Need a quick intro into hotel booking engines? Or, perhaps just a refresher and some features you should have with your booking engine? In this blog we’ll cover what a booking engine is, how it works, why you need one for your independent property, and some standard features that benefit both you and your guests.
What is a booking engine?
Your booking engine is a system that communicates with your PMS to display real-time inventory and availability of your rooms for guests that want to book conveniently online. It then takes direct online reservations from guests and communicates with your Property Management System (PMS) to update your occupancy map and reservation details. Many booking engines also have connections with other apps like Facebook or other third party sites to take direct bookings.
How does it work?
Like any software or system, your booking engine will need some data about your property like room rates, room photos and descriptions, add-ons or packages, availability, and more.
Then, your booking engine is setup and added to your website. Depending on the booking engine you choose, it could be connected to a channel manager to update inventory on all your channels or it could be tied to your PMS to update your occupancy map and all other channels simultaneously as bookings come in.
Why do I need one?
Unless you want to have a staff member by the phone 24/7 or defer to paying the OTAs high commissions, an online booking engine is an essential part of bringing in direct revenue through your own website.
Basic features for your booking engine
- Themed: Guests should feel like they’re not being redirected to a whole new site to complete their booking. Your booking engine should be on a page that’s consistently themed and colored like your website.
- Secure: Similar to the point above, your booking engine should be secure with an https: designation or SSL certificate so you guests feel like their credit card information is safe.
- Options for calendar display: Your booking engine provider should offer a few options when it comes to how you display your availability. Whether it’s a weekly calendar or a monthly display. Other calendar options would include a quick booking widget on every page of your website or unique calendars displayed on individual room pages on your website.
- Multiple rates: Your booking engine should highlight different rates for different guests! You should be able to show your rack rate and your AAA rate if you have one so guests are sure they’re getting the best rate out there.
- Promo codes: Want to give your returning guests a discount? Make it easy with adding promo codes in the booking engine so they can make the reservations themselves instead of having to call the property to take advantage of the discount.
- Photos/descriptions: Guests might forget the layout of the room they were just looking at before clicking that “reserve now” button. Make it easy by adding good photos and strong descriptions in your booking engine so they don’t abandon their reservation.
- Amenity filters: Have units with private hot tubs, fireplaces, or are pet-friendly? If you use amenity filters, your guests can find their perfect room that much faster than reading through every room description.
- Packages and POS: Finally, your booking engine should be able to offer Point of Sale items and packages to enhance your guests’ stay and increase their order’s value.
- Terms and conditions: Having a section for terms and conditions minimizes legal risk and ensures you and your guests are clear on the enforced policies and expectations during their stay.