errors that are caused, provides remarkably valuable insight and data, and even gives you an advantage over competitors yet to implement a web booking system. After all, around 45% of travelers indicate they don’t book without using price comparisons, and a web booking system enables optimal comparisons.
Choosing Your Hotel Booking Engine
There is no doubt that any hotel website should have a booking engine system. The big question is, “Which one?” It helps to look at an overview of what the very best offer and then take a look at the options available in a modern online booking engine.
Experts agree that a web booking engine enables guests to book from a phone or computer, enjoy short forms and secure payment options, and makes booking easy and even fun. It is also the first impression of a hotel they might receive, and any web booking system has to have specific features to make it appealing and effective.
- Synchronicity – The website and the hotel booking engine must be fully-synced to avoid errors and lost business.
- CTA – Any good booking engine system has a built-in template for each function (or multiple options) and there must always be a “call to action” or CTA in the form of a “Book Now” button on each page or screen.
- Design – The best online booking engine will reflect elements of your hotel’s website design.
- Secure – The website of today has to be HTTPS and feature an SSL certificate, and the engine must offer the same.
- Flexibility – A good engine is going to be mobile friendly and it must allow for custom inputs and special requests.
- SEO-friendly – The online booking engine that is not designed to support search engine optimization is missing out on a major benefit.
There is also a need for more formal features that include image galleries which further support SEO through title tags and metadata, banner images that enable powerful first impressions, full social media integration, powerful searching features that allow guests to sort and filter results, booking summaries that engage and guide visitors to the ideal booking, analytics options that provide access to key data for full evaluations, promotional code functions that enable input and discounts or nice extras. Multiple currencies are a must and easily translated pages are a good idea.
You might find that some online booking engines will hide rooms if unavailable, and this can be advantageous but may also limit the amount of promotional activity you can do prior to booking. For example, the high-end inn that wants to show off premium suites (even if unavailable) will not benefit from hidden options.
It goes without saying that all sites and mobile booking functions must be friendly to the small screens and demands of mobile phones, and a good engine should enable upsells such as flowers in the room, massage or in-room spa treatments, upgraded minibars, and so on. Recent statistics show that 87% of hotel guests are more likely to do business with a site that allows for personalization of this kind.
A Summarized View
Your online hotel booking system or web booking engine is invaluable because it will enable you to make the most of your listings and ensure booking is easy, fast, and effective. They liberate a hotel from relying solely on OTAs and paying out hefty commissions, and they leverage social media and channels to boost bookings. The best of them integrate easily with existing and third-party apps and software that ensure functionality is as diverse as needed.
This means it can work with the back office as well as the front desk, it can deal with housekeeping and support upsells, and it can ensure communication is always on point with a guest who books through the hotel website or other channel. Remember too, that modern consumers are all about the experience they enjoy from start to finish. Making booking attractive and easy, offering multilingual options (and multi-currency payments), and encouraging the use of promos and upgrades (while tracking it all in a visitor profile to be used for marketing or future visits), can be possible with the right booking system.
Hotelogix is noted as a top-tier, cloud-based, hotel PMS. It provides users at both ends (consumer and hotel owner) the ability to enjoy integration with an array of resources that make booking a delight. Think of it as another gateway to a hotel, with the warmest greeting right at the front door! It aligns with all of the needs and requirements identified by industry experts and can grow with the small to medium-sized hotel anywhere in the world.
When eager to boost revenue at a hotel of almost any size, offer a streamlined, guest-centric experience, such as a web booking engine. It incorporates all of the features that experts itemize as essentials and ensures guest satisfaction long before they even set foot on the premises. By leveraging such things as social media and OTAs, it guarantees the broadest audience but also enables full control over the image your hotel presents to the world.
Hotelogix Editorial Desk
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