A hotel booking engine is a powerful tool that captures direct bookings right on a hotel’s website. No third-party rules. No commission fees.
Today, with the increasing number of people booking hotels online, it has gone from a luxury to a necessity for hotels of all shapes and sizes to adopt this technology.
Booking engines allow hoteliers to easily sell their rooms through social media, their own websites, and other third-party marketing channels like Google Hotel Ads.
How does it work? Your hotel booking engine automatically processes payment and reservation details, safely storing all of your guest’s data and displaying it on your PMS.
Powerful booking engines can take credit card details and work with online merchants or integrate with a Payment Gateway to process prepayments and payments.
Travelers want the convenience and instant gratification of online self-service - without any waiting or fussing. A booking engine is an important step up from the traditional ‘contact us’ form that most hotel websites still use today.
In this blog, we explore booking engines, and how they can help hotels increase their visibility, sales, and customer satisfaction.
How Does an Online Booking Engine Work?
Here’s a complete definition of a booking engine for your hotel:
A hotel booking engine is a tool on a hotel’s website used to process secure online bookings 24/7. It will automatically store reservation information and update availability in real-time when a booking is made. It promotes a hotel’s inventory and increases direct bookings.
Independent and boutique hotels face a lot of upward battles when it comes to online distribution: high competition, a rapidly changing marketplace, and limited resources and time.
Online booking engines eliminate all of the manual reservation-taking processes and enable hoteliers to join the lucrative online marketplace where they can advertise and sell their rooms on social media and Google Hotel Ads among other distribution channels that drive direct bookings.
Here are some ways how a booking engine can enhance the guest experience and improve your business results:
- Increase direct bookings
- Send automated emails like booking confirmations
- Promote your inventory on Google Hotel Ads to access global markets
- Show live rates and availability
- Create and apply promo codes or discounts on your website
- Connect to tracking tools and gain valuable insights to increase your conversion rate
- Store booker information for remarketing, and to create a personalized booking experience for returning guests
3 Reasons Why Your Hotel Should Use a Booking Engine
One of the most expensive aspects of running a hotel is the cost of acquiring new customers, and filling rooms year-round is fundamental to a hotel’s success.
So it makes sense to leverage every booking channel including your own website.
More than capturing guest and reservation details, booking engines can function as an important part of your sales strategy by allowing you to not only cash in on more direct bookings but upsell inventory and room upgrades. This can significantly increase your revenue per available room (RevPAR).
Let’s look at more ways how a hotel can benefit from a booking engine:
1. Your business is open around the clock
Customers looking to book a stay want to do it at their convenience and don’t want to wait until you’re in the office. Using a hotel booking engine means that your business is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The best part is that you never need to worry about double-bookings because your reservations and availability sync automatically with your property management system and channel manager.
2. You can maximize total booking revenue
With strategic upselling, hotels can increase their RevPAR by 27%! Adding upsells to your booking engine can help grow order sizes and not to mention, upselling also helps increase your hotel booking engine conversion rates.
That’s because add-ons, special packages, and room upgrades are targeted to your customer at a convenient point in their journey, buyer intent is high, so they’re more likely to complete the purchase.
3. You can collect smart insights
Smart business insights like knowing which room packages guests prefer and what add-ons are the least popular can help you focus on areas to grow your business. Connecting tracking tools like Google Analytics or Google Ads to your online booking engine can give you detailed insights to better understand how to improve your website conversion rates and overall ROI.
The Billboard Effect
When you have a hotel booking engine, does it mean you don’t have to advertise your rooms on online travel agencies (OTAs) anymore? No, in fact, it’s recommended to use a booking engine in conjunction with a channel manager that lets you sell your rooms on multiple OTAs at the same time. The reason? The great OTA billboard effect.
What is an OTA billboard effect?
It’s a smart marketing strategy that allows a hotel with a booking engine website to catch more direct bookings. Online savvy customers that originally found a property on an OTA like Booking.com or Expedia, for example, tend to look up the hotel’s website for a better deal or to learn more about the property.
And what could be more appealing than a hotel website with a clear call to action that allows travelers to book then and there? Especially if a discount is thrown in to sweeten the deal. There is no reason for them to go back to the OTA to finalize the purchase, and hoteliers save on commission fees. That's the power of the billboard effect.
What to Look for When Selecting a Hotel Booking Engine
Hotel tech has been on the rise for the past few years. But during the pandemic, it really took off. More hotels were looking for innovative ways to keep guests safe and bookings flowing.
But not all booking engines are created equal. There are many options available on the market, and that’s why it’s important for hoteliers to get knowledgeable on features and tools to look out for when choosing the right one for their property.
Here are 7 questions you might want to ask before investing in a booking engine:
1. How can it manage your inventory and reservations?
Your booking engine should, first and foremost, be designed to handle reservations. A powerful booking engine will have an inventory or property management system that stores your inventory (rooms, categories, rate types) as well as reservation information.
This makes it easy for staff to seamlessly add, modify and delete items from your inventory without altering existing bookings. On top of that, it can recognize repeat bookers, enabling you to deliver a more personalized booking experience.
2. Is it quick and user-friendly?
The process of booking a room should be quick, and hassle-free. Your room types and availability should be easy to find with a clear call-to-action button. It’s important to test the software from the point of view of potential customers. If it takes too long, is complex, or long-winded, then they will simply give up and choose to book with a different hotel.
3. Is it mobile-friendly?
Mobile bookings are becoming increasingly popular. According to recent online travel booking statistics, 45% of UK travellers feel comfortable researching, planning, and booking trips to new destinations using only their mobile. For this reason, your booking engine should be just as easy to navigate on mobile as it is on its desktop version. Essential elements include; compressed images, larger buttons, auto-fill fields, etc.
Quick fact: a mobile-optimized website is an important factor that Google uses as a ranking signal.
4. Does it cater to an international customer base?
International travel is a lucrative market to tap into. Most hoteliers rely on business from international travellers because they tend to stay longer and spend more on room
upgrades and other amenities. For this reason, you must ensure that the booking engine you invest in can be read in different languages, and can adapt to different currencies.
These are simple functionalities that OTAs provide to travellers, and that’s one of the many reasons for their popularity. If your booking engine can match the customer service of OTAs then you’ll be attracting a lot more direct bookings.
5. Is it fully customisable to your property’s branding?
Your booking engine is an extension of your property. It not only provides a very first impression to potential guests, but it also gives a sense to them about what they can expect from your establishment. Having a consistent look and feel helps to put them at ease when booking with you.
A good online booking engine should allow you to upload your logo, and change the site colors to match your branding. Even more essential is the ability to change and upload multiple images to promote your bookable rooms.
6. Can it link to Social Media?
Your social media pages can serve as great PR for your business.
It’s good to have the option to connect your social media channels to your booking site. This instils trust and allows guests the convenience to quickly navigate to your Facebook or Instagram pages for more information.
7. Can it support integrated payments?
The ability to accept online payments through your booking engine not only makes it more convenient for guests but also helps you to meet your reservation and cancelation requirements. For example, you will be able to charge prepayments and authorize credit cards. Financials collected via online bookings should also automatically be recorded in back-end financial reports.
Other Tools to Use With a Booking Engine
Integration is incredibly important. A booking engine should be able to integrate with other systems you use to ensure the accuracy and smooth-running operation of your property’s backend.
A more convenient solution for small and independently owned hotels is an all-in-one hotel management system that comes complete with the most important tools you need to operate your business effectively.
These tools include a booking engine, property management system, and channel manager. You can then decide to add third-party connections like accounting software or mobile door keys based on your property’s individual requirements.
1. Property Management Software (PMS)
A PMS is a software that manages everything from your hotel's rates to the reservation flow, to housekeeping, and it is the most important integration with any booking engine. A seamless link with a PMS is what allows for straightforward communication between your online bookings and inventory control.
2. Google Hotel Ads
Google Hotel Ads is a meta-search engine that is exclusively available to hotels with booking engines. The advertising giant drives direct bookings to your hotel booking engine where you can convert them to customers. It’s typically based on a pay-per-stay model which means you only pay Google when a booking has been confirmed. Compared to the industry average cost per booking of 18% for OTAs, Google Hotel Ads allows you to get more direct bookings for less than an OTA reservation.
3. Channel Manager
A channel manager is a very important tool that allows hotels to sell their rooms on multiple channels without the hassle of manually updating rates and availability in the individual extranets. Instead, these updates are automatically published across all channels and will also reflect in the booking engine.
Hotels might want to use a channel manager in conjunction with a booking engine to cash in on the billboard effect mentioned earlier.
Direct bookings can be a major source of revenue for hotels.
A booking engine lessens a hotel’s dependence on OTAs by allowing your property to be instantly bookable through your hotel website. Hotels also enjoy more control over the guest experience through direct communication with guests from the get-go.
Hotels can choose what guest information they store, what deals they offer, and what they choose to upsell. This is an effective way to optimise your property’s sales strategy and maximise profit.
Interested in boosting your direct bookings? Get in touch with us – we are happy to help!