Your hotel website booking engine is a key element in achieving more direct bookings and maximising conversion. It allows you to securely process reservations through your hotel website.
While there is a wide variety of choices in booking engines, the focus needs to be on technology that aligns with your hotel’s requirements, approach and ease of deployment, support and integration with other hotel technologies.
The booking engine needs to be able to integrate easily with your website content management system and have the ability to connect to your central reservation system (if part of a multiple property portfolio), channel manager and property management system. This is required to ensure consistent rates, availability and inventory to be available across all your distribution channels. It also ensures a seamless flow of reservations and for any changes including cancellations to be updated in real-time.
Aside from some of the core requirements around connectivity and integrations, the booking engine you choose should address the following requirements:
Easy booking flow
Easy booking flow and keeping the number of steps to a bare minimum is critical to conversion. Until a few years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that you had to provide a whole bunch of upsell possibilities as part of the process. The current wisdom based on evidence shows that this is not the best time to offer more than maybe one offer along this path – and to use upsell technologies that offer a way to do this after the booking has been made and before arrival.
Fast load time in multiple browsers
As different browsers are popular with users in different geographical locations, ensure that the booking engine works equally well across different browsers – especially as relevant to your source markets.
The booking engine should provide a native mobile experience with an increasing number of bookers choosing to complete the reservations on their mobile. It should work equally well on tablets.
The booking engine needs to be able to integrate easily with your website content management as well as 3rd party systems like channel managers.
As this is a core aspect of the booking process, ensure that you choose a provider that is able to handle multiple types of payment options as well as currencies that cater to the way customers in your source markets would like to pay.
It should be easy for you to add and change offers and packages quickly. Also, check the booking engine’s ability to display strike through rates to show the guest how much they can save. These enjoy a higher click-through rate and better conversion.
Visuals and descriptive content
Check that the booking engine allows you to include high-quality visuals and descriptions of each room type. This is also another key contributor to conversion.
The booking engine should be able to display the total price payable and the components are broken down. This has become increasingly important with new legislation in the UK and Europe now mandating this. The ability to sort by price, best deal etc is also important.
Ensure that the booking engine can be easily customised to align with your brand identity and brand elements.
Ideally, you need your booking engine to allow you to nudge bookers along the booking journey with some urgency messages. This needs to be done accurately not to mislead customers as this has also been at the forefront of accusations against OTAs recently.
If you are looking to attract guests from certain countries, your booking engine should be able to support those country languages. In the ideal scenario, this needs to match with the translated language content on your website.
Bookers should feel secure through the booking process as they will be parting with personal and financial information. The booking engine you choose should have adequate internet safety and data protection protocols and be PCI DSS certified.
Ease of use/training
Ensure that the booking engine is user-friendly for hotel teams and management to use and navigate with minimal training needs. The more intuitive it is, the better.
Ensure that the company you choose has a good reputation for support. Review the timelines and support infrastructure to ensure it meets your hotel needs. While booking engine technologies are usually quite robust, you may want to pay additional attention to integration with other parties. Equally, there may need to be some joined-up working between your booking engine provider and your website host/support.
Check the uptime standards for your preferred booking engine. This needs to be factored in as your online business is open 24/7.
The booking engine is one part of your hotel’s online distribution infrastructure and should be factored into your cost of sale by channel. With a wide variety of options, booking engines are cost-effective but it is important to ensure that it fits in with the overall strategy. Although tempting, try to avoid commission-based models, as that tends to increase your overall cost of the direct channel.
Reporting & Analytics
Your booking engine should provide insights into your hotel’s performance to help maximise revenue and yield into the future. Read more about the possibilities here.