As a specialist website builder for the hotel industry, we are regularly asked which reservation system, also known as the booking engine, will work best within the hotel's website. Unfortunately, we cannot give a short answer, which is why we have described the components that we believe are important for the successful integration of a well-performing reservation system into a website.
What is a reservation system?
A reservation system allows visitors to your website to make a (room) reservation directly, based on current prices and availability.As a result, the hotel website functions as an effective sales channel. The advantage is that no commission needs to be paid as with 'third party' booking websites. A good reservation system therefore provides direct savings. That is why the choice for a reservation system is very important. In the list below 10 points of attention that will help you make the right choice for a reservation system.
A reservation system allows visitors to your website to make a (room) reservation directly, based on current prices and availability.
1. Integration within the hotel website
To make it as easy as possible for visitors to your website to make a reservation, it may be useful to add calendar fields for the arrival and departure dates (or arrival date and number of nights). This allows visitors to directly enter the desired dates and start the reservation process from here. If necessary, these fields can be replaced by a reservation button or calendars on which the availability and possibly the prices are already indicated.
After a visitor has started the reservation process, the reservation system is displayed. This can be done in various ways:
a. Within the layout of their own website. This has the advantage that the visitor will hardly notice that the reservation process has been started. This makes it user-friendly for the visitor and generally results in a high conversion rate (look-to-book ratio).
b. The reservation system can be opened in a new window. Make sure that the layout of the reservation system matches the layout of your website in order to come across as reliable.
c. A third possibility is to open the reservation system in a so-called light box. This is a window that falls over the website. The disadvantage is that this does not work well on all tablets and browsers and the space for the reservation process may be limited.
In general it can be said that a smooth and user-friendly reservation process ensures more user-friendliness, reliability and therefore more reservations.
2. Use on smartphones and tablets
More and more (potential) hotel guests use a smartphone or tablet to find information about a hotel. In order to also enable direct reservations, we recommend that this group of website visitors be given the opportunity to make a room reservation by means of a reservation system that is optimized for smartphones and tablets. A so-called 'mobile' reservation system contains fewer and shorter entry fields, clear steps and is easy to use on smaller screen sizes.
3. Booking packages and offers
To entice website visitors to make a purchase, many hotels work with packages. These can consist of an overnight stay in combination with the use of certain facilities, activities or places of interest. It is also possible to offer special rates for guests who stay a minimum number of nights (e.g. 3 for the price of 2, or for 6 nights, the 7th for free). These arrangements can ensure that the hotel competes intelligently with booking websites.
When the hotel offers packages, they should also be bookable directly from its own website. In the 'general' reservation process you can choose from a special package or offer. In order to obtain a higher conversion on the offers within the website, it is smart to use a button to request the prices and availability of a specific package or offer.
4. Booking specific room type
Most hotels offer different room types. To make it easy for website visitors to choose a room type, we recommend that you display the different room types in an overview on the website. For each room type, a 'book now' button can then be placed immediately. This button should refer to the booking process for the selected room type. This ensures that visitors can easily book the room they want.
5. Promotional and discount codes
Returning guests can be tempted to make new reservations through the hotel's own website by giving a special code at check-out. This code can be used to make reservations at reduced rates, for example. The same can apply to groups, corporate bookers or Facebook fans. In order to offer this functionality, the reservation system must support the possibility of promotional codes.
6. Up sell items
In order to make the stay of hotel guests more pleasant, most reservation systems offer the possibility to offer up sell items. This can be an additional source of revenue for your hotel and allows guests to customize their stay.
7. Google Analytics integration
In order to properly measure the results of the reservation system, statistical information about the performance of the system within your website is an absolute must. An easy way to obtain this information is to activate e-commerce tracking within Google Analytics. Unfortunately not all reservation systems offer this as a standard.
8. Online payments
You can turn your website into a direct sales channel by selecting a reservation system with payment module. This allows you to offer 'non-refundable' rates, for example. In addition to the fact that it can be easy for the guest to pay everything in advance at once, you, as a hotelier, already receive your turnover at the time of booking.
Roughly speaking, providers of reservation systems use three different cost models:
When choosing a reservation system, it is good to estimate what the number of expected reservations over a certain period of time can be. This allows you to compare the rates and the different options of the providers of reservation systems in a well-considered way.
10. Connection with PMS / Channel Manager
Various PMS and Channel Management systems are used within the hotel business. A reservation system is one of these and it is often not an isolated system. An average hotel also uses a Property Management System (PMS) and Channel Manager. In order to easily keep track of the rates and availability of the reservation system, it can be useful if the reservation system is directly linked to the PMS. If this is a so-called two-way connection, then reservations are immediately transported to your PMS and no longer need to be entered manually. A Channel Manager can also be used to link a reservation system to a PMS. So ask the provider which Property Management Systems and Channel Managers can be connected to.
There are also PMS providers that offer their own reservation systems. However, these are often by-products that do not meet many of the above functionalities.
Each hotel is unique due to its specific characteristics such as number of rooms, location, market segmentation, etc. In order to make a well-considered choice for a reservation system, these characteristics need to be weighed against the above mentioned points of attention. If you have any questions about the possibilities of a good reservation system for your hotel in relation to your website, I will be happy to discuss them with you.
By: Thomas Dieben | Becurious Digital Marketing Strategies For Hotels