What Is A Booking Engine And How Does It Help Hotel Businesses Grow?
A booking engine (also known as Internet Booking Engine or IBE), can also be called the life line or backbone of the hotel booking industry. And why not; it is the application or software that is primarily involved to collect reservation and credit card information from guests. For an overall efficient and seamless hotel operations, it is further integrated other hotel management software such as a PMS, channel manager, CRS, or payment gateway.
Most of the online hotel booking engines can be easily embedded into an existing hotel website to work solely as the reservation processing system. Alternatively. they can also serve as the hotel website too by means of ready-to-use, customizable website templates.
The main purpose of using a booking software is capturing new reservations/direct bookings without paying commissions to 3rd party distribution channels, including OTAs, GDSs, travel agents, or online marketplaces. Guests can make direct booking with the hotel online at any time, from anywhere, using online payment methods, and they can make the payment immediately if a payment gateway is integrated.
Hotel Web Booking Engine is a ‘must have’ if you run a hotel business. Let’s get into detailed features of online booking systems.
- Direct Bookings: An online scheduling system aids in selling rooms directly by eliminating commissions paid to distribution channels; thereby significantly increases hotel profit margins and also lowering the guest acquisition costs.
A hotel web booking engine also supports increased direct sales by streamlining the entire booking process and by turning a hotel’s website into a self-service 24 X7 online booking platform.
Booking software users have reported an increase of 20%-30% in direct bookings post implementing a hotel booking engine.
There are many mediums for advertising and promoting (online advertising, social media campaigns, brand awareness or loyalty programs) your hotel for increasing direct bookings, however having your own hotel reservation system is definitely a plus.
Having an online scheduling system gives you a complete control over your booking process and your guests’ data. Further, it allows you to experiment different pricing and revenue management strategies. No doubt, direct bookings through hotel web booking engines is the most profitable booking channel for the hotel booking industry.
- Enhanced Revenue: Today, guests are very learned and are always on the lookout for best deals to get the best out of their hotel stay (money spent) at your property. For hotel businesses their website is like real estate which they can utilize for offering guests to book special rates, offer promotional codes, and avail extra services like local tours, in-hotel activities, and much more. Also, for offering promotional rates to partners, like tour operators, conference centres, business travellers, etc.
In-hotel services such as room upgrades, breakfast, spa, gym, etc.) and other 3rd party services such as car pick-ups, local tours and site-seeing activities, are an important revenue stream for all hotels. Your own brand website integrated with a hotel booking engine is the perfect place to promote these extra services to enhance the shopping experience and to offer your guests’ the best deals as compared to OTAs and other third-party operators. Overall a good reason for them to book directly with you.
- Billboard Effect: With so many choices available to them, many travellers these days like to do their due diligence before making a booking decision. More travellers now than earlier choose to book directly with a hotel. Additionally, Billboard Effect (the phenomena where guests discover a hotel on an OTA site and then visit the hotel’s website to place the booking) also plays a great role in raising preference for direct bookings by travellers. Another big reason why hoteliers should invest in a hotel booking engine.
- Metasearch Bookings: Travel metasearch sites give users one place to compare offers from various online travel agencies, marketplaces, and even hotels’ own websites.
The biggest players in travel-related metasearch include TripAdvisor, Google, Kayak, and Trivago. With Google’s launching free booking links and vacation rental inventory, accommodation providers can now get listed on search and map results alongside OTA partners. Web booking engines are the only way to stay competitive at the metasearch level with real-time pricing and availability updates.
- Brand Awareness: For expanding your hotel business, establishing a unique brand and ensuring a good brand recall is important. Besides showcasing your hotel’s unique value proposition, your brand helps build trust and loyalty in a B2C landscape, such as hospitality. Your hotel website with booking engine integrated is the perfect place to start inviting direct bookings. Look for a customizable booking engine that you can acclimatize as per your brand. Select a hotel booking engine which can be customized or has the possibility of adding custom CSS if required. In addition to brand awareness, the look and feel of your website will help ensure a seamless guest experience
- Offer Personalization: Your hotel brand website helps you promote a highly personalized service to your guests. You can make sure that your messaging reaches your ideal guest type, encourages them to avail the offers and book directly with you. Further, you can engage with your website visitors and answer their queries or FAQs.
You can also share details of your own personalized packages as per your target audience, you can customize the same as per different room types, you can also club additional services to create personalized packages and make more lucrative offers as compared to OTAs and other third-party websites.
In the current scenario, health and safety of both staff and guests is the utmost priority. Leverage your website to highlight how you are ensuring guest safety at your hotel property and your preparedness to address if there are any challenges in this regard.
- Your Bookings, Your Guests: Your website is like an online shopping website, where visitors browse, check if there is anything that fulfils their requirement, and ultimately booking for their required dates using online payment mediums.
A direct booking means that it is your property that “owns the reservation,” guest data and guest experience/relationship. This also implies that this reservation is bounded by your terms and conditions with regards to cancellations, payments, and other booking rules. This also provides you with an opportunity to interact with your guests right away, directly, and without an intermediary being involved at any stage.
- Attract International Customers – Implement an advanced hotel booking engine and set up your property to attract international markets by enabling guests to make their reservations in their preferred language and make the payment in their preferred currency.
- Ensure Guest Loyalty: A hotel booking engine is a must-have for a guest loyalty strategy. Whether you’re running a marketing campaign to engage returning guests or capture new ones via referrals, the most efficient and profitable way to process these reservations, while guaranteeing a smooth guest experience, is via your own direct bookings system.
Hope the above points are enough to help you understand how a hotel web booking engine can help your hotel earn more revenue. However, before you take a plunge, there are a few factors to keep in mind while selecting your web booking engine. Most important is that your booking software must not slow down your website’s load speed. Load speed has a direct correlation with conversion rates. Further, it can also impact your website’s SEO. Additionally, your booking system must be optimized to handle mobile bookings also. It is a known fact that on an average ~52% of traffic to a hotel website comes from mobile.
TTop hotel booking engines will include these features:
- Mobile-first booking system: Should work seamlessly on mobile and should be compatible with the social media websites that your hotel is listed on.
- Fast load times: decreasing load time with a better user experience leads to increased conversions and more revenue. Sync with your channel manager and PMS: make sure that your room inventory across all of your online distribution channels is automatically updated.
- Multilingual and multi-currency: Ensure your hotel booking engine supports all the languages and currency that your guests prefer. Supporting online voucher redemption and wedding and corporate booking modules will be a plus.
- Social media bookings: Leverage Facebook’s booking tool and seamlessly integrate to sync inventory, availability.
- Supports group booking: create unique booking experiences for groups and events based bookings based on rate codes or unique URLs.
- Data collection & reporting: should support collecting all guests data, in-depth insights to find demand and booking patterns.
- Flexible payment methods: accept all online new flexible payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Stripe & Paypal to offer a faster and frictionless hotel reservation experience. Check that your desired provider connects with the right payment gateways as well.
- Promo codes & gift vouchers: upsell add-on services, from local experiences to packages to gift vouchers to drive additional revenue per guest. Also have the flexibility to leverage promo codes via your hotel reservation system or CRS.
Last but not the least, ensure your hotel booking engine provides service and support in case of any technical issue/24/7 troubleshooting, offer training, on-site set-up.