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Booking Engine

Before the advent of the Internet, hoteliers did not have online bookings, since most of the guests were walk-ins and the information collected was limited. The use of the Internet and technological developments revolutionised the way they interact with clients.

With online bookings gaining popularity it became a necessity to have a world-class booking engine for a website to improve profitability and deal with a steady rise in online bookings.

Just some of the benefits are:

Efficiency:

With a day to day operations increasingly complicated and excessive work overflow it takes time to get work done. Having a PMS in place helps to automate processes and give staff more time to attend to the guest’s needs. Having a well-designed PMS will help to save time on manual tasks and lead to greater efficiency.

More transparency in communication:

For no issues to arise it is essential for there to be transparent communication at all times between the hotel staff and guests. There has to be clear communication and both parties need to be on the same page. Having a well-designed PMS makes it easy to be well connected with all departments and guests at all times. This helps to improve customer satisfaction levels by serving them better.

Distribution channels:

Having a well-integrated PMS with channel management facilities carries immense benefits. This makes it easy for the business to markets across multiple channels ranging from GDS and OTAs to retail travel agents. All of the bookings can easily be managed by one system connected to all these distribution channels. This helps to reduce the risk of human error or making any mistakes to impact the guest experience.

Improved revenue strategies:

One of the biggest benefits of having a PMS system in place is it enables to formulate data-based strategies using the KPIs. The three indicators required are revenue per room, average daily rate and gross operating profit per room. These help the business owner to carte and execute an effective revenue strategy. Over the long term, these indicators enable a business owner to be able to better assess and judge performance over a time period.  It leads to making informed decisions and improves the generation of revenues.

Reorganises processes:

One of the most annoying aspects for guests is a delay taken in checking them in or out. It is necessary for all of these processes to be efficient and a seamless process. Having a PMS is of immense help as it helps in these tasks like booking, housekeeping, check-in/outs etc. Hotel staff can easily and efficiently carry out these processes that help to improve overall productivity and improve the guest experience.

Monitor in real-time: Hotels that operate all through the year need 24-hour monitoring with the business owner needing more efficient control over the business. A PMS offers the benefit of remote access from any place at any time. It offers the unparalleled flexibility to review each and every booking and make any modifications if the need arises.

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Booking Engine

Those in the hospitality industry are well aware of the importance of time. Any unoccupied rooms mean losses – even if it is for one or two nights. While there are a host of marketing strategies to try to compensate for the loss, the fact is, time sensitivity is critical to the business. In the hotel business, there is a need to ensure that each and every room is occupied daily. That is where technology plays a major role, with hotel apps trending as one of the most effective ways to increase occupancy.

While having a good hotel booking software is paramount, having it connected with your hotel app will definitely lead to an increase in hotel bookings. With last-minute bookings becoming commonplace, to have a well-designed hotel app will be an asset.

makes a hotel app successful

Customised for all types of property:

Whether you run a small B&B or a large luxury hotel, an app can be customised to suit any type of property, with your niche market in mind. So whether you cater to business travellers or to family visitors the app design can be tweaked to suit your targeted audience.

Improve room saleability:

Recent occupancy statistics in the US indicate almost one in four rooms remain unoccupied. Having an app that caters to last minute bookings the probability of having all of the rooms sold at lower prices becomes much higher.

Improve customer satisfaction:

One of the most common issues with most guests that book at the last minute, is they may not find a room to their satisfaction. This is where the hotel has an opportunity, to improve customer satisfaction even if the guest is not part of your targeted audience. By improving the customer experience at the hotel, there always is the chance of getting a positive review. This can help to attract future customers.

Apps benefit both the hotel and the guests:

It is a win-win for both parties, with apps beneficial both for guests and the hotel. Whenever a traveller needs to make a last minute trip and does not have any hotel booking, this app will help him to make a quick booking. So whether he is looking for the nearest hotel or a luxury hotel suited for business travellers, the app will help him to find what he is looking for. The app offers the guest to choose a hotel of their choice and the option to check in online any part of the day or night. The hotel has an unsold room booked so it benefits the hotel as well.

Smartphone apps are growing in popularity with the hospitality industry is one area where they can have a tremendous impact. Having an app that is connected with your hotel PMS will ensure that any unoccupied rooms are booked. Having the app synced and in real time with the software will ensure guests have all the latest information and rates. This includes any special discounts or deals available for last minute guests.

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Booking Engine

Any hotel owners using the outdated method of Excel to manage the day to day operations of their hotel business perhaps need to rethink their strategy! With cloud computing and cloud-based PMS the in-thing, using outdated methods can have a negative impact on the business. Just some of the risk factors involved include data hacking, losing data and time wasted etc. For any hotel business, it is high time to move to software that is cloud-based.

Some of the reasons to switch to cloud-based booking engine software from Excel are as follows:

Business Volume:

The business volume of your hotel plays a critical role in deciding if Excel or cloud-based booking is best for the property. For hotels that only have limited rooms and facilities and offer nothing more than an overnight stay, the business can be managed by Excel. Any other type of hotel like a boutique property, an independent hotel etc. having automated software is the best solution.

The POSs (Point of Sales):

The POSs

If you have multiple POSs at your hotel or added revenue sources, not related to rooms having an automated property management system in place is a necessity. This is because numerous interactions occur between the front desk and the POSs. Not having a PMS makes it a challenge to keep track of every single transaction made by guests. The PMS ensures everything is tracked as it links the front desk and every single POS. So whether the client uses the bar and pays for drinks or uses the spa facility and makes a payment, everything will be tracked and recorded. A cloud PMS helps to track multiple transactions by guests.

Cater To a Niche Market:

Cater To a Niche Market

Any business these days need to be clear about its niche audience, especially, in the hospitality industry which caters to a wide variety of travellers. These range from business travellers to backpackers. Subject to your niche market, your marketing campaign will need to focus on this target audience. Therefore having a niche market in this digital age is a must! Waiting with the hope that guests will select your hotel over competitor properties will be wishful thinking. Hoteliers need to be proactive and make the most of social media platforms. Whether it is Facebook or Instagram you have to connect and interact with them. Whether your hotel receives rave reviews or negative feedback, they have to be acknowledged and a response generated. All of this is only possible through PMS and not Excel.

Relying on OTAs:

online travel concept

If you want to stay competitive and in business for a long time, you need to ditch the traditional and opt for the latest technological advancements. In the hotel business, all hotels have to depend on OTAs, which are the backbone of the business. Yes, paying them fat commissions is not attractive but finding guests on your own in this competitive industry is not an easy task. If you are linked with OTAs, Excel just cannot manage the business. The booking system must be hooked up and available to all affiliate partners and OTAs in real-time. Every single booking made should generate an alert in real-time. Having cloud-based software is the only way to manage all of this, which if done manually would be a mess!

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Booking Engine

Hotel businesses across the world need to continuously tweak their room rates, which are subject to demand and supply. This constitutes dynamic pricing, while static pricing is alternately a method where the price remains constant, irrespective of the demand and supply situation. Because the hotel industry is a highly volatile industry, switching to dynamic pricing is a must if you want to have successful hotel profits!

The fact is, dynamic pricing is a must for all smaller hotels, which in contrast to larger hotel chains, do not have a steady inflow of capital when there is a lull in the market. For those hotels planning to be around for a long time in the market and stay competitive, ensuring they follow the principle of demand and supply is a must. When the off-season arrives, the hotel should be able to sell a $200 dollar at $90, without incurring a loss. Static pricing does not offer this facility as seasonal occupancy rates are not in play.

As a business owner opting for Dynamic Pricing, software or automated revenue management software will be a prudent decision in the long term for the business. The reason why this software is successful is they utilise the latest state-of-the-art algorithm, something which as humans we cannot compete with. The software will consider all variables like demand forecast, seasonal occupancy rates, competitive pricing etc. It will calculate and give you the best price at which the rooms should be rented. This is a sure way to increase room profitability.

An Effective Way to Generate Revenue

effective way to generate revenue

While occupancy is critical for any hotel business, earning revenue is as vital. Dynamic pricing offers the facility to offer the best rates, taking into account the slump in occupancy. This will ensure that adequate revenue generation until the slump improves. The advantage of using dynamic pricing is it is not essential to let out all the rooms to get maximum profits.

Help to Capture a Larger Market

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The drawback with static pricing is a hotel owner can only cater to a niche category of guests, with no alternative to wait in the price slump. Dynamic pricing offers greater flexibility and a hotel can cater to a larger market segment. The price of a room is instrumental in making a prospective guest decide where to book. Even regular guests that stay at the property may reconsider their decision if the room rates are not at par with the market rate at that time. With the use of PMS, hotel room rates get updated in real-time with OTAs. Any guests using these OTAs will see the lower rates and be attracted to book with your hotel.

At the end of the day, the decision of opting for dynamic or static pricing is the decision of the hotel owner. However, we have to be in tune with the market trends and with more hotel businesses all over the world shifting to the dynamic pricing model; it is for definite that dynamic pricing is here for the long haul. Still, the decision ultimately is at the hotel owner’s discretion!

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Booking Engine

One of the biggest challenges for hoteliers is being able to increase the number of direct bookings. Looking at the size of the market and the proliferation of third-party booking sites, it is imperative for hotels to strike the right balance between direct and OTA bookings. While OTAs play a vital role in getting bookings, the fact is direct bookings are more profitable. It saves on intermediary commission charges of the OTA.

Choose the right booking engine software:

Incorporating a first-rate booking engine for your website is critical to attracting direct bookings. Visitors get real-time information about the status of rooms. This is one of the most effective ways to attract direct bookings. When a guest makes a room booking they get confirmation instantly from the PMS. This satisfies the guest that their accommodation is a sure thing.

Have a well-optimised website:

The hotel website plays a critical role in attracting direct bookings. It must be user-friendly, visually appealing and easily navigable. It needs a strong digital presence to maximise visitors. Apart from excellent optimisation for search engines, it has to offer mobile responsiveness. With a growing segment of travellers using mobile devices and smart-phones to make bookings, it must work seamlessly across multiple devices.

Offer incentives:

When people visit your website, you could offer incentives for them to make direct bookings. State the benefits they will receive if they book directly at the hotel website. E.g. book directly at our site and get discounts on shopping at affiliate partners etc. Almost everyone looks for freebies, so if you sweeten the deal they are more than likely to book directly. As per a Skift study close to 45% of visitors feel that perks and incentives influence their decision to book.

Study booking abandonments:

If prospective guests are visiting the site, spending time examining the rooms and facilities and leaving when they reach the booking stage, there is a problem. It will negatively impact direct bookings!  You need to find out about their experience at the hotel website. Examine the type of rooms they searched for and saw before they decided to look elsewhere. Try to get in touch with them via email or phone and find out what they were specifically looking for. If the price is a concern, offer them the best rate available and mention the extra benefit/s they will receive if they book directly with you.  Building a personal rapport will make them return visitors.

Emphasize positive reviews:

A growing percentage of travellers check hotel reviews with a large number of them basing their decision to make bookings subject to the reviews. Having positive reviews on your website and other independent review sites will influence the decision of prospective guests. When your hotel receives positive reviews from former guests these need to emphasised and highlighted. These should reflect all through the site to convince the visitor to make a booking. Do not just collect reviews but make it a point to respond promptly. This shows you value your guests’ opinions and will win over other prospective guests.

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Booking Engine

Those involved in e-commerce are in the know about the growing popularity of voice search. As per a survey conducted in 2014, around 55% of teenagers and 41% of adults used this facility more than twice in a day. Initially, it was a novel gimmick with the introduction of Siri, which now has moved on to Alexa and Google Voice etc. As per an estimate by the end of this decade, 58% or more searches conducted will be voice-based. Is your website ready for this?

Those involved in digital marketing for hotels realise the significance of this technology for improving a hotel’s profit margin.

Any top-notch hotel digital marketing agency will ensure that they incorporate and optimise voice search in the client’s hotel website design.

Voice search is now an integral part of SEO (search engine optimisation) and professional hotel marketing companies like Digital Hotelier ensure their clients are ahead of the competition.

A few ways to improve voice search for any website are:

Local listings optimisation:

Voice search is primarily of use to gather information about places people want to visit. For this, they would say phrases like ‘find a luxury hotel in Chelsea’. For this optimisation of web pages for this keyword is necessary. They could generalise it by saying “find a hotel in London near me’. That is where voice search uses the physical location of the mobile or internet device user and show results accordingly. In this case, they do not match with on-page keywords. Search engines are increasingly using Google’s my business listings for voice searches. So having your web listings is accurate and optimised is a must. Try to maintain a single address and check details like phone number, name and address as they appear on Google, as web pages ranking is on these aspects.

Make efficient use of analytics:

Checking Google’ Search Console’ data will keep you informed about queries that directed people to your business site. While at present it is not possible to determine if a regular or voice search sent them, changes are in the pipeline. It still helps to identify long-tail keywords so make optimum use of analytics.

Emphasis on long-tail keywords:

Voice search is different in use than regular searches. Instead of typing a long phrase, the exact keyword is of use in regular searches. Voice search differs as it is like having a conversation and long-tail keywords are the key.

For this try to figure out the way people speak: Have a brainstorming session about the natural language sequence people might use. Long-tail in voice search is not about variations in keyword but rather about actual speech. Look beyond regular long-tail research tools.  A useful tool for voice search long-tail keywords is ‘Answer the Public’. They combine search terms with words like ’with’ and ‘for’ to do a voice search. Do a voice search yourself and see what you pull up.

Bolster microdata:

This will help search bots to better understand your site and feature in the listing for voice search. Submit an up-to-date sitemap with accurate information.

Focus on Q&A kind of content:

Use natural language keywords on your web pages. Try to optimise services, products and blog post for voice search keywords.

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Booking Engine

For any hotel business to thrive, creating a well-developed and researched business plan is key. There is no shortcut for this. You really need to put in the time, and even get a team together to help with different sections of the plan. The business plan should focus on driving profits, budget for marketing, a SWOT analysis, an area for research on the competition, and ultimately give you a plan for the future so you have key areas you can work on. Ideally, you would do a business plan every year.

These are the areas of a business plan you will want to work on:

Decide your pricing strategy

You need to figure out how you will price your hotel rooms when demand is high and what promotions you can afford to run when demand is lower. Depending upon the month, you come to know which nights your hotel is high occupancy. This enables you to plan in advance to earn higher hotel revenues in the peak season.

How to gain more bookings

You need to figure out which of the booking sources give you the highest ROI. You need to focus on marketing on social media – are you doing everything you can on these platforms to drive more sales and reach more people? Hotel marketing strategies often focus on SEO, email campaigns and social media. When used correctly, these areas can really help drive more bookings.

Which promotions to run

In your business plan, try and create a section which looks at guest behaviour. For instance, focus on what percentage of sales come from mobile bookings, look at how long guests stay for, focus on what popular times your guests stay, and so on. Your report should show you how each of your promotions last year fared, and how you can improve this in the following year. Are the promotions even working? You can then make changes in your marketing strategies.

How to reduce cancellations

Many hotels have a problem with cancellations, and are then left with an empty room. Often times when you get more bookings, the rate of cancellation increases too. Use your hotel revenue management system to figure out when most cancellations took place and then analyse why this might have happened. You can then work to improve your services that will prevent further cancellations in the future.

Using a Digital Hotelier with marketing experience

You might want to look into hiring some professional help to assist you with some of your business plan. An area that could benefit you is social media marketing. If you don’t have the understanding or the time to focus on this yourself, a digital hotelier with marketing experience could help you.

Your business plan may also flag up other areas you need help with – for instance, you might want to look into getting a better accountant, a different reception team, or a new customer service rep. Whatever your business plan suggests, don’t be afraid to use these points constructively to move forward and gain those much needed hotel bookings.

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Booking Engine

Most people will expect your hotel business to have a hotel booking system which they can use to book a room on your website. This is much easier than calling a hotel on the phone, and allows travellers to book a hotel room from the ease of their own home, months before they actually need to travel. It is not a luxury – it is a necessity for most hotels these days if you want to keep up with the competition.

Investing in the right hotel booking engine is important. This is a software tool that enables your hotel to accept direct bookings on your website. It needs to be well tested and reliable so that it can be managed properly and guests can feel confident in your service.

Ultimately, a well invested hotel booking engine will drive online bookings and help your business to flourish.

Features to look out for in a hotel booking engine include the following:

Quick and easy to use – Test the software to see how your guests will see the booking process. Is it quick? Is it simple? Your guests will want to be able to book a hotel in a short space of time. If it takes too long, is complex or long winded, then they will simply give up and choose to book with a different hotel. Remember, your customers have many different hotels to choose from and they won’t stay loyal to you if the process makes it too difficult for them.

Mobile friendly – Most people look up hotel information on their phone and many also book hotels on their phones, so your website needs to be mobile friendly. Try looking at the website on your phone to see if it comes across just as well on this medium as the PC. Take for instance the Digital Hotelier website which has identical branding, colours and messages on both platforms.

Accessible from abroad – Make sure your site can be read in different languages, as many people are likely to book from different countries. Your booking engine should also adapt to different currencies and languages. If not, your customers will simply choose a website that is more accessible for them.

Link to Facebook – It is good to have the option to connect to social media. At the end of a booking, see if the traveller wishes to ‘post on Facebook’ to tell their friends about their booking. You might also wish to connect your Twitter feed or Instagram to the website.

Other things to consider

When creating your website, you need to make sure that the software is up to date and tried and tested. But you will also want to ensure that the copy on your website is proofread, free of errors and sells your hotel in the best light. You will also want to make sure there are plenty of good pictures on your website of your hotel property.

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Booking Engine

With research suggesting that travellers are no longer loyal to a particular brand, but swayed by convenience , hotels must do all they can to ensure they are front and centre when it comes time for guests to make a booking.

If your hotel often loses out to aggregators or online travel agents, a new research piece from Adobe is packed full of insights and tactics used by top brands such as Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group to make your own hotel booking engine the favoured port of call.

Offer an experience

The CMO of Hilton Hotel Group, Geraldine Calpin says that offering guests an experience, and focusing on delighting customers has helped it to win back customers booking directly through its own hotel booking engine and owned hotel distribution channels.

A key point here is to remove friction that may be preventing customers from making the booking directly. Hilton looked towards others in the travel industry here, giving the example of airline apps which allow early check in and seat selection. Learning from this, Hilton was able to incorporate these superior experienced into its own app, giving guests the ability to choose their preferred type of room and location – such as close to the stairs or lift.

Calpin says they may even take this a step further with some properties able to offer guests the option to pick their actual room. It’s all part of offering an experience, which can nurture brand loyalty and up the convenience factor.

Other ways it has been able to improve convenience and win back bookings is allowing users to use their Hilton app as a digital key – meaning no waiting at the front desk –and as a tool to check in and check out.

booking

Consider restricting inventory outside of your own hotel distribution channels

The InterContinental Hotels Group says it made a simple switch to start winning back bookings from aggregators – it ring fenced some of its inventory, limiting the number of rooms third parties had access to. The limited inventory means fewer rooms sold wholesale, allowing InterContinenal and its hotel brands such as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn peace of mind that its rooms won’t be found cheaper elsewhere. This gives the brand freedom to offer its best rates via its own hotel booking engine.

This was backed by a new focus on the customer experience, again delivered via app. The hotel chain’s loyalty app makes life more convenient for the guest, granting access to Wi-Fi with no need to request a code from front desk. In addition, it says it’s piloting a new feature in China which will act as a beacon, showing guests available services and offers as they make their way around the hotel itself.

Visit customisation

Giving visitors a fully personalized and customised service can also help win back bookings from aggregators – by again playing to the convenience factor that guests look for when booking a hotel. InterContinental allows users to have two app profiles, one for business travel and one for leisure trips.

In the USA, the app can be used for custom access to services such as room service. The hotel chain says these changes have seen it increase direct bookings in the USA with two out of three now made directly.

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Booking Engine

Shopping online today is an enjoyable experience for consumers; they’re typically given complete control thanks to the diversity of e-retailers on the market. But when you compare the traditional shopping experience with the hotel booking experience, the two don’t match up.

When you look at two different hotel booking engine options from rival sites, it’s likely that the shopping cart experience is almost exactly the same. In a bid to speed up room turnarounds, consumers are faced with the same packages no matter which brand they’re staying with.

In the digital age, where consumers are being given more choice and freedom than ever before, hotels are lagging behind. As industry competition intensifies, travellers are increasingly searching for hotels that meet their needs and those brands that are offering ‘off the shelf’ bundles could be missing out on an opportunity to boost sales and foster customer loyalty.

When you’re buying consumer goods, whether it’s clothing or electronics, you’re faced with a huge amount of choice, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a feature that consumers are coming to expect.

It should go without saying that the more consumers are paying out the greater level of control they want. For hoteliers that are welcoming guests from all over the world, their customers are likely to be making a considerable payment to visit a destination. As a result, taking the time to tailor the customer experience right from when they first see your hotel booking engine could have a huge impact.

Why your hotel should offer a ‘shopping cart%u2019 experience

Provide more room options

The most important factor in booking any hotel is the room. Typically, travellers are faced with two or three options of room to choose from. But even your standard rooms are different and many customers will have a preference. Those looking for accessibility will be delighted if they can choose a room on the lower levels, while those wanting breath taking views over the surrounding might be keen to snap up those residing on the top levels. These choices are likely to have little impact on the running of your hotel but they will enhance both the shopping cart experience and their stay.

It’s also an opportunity for you to increase revenue on the most desirable rooms through upselling. For example, tourists looking for that added wow factor can be tempted to pay more for a balcony or stunning views.

The small details matter

When you’ve covered the room selection, don’t forget the small details matter too. Giving customers a choice of the mini bar options, mattress firmness, or fragrance of bathroom products creates a customised experience and sets a precedence from the outset. With the right processes and hotel booking engine in place, providing a greater shopping cart experience doesn’t have to mean more work for your employees and the return on investment can be significant.

While improved shopping cart experiences may have a slight impact on the number of reservations being made and reducing the number of abandoned carts, the key reason for implementing this is customer loyalty.

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Booking Engine

TripAdvisor has become an essential tool for travellers when they’re planning a trip away, covering everything from hotels to excursions. As part of its plan to move beyond hotel revenue, TripAdvisor is expanding it’s offering, the latest of which connects hungry travellers with local food delivery options that can be taken right to their hotel room. The shift could be bad news for those hotels that don’t adapt.

Takeaways have always been a popular treat in the UK, but new market entrants and technology mean they’re more accessible than ever before when when staying in a hotel. No longer do diners have to trawl through listings and numerous menus to find a delivery services that’s close by – it can all be done with a few taps of their smartphone. The rise of takeaway sites, such as Just Eat, made it even easier for tourists to find the cuisine they’re looking for, with an integrated payment system for convenience.

Today, Deliveroo has become one of the biggest players in the market. The brand goes beyond the usual takeaway offerings to partner with restaurants to deliver high quality food right to users’ doorsteps.

TripAdvisor is the next step in the food delivery market.

The brand is already trusted and well-established with a loyal brand following. Building on this, TripAdvisor now boasts 20,000 restaurants and 30,000 delivery riders across 12 countries, with plans in the work to expand.

TripAdvisor’s global food delivery expansion pressures hotels to adapt

Why does the TripAdvisor expansion matter to hotels?

TripAdvisor moving into the food delivery market might seem like something that’s unrelated to hotels, but it does have the potential to have a big impact and is something that anyone devising hotel marketing solutions needs to consider.

As online food delivery services available have grown, bringing travellers more choice and convenience, more hotel guests are choosing to enjoy a takeaway in their room. It’s a trend that’s set to have a significant impact on hotels that have previously generated significant revenue from onsite restaurants and bars, or room service.

How can hotels address the challenges?

The good news is that while delivery services are having an impact, there are steps you can take to limit it and continue upselling.

• Reflect food choices – Understanding the kind of food your customers want to eat and why they’re choosing takeaway options can help you improve your offering to generate interest. Whether your guests are opting for healthy foods straight to their room or an indulgent curry, you can help meet their expectations.

• Offer authentic, local food – The wider trend of seeking local, authentic experiences is reflected in food too. If you offer a set menu across all your hotels or standard dishes you can find anywhere it might be time for a rethink. The food you provide can enhance the overall customer experience.

• Effectively market your options – Effective hotel marketing solutions don’t stop once a customer has booked. Your in-room collateral should engage and encourage travellers to either visit your restaurant for an evening meal or have breakfast delivered in the comfort of their room.

• Make it convenient to eat at your hotel – Choosing to eat at the hotel should be as convenient as possible, after all, ordering a takeaway through an app can be done in minutes. Whether it’s part of your integrated app solution or not, make sure it’s effortless and simple.

• Recognise the advantages – It might be tempting to ban takeaways being delivered to your rooms but that could have a negative impact. Recognise that it provides your guests with more choice and go the extra mile, such as providing cutlery, to boost the experience of staying at your hotel.

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Booking Engine

Leading names in the hotel sector have spoken out about the benefits of providing customers with the best price and service when they book directly through their website. Despite backing direct bookings, research indicates that online travel agents (OTAs) are more frequently providing a cheaper price for a room than supplier websites, indicating that there’s a disconnect between hotel ambitions and practice.

Consumers today are willing to browse to find the best holiday price before they make a booking and expect the process to be simple from start to finish. It represents an opportunity for hoteliers seeking to boost direct reservations. Through consistently offering the best price that can’t be beaten by OTAs, hoteliers can increase how many customers are using their hotel reservation system software to make a booking.

Hotel industry heavyweights Hilton and Marriott have both spoken out about how booking direct gives travellers the best deal. However, a study looking at these two hotel chains and Hyatt and IHG suggested that this is not always the case. Research from Piper Jaffray found that booking from a hotel’s own website offered the best price just 13% of the time, while using an OTA led to a lower price 21% of the time.

It marks a need for hotels to step up their strategy to improve their online hotel booking engine so it continuously offers the best price.

Travel

Why should you encourage more direct bookings?

There are numerous reasons why you should be eager to increase more customers to make a booking with you directly.

• It removes the commission cost you pay for bookings made through OTAs. • It allows you to create a personalised experience for your guests, improving satisfaction. • You can offer additional perks by signing up to a loyalty programme, creating a valuable database for marketing purposes. • You can gather insight into your customer’s user journey and preferences to improve your brand. • You’re in control of the experience the customer has from beginning to end.

How to increase you direct bookings

If you’re eager to reap the benefits of booking directly, there are some steps to increase your chances of customers coming to your hotel’s website and making a booking. With the right tools and steps taken, you can follow the lead of industry heavyweights to focus on direct bookings.

• Price check – Price is one of the most important factors for consumers when making a decision and your website should offer the best deal for travellers. To be competitive it’s essential that your online hotel booking engine is optimised for reflecting the fluctuating market.

• Make the booking process simple – If your booking process is complicated and overly time-consuming, customers will go elsewhere. Consumers choose to book via online channels for the ease of use and if you’re not meeting this vital demand your direct bookings will slip.

• Use a price check widget – Embedding a price check widget within your website will clearly demonstrate how your booking price compares to OTAs. It helps to give travellers the confidence to book directly without shopping around first.

• Add value – It’s not just price that’s considered during the booking process and direct bookings give you an opportunity to add value. It could be as simple as offering loyalty points for future discounts or demonstrating how you offer a customised service for each booking.

• Lower cancellation costs – Cancelling a booking through an OTA typically means the consumer doesn’t get a significant portion of their money back. Offering lower cancellation costs can tip the balance in your favour.

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Booking Engine

It’s undeniable that the quickest way to win in the revenue management game is through direct bookings; these are the least costly way of getting your rooms sold and therefore the most profitable. But how to increase your direct bookings? Create vibrant new digital marketing campaigns? Optimize your website to make it more streamlined and user friendly than ever before? Both are great options, but you may be completely overlooking the most valuable tool you have. Data.

The key to making the most out of revenue management software in hotels is by analysing the data that’s available to you. You’ll find a mass of data on customers in your booking engine and CRS. The challenge here, however, is breaking down this gargantuan data source into actionable decisions that you can measure the success of.

Data you’ll find on your booking engine tells you which trends are most relevant to your hotel, what has worked well in the past and, if possible, how you can improve on past successes even further. Analysing your booking engine data will also allow you to see what hasn’t worked so well and how you can remedy this going forward. Read on to find out which data groups can help your hotel go from strength to strength and improve your revenue management strategy.

Source Data

Source data is a hugely useful data source stored by reservation systems for hotels that you can analyse to your benefit. This data group refers to the type of device used to access your website and booking engine, whether it be a mobile device or desktop machine. If your website visitors consist of largely mobile users, why not throw in some mobile-only booking offers to reel in more guests?

Revenue management strategies

Search data

Another data category to analyse is your search data. If holidaymakers visit your website more at the weekend, for example, you can promote your last-minute packages over the weekend period to maximize your takings.

Geographic data

Knowing where your guests are visiting you from gives you the superb ability of being able to send bespoke marketing communications based on geographic locations. Does a demographic from a certain area tend to favour certain activities during their stay? You can send them custom special offers they’ll like the most to drive up your direct bookings. Are guests from one area of a country prone to picking certain rate plans such as all-inclusive deals? You can highlight the fantastic additions you’ve made to your all-inclusive package to people from this location in the future with an increased chance of direct bookings.

Lead time

Lead times are the number of days prior to the start of the reservation that the booking is made. This will differ due to different guests having different reasons for their stay; guests travelling for business reasons may be booking on short notice and have windows of one to two weeks. Conversely, families in colder countries may be looking to escape their own climate and book their summer holidays months in advance. Analysing lead time data from customer groups informs you when your guests are likely to be booking and when’s best to advertise for packages further down the line in advance.

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Booking Engine

Despite the online booking process becoming an increasingly hot topic as hotels struggle to close the gap between guest and the hotel itself, most hotels still treat their website and hotel booking engine as two separate things. And it’s not hard to see why; you probably got your website built by your external web design company, while your booking engine is built and likely developed and managed elsewhere by a different team, in a different company. The two don’t often talk to each other (if at all), and although you’re usually left with two amazing platforms, they don’t always work well together and function as cohesively as they should.

Once upon a time this wasn’t too much of a problem, however web design for hotels has changed. With advances in technology and demands from potential guests, those who don’t update their hotel booking engine can end up suffering the consequences. API and platform integration developments mean that websites and booking engines need to work together as one, simple to use booking platform in order to offer a great user experience from start to finish. So how can you do this?

Make it simple

Nowadays, website systems are able to pull information from the CRS in real-time in order for the current pricing to be highlighted on the homepage. This is an imperative part of the process as not only does it provide transparent prices to potential guests and highlight great rates, but also makes it easy for guests to reserve rooms by taking them directly to the booking engine in a user-friendly way. Modern consumers are impatient, they will abandon pages that don’t load quickly and they’ll soon lose patience with complicated processes. Your hotel booking engine should be a seamless extension of your site, presenting the necessary information clearly with minimal barriers to reservation.

Mobile Booking Engine

Make mobile work for you

More people are using mobile devices to book hotels than ever before, especially within the Millennial demographic. So it’s important that your system is integrated to ensure that not just your website is optimised for mobile, but also your booking platform too. This will provide the seamless and user-friendly experience for guests that both you and they strive for. Ignoring mobile will not only harm your search engine ranking and user friendliness rating, it can will prove detrimental in the long run by encouraging guests to take their future bookings elsewhere.

Link up with other tech

Creating a seamless, frictionless system makes it easy to utilise other technologies that will boost conversion rates. Highlighting the number of rooms remaining via widgets and including a countdown clock are simple ways to add urgency and capture those all-important direct bookings. Simple features to add, they provide the urgency hotels crave, while implying the guest is getting a better deal than others. However one of the finest, and easiest ways to really boost your chances of getting a booking is to use an automated best rate guarantee seal and couple this with any TripAdvisor award badges and widgets to display positive reviews on your site. Integrating with other well known brands via plug-in or widget should be straightforward if your site and booking engine work in harmony.

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Booking Engine

With the number of travel booking made online approaching 150 million every year, and online travel agents taking commission for bookings, it’s imperative that a hotel’s online booking engine is working for it and not against it. Unfortunately for many hoteliers, their hotel booking software is not as efficient as it could be and this is costing hotels precious direct bookings every day.

So, if you’re looking to convert website visitors into hotel guests, you’ll need to ensure you provide a user-friendly and seamless experience for your web traffic. However, simply making sure your site is mobile-friendly and creating a multi-lingual website are no longer enough. You need to ensure you are able to attract visitors away from OTAs, nurture their journey through your site and keep them there until the end of the booking process. If you’re facing a draught of direct bookings or have noticed that your abandoned cart figures have reached unacceptable levels, it could well be that the fault lies with your hotel booking software.

Try our top tips for overhauling your booking engine for website optimisation and an improved visitor experience.

Invoke urgency

It’s all well and good piquing their interest, but to ensure potential guests turn into booked guests, you need to create urgency around the booking. And the best way to do this is via urgency messages. To do this, you can simply draw attention to rates and availability during the browsing process in order to make guests think they will miss out if they don’t book immediately. Proven to increase conversions, urgency messages, such as ‘Only four rooms left at this price’, ‘No booking fee for limited time’, and ‘Free cancellation’ are perfect examples. Your hotel booking software should allow you to add these urgency messages as standard. If not, it may be time to invest in a more sophisticated booking engine for website use.

Online Booking

Introduce early-bird rates (and last-minute rates)

‘The earlier you book, the cheaper the deal’. This is something that consumers have become familiar with. To make the most of early bookers, you need to set up – and promote – early-bird rates. Not only will this guarantee you sell rooms, but it will boost your short-term cashflow. Likewise, last-minute rates provide guaranteed short-term occupancy, and just like the above, boost short-term cashflow. Should you go down this route however, it’s best to use this in conjunction with urgency messages.

Integrate the booking engine and the website

Online booking is all about providing a seamless, user-friendly experience for website visitors. And making sure your booking engine and website work in harmony will make the guests’ booking experience that much easier, while also ensuring it looks trustworthy to those who may be unfamiliar with booking online.

Make it SEO-friendly

With so much competition, it’s vital a hotel website is SEO-optimised. Online bookings are all about visibility. And you can do all the work you want on your booking system, but if potential guests can’t find you online, then it’s all for nothing.

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Booking Engine

Attracting visitors to your website is just half the battle; keeping them there is the real test. More challenging than you may think, how a website is built can make or break your hotel. There are fundamental dos and don’ts when it comes to a hotel website and a hotel reservation system – all of which are not abundantly clear from the get-go. So what does cause customers to run from your site and what can you do to stop this from happening?

A complex booking processes

A hotel reservation system should be simple to navigate and even easier to complete from a guest perspective. Even the savviest computer users will not want to sift through lengthy instructions and steps to confirm their booking; they want a simple, hassle-free and fast process that gives them what they want so they can move on to the next thing. Few of us want to spend ages filling in tedious forms and forcing guests to register before they can make a reservation or failing to offer social media log-in further complicates matters.

To overcome the prospect of turning guests off, do some testing and ask for feedback. If any of the users say it has taken too long to confirm a booking, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Don’t be afraid to perform formal A/B testing and change small elements to measure the impact on booking confirmations.

Hidden charges

You need to be transparent with your pricing as hidden costs are one of the biggest turn-offs for guests. After all, guests don’t want to arrive at the payment screen only to find the price has increased from what was advertised. To help avoid this, it’s important to keep things simple. Adding tax, VAT etc. afterwards is confusing for guests, so to streamline the process you need to advertise one, final figure and keep this consistent throughout. Likewise, if you offer any add-ons such as cancellation cover, they should be clearly displayed and easy to select or deselect.

Online Payment

Few or no reviews

Websites like TripAdvisor have made reviews a must for travellers. In fact, the first port of call for many guests, before they even think about parting with their money, are recent reviews. Should your website not boast a selection of impartial reviews you could be missing out on countless potential guests. The best way to highlight these is to have a dedicated area on your site and feature positive reviews on key call-to-action pages in order to evoke confidence in your services. It’s also an idea to include the recognisable TripAdvisor logo and score on your website, as well as any accolades won.

Zero personalisation

Guests that come back time and time again will want to feel valued. And a vital part of good digital marketing for hotels is personalisation. Creating a dedicated area for returning guests or introducing a rewards system not only encourages them to return by offering personalised deals and preferences, but also provides optimum insights for the hotelier. This can all help when it comes to understanding guests’ changing behaviour.

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Booking Engine

The amount of money you spend to attract each guest making a booking has a direct impact on the profitability of your hotel. To keep profit at an optimal level, the cost of booking acquisition must be carefully managed and the distribution process strategically optimised.

With the addition of new distribution channels, such as online travel agents (OTAs), managing the cost of customer acquisition becomes a trickier prospect. Read on for four ways that you can work with your hotel marketing agency and maximise your use of your hotel internet booking engine to keep booking acquisition costs at a profitable level.

Think mobile first

If you don’t have a hotel marketing agency on board, or your current agency hasn’t prioritised a mobile first mindset and balanced this with a revenue management focus, it’s time to have a conversation. Mobile is the most important trend in digital marketing and absolutely vital to distribution. More travellers than ever before are researching travel plans from mobile devices. With mobile internet use growing, this is trend will only get bigger.

However, the cost of optimising for mobile, including the investment needed to create a mobile responsive version of your hotel internet booking engine, can and should raise a red flag when considering the profitability of booking acquisition. Conversion on mobile devices is still lower than that of desktops, making it harder to stay profitable. Some experts suggest the best strategy to keep booking acquisition costs at an acceptable level is to use a mobile app to facilitate room reservation and easy booking.

Use loyalty programs to generate repeat bookings

You can offset the initial cost of booking acquisition with the use of hotel loyalty programmes. Use a rewards scheme to turn new customers into repeat guests and the cost of acquisition is then offset against several stays. Engendering loyalty means those guests may also book direct next time in order to earn the loyalty reward rather than via an OTA. In this way, a loyalty program can turn those new customers into high-value guests by driving direct booking increases.

Growth Analysis

The loyalty program rewards don’t have to be costly – offering perks not available elsewhere which don’t have an impact on profitably makes this an even more attractive option. Early check ins or late checkouts for example can be enough to convince the guest to book directly and benefit from the loyalty program when they are otherwise agnostic about whether they use your own direct channels or more costly (to you) OTAs.

Consider channel management

Effective channel management is vital to keep booking acquisition costs at an acceptable and profitable level. A variety of distribution channels, optimised to suit the nature of your hotel and its customers, is imperative. Knowing which channels perform best for each hotel is the first step. You’ll also need to set targets and determine what the cost of acquisition for each channel is. Request data such as the cost per conversion from pay per click advertising from your hotel marketing agency to build a complete picture. From there, you can assign a spend per channel and test your channel mix until you find the sweet spot for your booking acquisition costs goals.

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Booking Engine

Corporate clients spent an eye-watering $1300bn on travel in 2016. The Global Business Travelers Association expects this to grow by 6% by 2020. If you aren’t making the most of this opportunity to grow your corporate client business, read on for four ways you can boost hotel bookings from this section of the consumer base.

Highlight relevant features on landing pages

Tailoring your hotel features to answer corporate travel needs is the first way to boost bookings.. An executive giving a presentation on Monday, for example, is likely to need reliable, fast Wi-Fi in order to get their presentation in order and dry-cleaning services so they can spend more time working. Other hoteliers will incorporate features such as this into their marketing hotels strategies, so you should to.

Another area to focus on is fitness. Many of the most high-achieving businessmen and women take their health very seriously and are unlikely to book anywhere that doesn’t have a gym with all the facilities and equipment necessary for them to keep up their workout routine whilst they’re away. What’s more, many corporate clients will want to get back to work as soon as their meeting or presentation is over. Why not accommodate this by offering shuttle transport to and from the airport and local meeting venues? Organizing transport is one of the last things that corporate clients will want to spend their time sorting out and doing it for them is something they’ll appreciate greatly.

Make sure corporate-friendly features such as these are clearly stated on your website. Having a dedicated landing page for corporate traveller’s means you can personalise the content further and really maximise business-friendly hotel features.

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Offer flexible check-ins

Flexibility is a big draw for corporate travellers. Many will have presentations or meetings at irregular times of the day yet still want a period of time to freshen up, prepare their work or get a few hours’ sleep before they leave again. Why not incorporate a flexible check-in option into your hotel booking engine for website? Being able to accommodate the main purpose for travel by working around guest needs is an easy way to win more corporate bookings. Don’t be afraid to shout about this option on your corporate travel landing pages, highlight it in LinkedIn posts and consider making it more of a feature on your booking engine for business travellers

Reward loyalty

Your corporate clients will be going back to the office after they’ve stayed with you, and one way to guarantee you’ll get good word-of-mouth coverage is by rewarding them for their stay. Providing loyalty benefits to returning corporate clients means that Both the guest and their company are likely to consider your hotel brand for future bookings.

Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world’s biggest professional network and offers a plethora of opportunities for boosting your corporate bookings. If you haven’t yet made LinkedIn a core part of your marketing hotels strategies for business bookings, now is the time to investigate how you can make more of this channel. Try joining relevant groups and sharing useful content and tips, create tailored corporate travel updates and network, network, network.

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Booking Engine

Your hotel’s guest cancellation policy is one of the unsung weapons in winning over more direct bookings. This is a crucial tool in helping you to effectively and efficiently manage your room inventory but, finding the right balance between a suitable window for cancellation and being overly tight with that window or having too strict a policy can put guests off booking.

In some cases, the cancellation policy can be a deciding factor for guests choosing between two hotels of a similar price and amenities. In effect, this means those hotels that fail to strike the right balance could easily lose direct bookings to competitors.

This is something of a hot topic in the hotel industry currently as a number of the bigger chain hotel groups have recently taken moves to tighten up their cancellation rules. In the USA in particular, larger hotel brands have moved to invoke tighter policies with stricter terms for guest cancellation in recent months. The fuel behind this change in policy is the hope that less lenient cancellation terms will allow the accommodation to leverage better control over guestroom inventory.

Hotel brands including Marriot, Hilton, InterContinental and Hyatt have all changed their cancellation policies this year. The most common change has been to move from the standard 24-hour window to a 48-hour window.

Hilton says it made the move initially because of a huge increase in last minute cancellations. With last minute cancellations, especially at higher volumes, managing room inventory becomes more difficult and the costs get passed along the chain, until guests end up paying a higher price. The hotel group says requiring guests to notify them of a change in plans earlier has cost-saving benefits. In some areas, it is looking to increase the cancellation policy even further, to 72-hours.

hotel-room

Marriot took similar steps in June, and increased its cancellation policy to 48-hours at its hotels in the Americas and says consumer response has been largely positive.

In New York, cancellations average 30-40% in the height of the summer months, with these last minute changes having an impact on revenue, occupancy and other bookings. It’s a similar story elsewhere, but, independent hotel brands disagree with the moves by their larger rivals and, say that they prefer to maintain a more flexible policy.

Industry sources say that independent accommodation providers are more inclined to build flexibility into their cancellation policies. Some brands say that they take a property-by-property approach rather than having a blanket cancellation policy in place. This allows each accommodation to better serve the needs of its guests.

Some independent hotel managers say that they don’t want to follow in the footsteps of bigger brands and insist guests cancel 48- or 72-hours before their stay to avoid having to pay the cost of the room because they don’t want to upset guests or give them reasons to go elsewhere.

While some recognize that more stringent cancellation policies allow for better room management and business forecasting, guest communication is key. Each hotel’s policy needs to reflect its business model and the reasons guests choose that property over rivals. In some instances, it’s more beneficial to speak to the client and ascertain the reason for cancellation and move the booking if possible to retain that business.

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Booking Engine

New research has found that most hotel apps are not considered useful or essential – meaning guests are less likely to use them or are prone to delete them after downloading.

The research was carried out by L2 Inc, a business intelligence consultancy. It reviewed 311 hotel brand apps before concluding that there is a huge gap in the hotel app experience.

L2 found that very few hotel apps are ranked within the App Store’s list of top travel apps. The review found that most hotel apps were also infrequently updated, with many not updated at all so far this year. Only 14% of the hotel apps reviewed were ranked within the top 1500 of their native categories. More than half of hotel apps – 54% – had not been updated in the last 12 months.

What’s worse news for hotel marketers is that hotels are frequently missing the mark when it comes to offering useful, engaging in-app experiences. The majority of apps were found to only allow users to message their hotel’s concierge or make a reservation.

This means most accommodation providers with an app for their hotel were missing out on more engaging and immersive functionality. 43% of hotel apps miss the grade when it comes to rating as a core app – an app that permits users to carry out one of three core functions; in-stay services, loyalty connections.  and booking. A meagre 6% of all hotel apps got it right and enabled app users to do all three.

mobile-apps

The overwhelming message from the survey findings is that hotel marketers must do better. The current status quo is that hotel app functionality is basic, with a minimum level of user friendliness built up, with other features overlooked. Even larger brands fail to get it right.

While this may, on the face of it, be disheartening for independent hotel and accommodation providers, it actually points to an opportunity to offer superior mobile app experiences. This by default means offering better guest experiences and, means those competing on smaller budgets can more than match larger chains when it comes to offering mobile users what they want – and expect – from a travel app.

One of the biggest opportunities identified by L2 is for hotel apps to better serve loyal client sand reward that loyalty within the app itself. One industry commenter says the fact so many apps fail to incorporate loyalty rewards is a huge missed opportunity, ““If you look at all the things that hotels have been doing to get more loyalty members and get them to book direct, why aren’t they trying to engage those members through their apps? These are some concerning numbers here.”

What can your hotel do to improve its app experience?

Placing the user front and centre is key to offering an improved hotel all experience. Incorporate as much functionality as possible, going beyond a reservation or message system to allow for other useful, helpful features. Building in loyalty capabilities is non-negotiable if you want to increase guest retention, repeat booking and direct booking. Consider also features such as check in from the app, social media sharing and travel add-on ordering such as excursions, experiences and in-room or in-hotel dining.

Get in touch with the Digital Hotelier team to discuss how our experts can help you take your hotel app to the next level with better capability and more user-friendly functionality.

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