technology, hospitality, and plumbing…

What to look for in a hotel booking engine?

In General on August 4, 2010 at 20:57

What to look for in a hotel Booking EngineMost hotels need to make a choice about a 3rd-party booking engine at some stage, unless they’re part of a medium to large chain: most users expect to be able to make a booking online in realtime, so having a contact form is often not enough. There is so much choice in 3rd-party booking engines, not just in functionality, but also in business model. Clients often ask for advice in this crucial area. Here are a few considerations.

How much will it cost?

This is a big one. Some of the booking engines on the market take a monthly fee, most make a per-booking charge. The cost, at the volumes you are likely to expect in the first 3o months, should be checked beforehand. In addition, you should make sure that the funds can be dumped in your bank account in the correct currency, to avoid charges (this is often an unexpected cost when a hotel or resort is in one country, and the booking engine provider is in another).

How will it integrate with your website?

The simplest (and most cost effective) way of adding a booking engine is to open a new window, taking the user to the booking engine site, which may or may not be customised to the look and feel of your hotel site. The downsides to this are that there is a popup window (which are blocked in some browsers), and a different domain (which can confuse users). It also sends a signal to the user that the hotel is small, which is fine if you are small, but for example a potential customer of a large business hotel may expect the hotel to have its own booking engine. Some sites integrate the booking engine in a frame within the main hotel site, which reduces the disconnect that users often feel going to a different site, but can have their own usability issues. The best solutions will allow you to integrate more fully with your own site, but this will be a more costly solution, involving adjustments made to the code of your website, and is not generally a trivial exercise.

How will it integrate with your business?

Does this require separate management, with staff manually entering allotment, rates, and packages? Or does it integrate with your existing PMS? This will largely be a question of cost, but it is worth thinking about. Will it allow you to put online your most effective packages (you may be surprised that hoteliers often complain that they can’t add their bestseller on the booking engine because of some technical limitation or lack of a necessary feature).

How usable is it?

Usability is the key issue with booking engines, as you need to convert as many people as possible from visitors to bookers. Very often, marketers send a lot of traffic to booking engines, only to see their efforts wasted by poor usability. When looking at the booking engine, try to imagine it from the customer’s perspective, and what their experience will be: how easy is it to browse rates for a particular period? (Generally only business travellers know their exact date of travel.) How easy is it to change dates, or see how much it will cost to get a different room type? How well is the process signposted, so that the user has confidence when entering the process?

These questions will help you make a more informed choice. In a later post, we’ll look at some of the options available on the market.

Anthony Green – August 2010

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  1. […] 4. a.nthonygreen.com Meet and Contact the Blogger: Anthony Green Follow Anthony on Twitter Recent Highlight: What to Look for in a Hotel Booking Engine? […]

  2. I wrote a post about booking engines as well. The importance of choosing your booking engine is vital. It can be make or break. From a quick study of the navigation trends of users they spend more time on the booking engine than on the site itself.
    So possibility to show large images, fast and simple navigation and of course ease of updating are essential points as well.
    http://hospitalitymarketingonline.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/booking-engines-more-important-than-you-think/

  3. i have found this website http://www.upbooking.com and it seems to be a completely free booking engine

    • Interesting Marcos, thanks. I’m not sure if this is a commercial solution or a work in progress – there isn’t any detail about who is behind this, the data and privacy safeguards, etc. Also the demo site, hidden away a little, doesn’t have SSL (https) enabled for security when you get to the credit card stage.

      The interface looks promising though.

      Do you know any more about it?

  4. I contacted them, it’s a Spanish startup. It seems that they are working hard on it, their intention is to give it for free forever and eventually to offer advanced services at low cost.

    They have SSL support, if you click on the example you can see that the booking engine is over HTTPS.

    I opened an account, and yes, it’s all free, anyway there is more work to do and the website is changing daily.

    Really interesting.

  5. Thanks for the follow-up Marcos, you’re right, it’s interesting. Let us know how it goes with using it as a booking solution.

  6. Great information here guys, has anybody seen cloud technology integrated into this process? We answer a lot of the concerns as well as the benefits associated with this sort of technology in our blog at http://blog.hotelogix.com/. To date, what are some of your favorite online booking systems? We see you’ve noted multiple points for picking the right engine, although few of them have everything.

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