Booking a flight, hotel, rental car, tour, dinner reservation, and more has never been easier in this day and age. Not only should it be easy for your guest to book a stay with you, your booking engine should have several standard features and functionality to compete with the OTAs.
It can be fun to have a unique online booking engine but if it’s too unfamiliar to guests, it could deter guests from completing the reservation as it’s a new process or doesn’t feel as trustworthy.
Want to compare your hotel booking engine against common best practices? We’ve outlined several online booking engine must-haves:
- Themed: Your website and booking engine should have a seamless transition. Your guest should feel they are still on the same site and that the website booking engine matches the look and feel of your website. Along these lines, your availability should be prominently displayed and the option to book a reservation should be shown on every page of your site.
- Progress bar: Have you ever made a reservation somewhere and you have no idea what step you’re on or how many more pages you have to go through to complete the reservation? It’s frustrating and can be a reason people abandon their reservation. Either consolidate the process or show a progress bar along the top that tells the guest they are on step two of three.
- Display: A pain point for many guests is when they put in a date they want to stay but the first units displayed are unavailable. That doesn’t help them and that certainly doesn’t help you secure their booking. Always have your available units display first and then unavailable units at the bottom. If the guest wants a particular room, they’ll work around the availability but if a guest doesn’t have a room preference they’ll be frustrated at having to do extra work to find a room that is available.
- Images: We’ve talked a lot in other blogs about representative imagery and strong visuals to showcase your property. Use the high quality room photos in your booking engine to reaffirm the guest’s choice in the room they’ve selected. You may also want to use amenity images to help sell packages or add-ons, such as a flute of champagne sitting along the edge of the bathtub so when they get to the POS section, they might be more included to add the champagne package.
- Descriptions: Descriptions and room names must, must, must be consistent! You don’t want to confuse a potential guest by describing a room one way on your website and then in the booking engine have a truncated and non-descriptive representation of your room. You may also want to list out the amenities with your descriptions to remind the guest of the benefits they’ll enjoy during their stay.
- Filters: A popular trend for booking engines is having amenity or price point filters installed so guests can find a room that suits their needs quickly. Maybe they want pet-friendly, a room that accommodates three, and a deep spa tub in the bathroom. Being able to select amenities that will enhance their stay can help the guest find the right room at your hotel.
- Featured promotions: We all like saving money and everyone enjoys getting a special discount or deal when it comes to travel. Featuring promotional rates will also help guests book directly with you than booking on Expedia or Travelocity and it’ll help save you time on answering calls about promotional rates and allow you to get back to checking in/out guests.
- Policies: Clearly display any policies or cancellation policy your property has. The more informed your guests are about your reservations and process, the more comfortable they’ll be in booking with you. Be careful with this step and keep it simple, you don’t want to scare off a potential guest because the policies are too wordy or worse, there’s too many of them to read. The last thing you want is for a guest to back out on the last step.
- Point of sale: Have Point of Sale (POS) items available on your booking engine so guests can add flowers, a bottle of wine, or a welcome basket to their reservation easily. Why wait for the guest to arrive to let them know about the great packages or add-ons when you can upsell these items and the guest will have everything taken care of when they finish their reservation.
- Trust components: Have security certificates or features display during the booking process so your guest feels secure putting in credit card and sensitive information.
Want more in-depth information on what the booking process looks like for traveler? Click through our webinar on "Understanding the Guest Experience" or watch the video recording here.
Now that you know what your booking engine should have, do a test run of a reservation and see how your hotel’s booking engine compares. What features do you think are most important to your guests?