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Booking Engine

In many ways, it’s very much in the interests of a hotelier to shift away from relying on online travel agents (OTAs) for the booking of their hotel rooms. Not only does dependency on such third-parties ensure you lack control over bookings, but inevitably it also means you have to share the profits – OTAs will always require a cut of the revenue generated from bookings.

It also means a hotelier lacks full flexibility over booking practices; putting in place seasonal promotions, special offers and the lIn many ways, it’s very much in the interests of a hotelier to shift away from relying on online travel agents (OTAs) for the booking of their hotel rooms.ike are more restricted – such deals always have to be arranged with the third-party in mind, often via pre-existing agreements. In short, unless you deploy a reliable, bespoke booking engine that users can click-through to from your website, as a hotelier you’re not free to make your property’s rooms available to guests exactly as you might want; you’re not free to set your room rates in the genuine best interests of your business.

And yet, there are nonetheless some benefits to using OTAs as booking vendors for your business. Traditionally, there hasn’t been a way to combine and harness both these benefits and the many generated by using a booking engine… until now. With the example of such reservation systems for hotels that’s Booking Direct, the highly flexible hotel website booking engine built and delivered by Digital Hotelier, that prospect is now a reality. But, in these terms, just what does it deliver a hotelier…?

Corporate bookings

One area that OTAs have a particular track record for successfully delivering on for hoteliers is in the multiple-booking field of corporate reservations. Taking the example set by OTAs and very much running with it then, Booking Direct is so designed that, should a hotelier require it, the provision of effectively and efficiently handling multiple bookings for corporate clients direct (and through an agent) can be built-in. How so? Well, unique log-ins enable not just the display of personalised welcome messages, but also specific searches that automatically return pre-negotiated corporate/ agent rates.

online-booking

Credit facility

Additionally, Booking Direct’s advanced invoicing functionality can enable both corporate clients and agents, should they desire it, to make reservations and/ or purchase inventory on credit (which will then be automatically invoiced for the hotelier), as well as edit/ cancel bookings according to policy agreements and deliver other functions too, such as the ability to share reviews.

Confirmation voucher

Should a hotelier be using a bespoke room reservation system but still engaging the services of an OTA, another area in which they’ll require flexibility is brand definition – at least, as far as the purchaser (the accommodation guest) is concerned. If they’ve booked through an agent, it must appear as such in terms of the communications they receive. To that end, Booking Direct enables the viewing and downloading of a confirmation voucher – from the OTA to the end client – specifically comprising details of the OTA as the sender. Should the brand definition break down at any step of the customer journey, it could leave the customer questioning their trust in the booking process and, thus, jeopardise the journey’s completion.

Constant communication

When you’re running a number of different hotels and/ or apartments, communication is absolutely key. Not just (as noted) with your paying guests, but all interested parties – and that includes agents you may be involved with in the reservation process. As before, Booking Direct comes into its own here; the reservation engine ensuring that, should a hotelier wish the flexibility of still working with an OTA, particular functionality ensures agents can simply, swiftly and without fuss liaise and remain in good communication with properties at every step of the booking process – and beyond.

So, should you wish to deploy a booking engine to liberate your business’s reservation process, but also wish to retain the advantages of OTA-associated bookings, the solution has to be seeking out a flexible enough reservation system to deliver a bespoke service. In fact, you may come to the conclusion that your business need look no further than Booking Direct.

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Booking Engine
Every hotelier and hospitality marketer wants their offering to be engaging for customers in order to ensure revenue goals and reservation targets are met. However, the ways in which we define and measure engagement through online channels is both an art and a science. If you’re able to understand the importance of engagement and crack how to measure it, ultimately you can use this metric to help your hotel confirm more bookings and even increase the basket value of each booking.

First Things First, What is Engagement?
Pinning the exact factors which define online engagement with your hotel brand down can be a difficult task. A study by TripAdvisor found that common markers of hotel engagement included review quantity and quality, enticing photo and video content, and other factors which provoke booking enquiries and help fuel clicks through to a hotel’s official website and its own booking engine.

Why Does It Matter?
Online engagement and its effect upon hotel bookings and revenue is a key consideration for modern hotel managers. Why? It’s simple, engagement is a measure of interest. According to one study, making a positive impression online really does boost both occupancy and higher rate capacity, which is great news for hoteliers ready to take on the challenges of engaging with their customer base. If you can get your social media fans and email marketing recipients to interact with your content, they are much more likely to check our your hotel website booking engine and become a guest further down the line.

hotel-website-engagement

How Can You Improve Your Hotel’s Engagement?
The engagement process doesn’t have to begin and end with the online space. Whilst social media pages and online review portals are both significant aspects of the engagement process, simply providing a more personalised experience for your hotel guests can lay the ground work for a positive review or social media comment as well as more bookings via your hotel website booking engine.

Quick ways to boost engagement:
A recent study found that hotel guests who were engaged during their stay were some 40% more likely to revisit than those who felt they were left to fend for themselves, so why not indulge in some on-site engagement? Use locational marketing tools to trace social media activity surrounding your hotel. Search for hashtags relevant to your hotel and respond to posts while your customers are still staying with you to provide a truly proactive approach to engagement.

Highly engaged hotels generate more reviews, and with the continued dominance of online review sites to help influence hotel bookings, hotels with more reviews also generate more revenue. The most highly engaged hotels respond to a baseline of 25% of guest reviews overall, providing a helpful blueprint on how to win guests and continued goodwill.

While many of today’s younger hotel guests favour digital communication methods, be prepared to engage with your customers online, in person and through your CRM and social media for the best results for each hotel guest segment.
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Booking Engine
With the rise of multi-channel marketing opportunities, hotels have increasingly varied channels for generating online bookings. Your website should be central amongst these methods, as the hub of all hotel-related activity and the home of your hotel website booking engine. How can you ensure that among your hotel distribution channels, your website is the strongest tool? Read on to find out a few key actions to take to make this a reality.

Understand Your Target Market
Understand that different market segments have different requirements, different types of web browsing and both online and offline methods of booking accommodation. Decide which particular market or markets you are seeking to target, and take a proactive approach to selecting relevant hotel distribution channels. This will help you optimise your marketing to suit each audience type at different stages of the buyer journey. Early bookings are often generated directly from your website booking engine, whilst late bookings may be more difficult to plan for, but often result in higher revenue.

Use SEO to Your Advantage
It’s vital to ensure your website stands out from the competition. Establishing a solid SEO strategy will help you to generate not only traffic, but the right sort of traffic, to your website – and maximize booking potential for the future. Consider taking out paid social advertising or PPC (pay per click) at key times of the year to drive an increase in room reservations.

SEO

Optimise Your Social Networks
Ensuring you consistently engage with your customers via your social channels is one of the best ways to achieve the trust and repeat custom of those who have a vested interest in your accommodation. If they’ve followed you on social media, they already know a little about you and are interested in either making a first time booking or a repeat visit. Either way, this is a great way of building the sort of brand loyalty which leads to both outcomes.

Build Your Direct Booking Strategy
Focusing on direct bookings should be a central facet of your hotel distribution channel strategy. There are many reasons for this, including alleviating your reliance on online travel agents and third-party websites. There is also the potential for far greater profit margins as a result of removing the hefty commission these channels often require in return for publishing your hotel. Ensuring your website is fully optimised for handling bookings of all kinds – with a mobile friendly design– will go a long way towards preventing loss of business due to poor usability.

Keep Your Booking Engine Simple
Your booking engine should be fully integrated into your existing web design. Whilst ‘add-ons’ and customization of bookings is great, the overall effect should be easy to use and crucially, secure. Let user experience drive all of your efforts to create a solid online presence which places your website at the very forefront of your efforts.
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Booking Engine
A booking engine for your hotel’s website – or the sites of your several hotels – shouldn’t just provide a smooth customer journey for users. That’s a given. A high-performing booking engine should provide more; it should be retaining and upselling to guests committed to making a reservation. The question is, how?

Dynamic features to retain customers
Just like popular, impressively performing websites, effective reservation systems for hotels can’t be passive. To that end, it’s imperative that a booking engine is proactive in retaining customers. If a room desired by a visitor simply isn’t available, then it should be the booking engine’s job to ensure they don’t leave the site, but are instead offered an alternative. By way of example, Digital Hotelier’s reservation system solution, Booking Direct, features a comprehensive price comparison function that’s been designed precisely for this purpose.

Moreover, the likes of strike-through pricing and periodic prompts aren’t just informative for the customer but also effective at nudging behaviour, as they generate a sense of urgency and enhance conversion. Indeed, they complement active room listings because, conversely, these reassure the user, along with value messaging and social endorsement. Any booking engine worth its salt should include these features.

And, while we’re at it, we shouldn’t forget promo codes and voucher codes. Booking Direct can be set up to pre-populate a field with rate/ promotional codes pre-existing in a hotel’s Property Management System (PMS), while voucher codes are also possible for loyal guests, enabling them to enjoy relevant discounts come the check-out page.

Nor should we discount the importance of multiple language options (easing the booking process for non-English speakers) or multiple currency options (enabling users to check room rates in the currency they’re most familiar with and from wherever they hail). All in all, these intuitive features should be incorporated into a reservation system because they actively reduce friction on the path to purchase. They combine to form a powerful package for retaining users during the customer journey.

Hotel booking engine
Upselling opportunities
Once it’s ensured a user isn’t going anywhere and will complete the customer journey, a strong booking engine’s job is pretty much done, right? All it must do now is function smoothly through to check-out. That’s absolutely what many a booking engine will do. But a booking engine that offers something extra – quite literally – does more; it goes the extra mile. Booking Direct, for example, is a hotel website booking engine designed with upselling in mind; the capacity to offer and entice a user with something beyond their intended purchase.

Indeed, such a reservation system is deliberately set up to increase revenue thanks to its intelligent user experience design (UX) and persuasive prompting. It aims to generate higher value bookings via upgrade options in the customer check-out area – for instance, intuitive ‘personal’ touches for the guest’s stay (which may persuade them to extend it) like fresh flowers on arrival, chocolates and champagne for a special occasion or, say, a choice of pillows.

A smart, comprehensive booking engine like this can also be tailored to ‘special offer’ rate plans and package offers; from specific pages, the user can scroll through various rate plans and packages and select accordingly. Perhaps they’ll be attracted by a particular package and so lengthen their stay? Mention should also be made of the automated option of pre-stay/ post-stay emails – tailored to the purchase just made or the stay just enjoyed at a hotel. They’re fantastic marketing tools to keep the hotel/guest relationship going – designed to increase the likelihood of repeat reservations, and in turn increasing the site’s conversion rate and incremental revenue.
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Digital Marketing
In a world where those looking for accommodation are willing to scour the web for the best deals and lowest prices, a rate comparison tool is an essential addition to your hotel website booking engine. Without a rate comparison tool, you could end up losing customers to OTAs like Booking.com or Hotels.com, which is sure to have an impact on your bottom line.

If you’re new to the world of rate comparison tools, or if you’re looking for a way to enhance usage of your new widget, here are some of the benefits of the tool, and tips on making the most of it.

Digital Marketing

The benefits of a rate comparison tool
  Your hotel will make more money by ensuring guests book with you directly, instead of OTAs.
•  Your guests will save plenty of time on each booking, knowing they won’t have to scour the web for the lowest price – they can get it directly from you!
  Rate comparison tools use real-time data to ensure your guests are always getting the most accurate data on prices.
  The tools are fully responsive and suitable for use on mobile devices – which is ideal when you consider that 38% of all travel purchases will be made on mobiles by next year.

Making the most of your comparison tool
The data collected by your rate comparison tool can be used in a multitude of ways. One great way to leverage this data to your own advantage is to use it to continuously assess your pricing strategy. If your competitors and OTAs are regularly far more expensive than your own rooms, consider increasing the prices slightly. You’ll remain the cheapest option by comparison, and your profit margin will increase.

When looking at your competitors’ rates and assessing your own, make sure to factor in things like seasonality, local events, promotions and other factors which may affect price.

Make sure, when you install your rate comparison tool, that you customise it to match the look and feel of your brand and website. The last thing you want is for the tool to stick out like a sore thumb and look like it’s from an external website. Align it with your branding for the best results.

With your comparison tool up and running, you’ll be generating a huge amount of data. You should be regularly analysing this data and the frequent reports you’ll be sent, in order to review your rate performance regularly.

You should also consider offering a price match service alongside your rate comparison tool. If a customer visiting your website finds that they can book your room for less on an OTA, invite them to call you directly for a price match. This won’t happen with every single booking, so you won’t find yourself having to reduce prices for the majority of guests, but it could help you sway a handful of guests each week who may have been tempted to book with an OTA.

Need a hotel website booking engine that will boost your conversions and help you secure those direct bookings? Get in touch with the Digital Hotelier team today.
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Booking Engine
In the last 10-15 years, digital technology has changed the face of business – Facebook, Twitter and smartphones are everywhere and, of course, the Internet itself is absolutely ubiquitous. In terms of the hospitality sector then, you won’t be surprised to learn the latest – and next – innovations are all digitally-driven; what’s important is to appreciate and accept the fact they’ll be upon us far sooner than we may expect. Digital innovation is accelerating faster and faster – the trick is to embrace it and reap the rewards…

Online Booking
 
Alternative lodging/ transport
There’s no doubt the highly successful alternative models for lodging and transport that are, respectively, Airbnb and Uber have shaken up the hospitality sector. And neither are going away any time soon – indeed, while the former may have stolen market share from traditional hotels, it seems its future lies in evolving into a kind of online travel agency. Fundamentally, though, business is about competition and evolution, so all companies in hospitality should look to these upstarts as inspiration – they’re both brilliant examples of how embracing digital technology can successfully streamline the booking and purchasing process. There are lessons to be learned there for all hotels.
 
Loyalty pricing
Talking of harnessing the possibilities offered by digital technology for booking and purchasing, the likes of loyalty pricing and online marketing (especially via search engine optimisation – SEO – and social media publicity) are combining into an ever more leverageable and lucrative method of bypassing the high commissions of online travel agencies (OTAs) and getting travellers to book directly with hotels themselves. For a long time, OTAs have had the booking process balanced in their favour, but now the scales are tipping – and by completing the process with an effective, user-friendly hotel website booking engine, individual hotels are fighting back and maximising booking revenues.
 
Self-check-in 
Yes, it’s an innovation that’s been around for a while now, but as the technology behind it is evolving, so the self-check-in process itself is becoming refined. While the vast majority of people who stay at hotels today have smartphones with them (yes, even if they’re getting away from it all on holiday!), thus can self-check-in that way, the likelihood is that in the near future tablet-based kiosks or ‘pods’ will replace formal front desks for check-in purposes. Moreover, using your smartphone to choose, book, check-in, unlock and lock your hotel room and control functionality in the room will sooner rather than later be a reality in many hotels throughout the world.
 
In-Room technology
Finally, as noted above, the amenities of hotel rooms are shifting ever more to becoming digital technology (‘functionality’) than featuring individual items. Now, that’s not to suggest that properties are going to stop offering an iron, tea and coffee-making facilities and, of course, a shower, but it’s quite possible that in many hotels a physical telephone in every room will be a thing of the past. Instead, the aforementioned functionality will enable you to use your smartphone, yes, smartly in its place.

With us already, though, are regular in-room entertainment updates. Guests increasingly expect to be able to access the same ‘TV’ options they can at home (nowadays that means getting into their Netflix account, for instance), while a present-day constant in a good number of hotel rooms is a tablet. Why? Because it enables a guest’s preferences, such as custom lighting, to be arranged before they check-in. Like it or not then, when it comes to digital innovations, you can’t fight the future – in fact, the future’s already here.
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Booking Engine
Anyone familiar with online business will be acutely aware that ecommerce never stops evolving. Neither do consumer trends. Indeed, the former influences and drives the latter – and vice versa. So what does the near future hold for ecommerce? Here are some predictions for what’ll be hot and not in 2017…

Hotel Booking Engine
 
Mobile besting desktop
A pretty safe bet to start off with, given that last autumn handheld devices overtook desktop/ PC as the preferred device-type for online access, while in the UK mobile also replaced desktop as the preferred method for Internet shopping (the former claiming 58.7% of purchases). It’s also believed that mobile-use will drive up ecommerce-derived revenue by more than half this year. Which is big news, whichever way you slice it.
 
Payment changes
Perhaps a less expected development in 2017 – at least among those not that familiar with ecommerce – is the likelihood alternative payment methods will carve out an ever larger market share. Why? Well, on the one hand consumers appear to feel increasingly unsure about card payment security, while on the other retailers are becoming ever more confident in the improving functionality and reliability of smart platforms like biometric security payments. In which case, alternative payment providers like PayPal, Google Wallet and Amazon Pay could well enjoy a bumper year. And yet, all that said, if you’re a hotelier it’s absolutely imperative to ensure your site’s properly kitted out with a high-quality, reliable hotel website booking engine ; without one you’re seriously missing out on direct bookings and payments – and all the non-OTA-derived revenues they bring.
 
The last waltz for last touch attribution
Nowadays, last touch attribution – the last click a customer makes on their journey to an online purchase – is rightly looked on as an unfair model for what’s (not) effective in a campaign. Ever evolving digital technology (we’re talking smarter and more nuanced algorithmic attribution models here) could well see 2017 spell the end for last touch attribution. Clearly, understanding the full user journey to purchase is what’s necessary; not just ascertaining the last step that got someone there. To that end, the attribution of each and every touchpoint in the process – right through contact to purchase – needs to be understood to give thorough and fair insight into the efficacy of a marketing campaign. Goodbye then, last touch attribution; hello, better analysis and improved understanding.
 
Pop-ups will check-out
Take 10 consumers and ask how many of them like pop-ups and you probably won’t be able to count the answer on either hand – because it’ll be zero. When it comes to the online experience, few things are as unpopular as pop-ups; so much do they irritatingly get in the way of content. They’re simply no longer an effective way to engage Internet users. In which case, their day has surely come, not least thanks to so many better, more sophisticated and less intrusive tools for onsite engagement and information. 2017 then may also see the death knell of the pop-up – and few will mourn its passing.
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