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Booking Engine

Your hotel’s guest cancellation policy is one of the unsung weapons in winning over more direct bookings. This is a crucial tool in helping you to effectively and efficiently manage your room inventory but, finding the right balance between a suitable window for cancellation and being overly tight with that window or having too strict a policy can put guests off booking.

In some cases, the cancellation policy can be a deciding factor for guests choosing between two hotels of a similar price and amenities. In effect, this means those hotels that fail to strike the right balance could easily lose direct bookings to competitors.

This is something of a hot topic in the hotel industry currently as a number of the bigger chain hotel groups have recently taken moves to tighten up their cancellation rules. In the USA in particular, larger hotel brands have moved to invoke tighter policies with stricter terms for guest cancellation in recent months. The fuel behind this change in policy is the hope that less lenient cancellation terms will allow the accommodation to leverage better control over guestroom inventory.

Hotel brands including Marriot, Hilton, InterContinental and Hyatt have all changed their cancellation policies this year. The most common change has been to move from the standard 24-hour window to a 48-hour window.

Hilton says it made the move initially because of a huge increase in last minute cancellations. With last minute cancellations, especially at higher volumes, managing room inventory becomes more difficult and the costs get passed along the chain, until guests end up paying a higher price. The hotel group says requiring guests to notify them of a change in plans earlier has cost-saving benefits. In some areas, it is looking to increase the cancellation policy even further, to 72-hours.

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Marriot took similar steps in June, and increased its cancellation policy to 48-hours at its hotels in the Americas and says consumer response has been largely positive.

In New York, cancellations average 30-40% in the height of the summer months, with these last minute changes having an impact on revenue, occupancy and other bookings. It’s a similar story elsewhere, but, independent hotel brands disagree with the moves by their larger rivals and, say that they prefer to maintain a more flexible policy.

Industry sources say that independent accommodation providers are more inclined to build flexibility into their cancellation policies. Some brands say that they take a property-by-property approach rather than having a blanket cancellation policy in place. This allows each accommodation to better serve the needs of its guests.

Some independent hotel managers say that they don’t want to follow in the footsteps of bigger brands and insist guests cancel 48- or 72-hours before their stay to avoid having to pay the cost of the room because they don’t want to upset guests or give them reasons to go elsewhere.

While some recognize that more stringent cancellation policies allow for better room management and business forecasting, guest communication is key. Each hotel’s policy needs to reflect its business model and the reasons guests choose that property over rivals. In some instances, it’s more beneficial to speak to the client and ascertain the reason for cancellation and move the booking if possible to retain that business.

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Booking Engine

With the challenge from online travel agents and the need to compete with competitors, the battle for direct bookings is one that is fought in multiple channels and across multiple customer touch points. While your digital marketing strategy is absolutely critical for pulling potential guests into your sales funnel and channelling them through your site to make a booking with you, your hotel website booking engine is the single most influential tool at your disposal for driving up RevPar from direct bookings.

The right booking engine makes the act of making a reservation a breeze. It reassures customers, instils trust, streamlines the process of making a booking and allies guest fears, needs and queries at each stage of the booking. It will allow for add-ons without complication, facilitate price comparison to ensure guests know they’re getting the best option for their budget and it will be accessible across mobile and desktop devices with no unnecessary form fields, multiple payment options and secure payment processing.

Get it wrong of course and you risk abandoned bookings and lost revenue. You may even erode customer confidence, cause guest uncertainty or send your hard-earned potential booking running in the direction of a direct competitor.

Here at Digital Hotelier, we know more than a few things about what makes a superior hotel website booking engine. We have poured all of this knowledge and know-how into our own hotel website booking engine product. If you aren’t using it yet and are failing to make the conversions that you need to achieve your direct booking and occupancy targets, read on to find out which five front-end features make our hotel website booking engine superior.

1. Price check feature

Our hotel website booking engine has a handy price check feature. This compares room prices across various channels and displays them in one place, in a customized widget on your website. This feature reassures users they should book directly without any time-consuming shopping around being necessary.

2. Power selling

We’ve built in strike-through pricing displays and periodic prompts to create a sense of urgency and compel an action in the form of a booking. Custom notifications are designed to enhance conversion. Active room listings also reassure, with value messaging and social endorsement to further nurture the booking and amp up your website’s sales performance.

booking-engine

3. Flexible stay options

Many travellers will want flexibility when browsing for a room and will often want to see prices displayed around their chosen dates. Our hotel website booking engine displays a +/- 3 days radio button which offers customers alternative stay dates if there is no availability on their requested dates. This added flexibility streamlines the search process for guests, making it more likely they’ll find a room the like, at a price within budget, quickly and easily, and encouraging conversion.

4. Calendar view availability

Display anything from a week’s worth to a year’s worth of live inventory with our clear and intuitive calendar view format. This is a great feature for extended stay guests and serviced apartment providers. It makes trip planning quick and easy and reduces the risk of booking abandonment.

5. Abandonment messaging

Our hotel website booking engine reduces basket abandonment with automatic messaging. As well as Price Check, a pop-up also prompts the customer to confirm either resuming the same booking on their return to the website, or starting a new booking. If an email address has been provided on the payment page, you can ask the customer to opt-in to email them so that they can continue their journey from a hyperlink within the email. This also gives you the option to tailor the messaging, for example by offering a cheaper price if applicable to their criteria.

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Booking Engine
A great hotel booking engine will help set your company up for increased direct bookings success and will play a considerable role in improving revenues per available room, client loyalty and SEO performance.
On the contrary, a booking engine or hotel reservation system which lacks key features or is poorly designed at either a UX or SEO level will have a detrimental effect on your ability to generate revenue from direct bookings. So, what are some of the key features a truly effective and user-experience-led booking engine must have? Read to find out and see how your existing booking engine for hotels measures up.

Rate Comparison Tools

One of the key features of a user friendly hotel reservation system is the ability for users to check they are getting the very best deal on their hotel stay. That means making rate comparison an easy task for guests who want to check they are getting the best deal before confirming their stay.
The rate comparison tool from Digital Hotelier has been proven to increase ROI for hotels, as well as reducing instances of abandoned purchases. This is an effective tactic for reducing lost bookings by incorporating an element of pre-booking reassurance that guests are getting the best deal for their money. The hugely advanced Digital Hotelier rate comparison tool even gives hoteliers and hotel marketers a chance to analyse their performance over time with an inbuilt, comprehensive analytics system. If you are seeking a way to increase direct bookings and bolster guest confidence at the end of the sales funnel, then a rate comparison tool is an absolutely essential user experience upgrade. online-booking-engine

Add-ons and Extras

A well-crafted booking engine for hotels must take into account not only the basic hotel reservation on offer, but also any additional add-ons and extras which can help customise your guests’ hotel stay. This serves to fuel greater interest in your offering and gives guests a sense of a more personalised and user friendly service.
Digital Hotelier’s booking engine for hotels offers this level of customisation as standard, allowing hoteliers to make the most of each and every opportunity to generate more revenue and make hotel guests’ stay that bit more special. Whether adding complimentary offers or upselling your rooms with the addition of meal deals or time-limited offers, the ideal hotel booking engine allows for all of these factors to be woven into the booking process with limited stress and disruption.
 

Seamless Integration

If your hotel booking engine looks distinctly different from the rest of your hotel website, this can be quite disorientating for visitors. The ideal, user-led hotel reservation system will take into account not only your users’ needs from a practical, information-led perspective, but aesthetically, too.  When designing a booking engine for hotels, the trust of your future hotel guests is paramount in truly optimising the experience – and ensuring they can book without the need to open new pages or visit a page which looks wholly different to the one they began their booking with is part of ensuring your hotel booking engine is in the best possible shape. Look for things such as identical URLs, personalised design and your own hotel branding.
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Booking Engine
Increasing your RevPar is one of the chief concerns of modern hoteliers, and sometimes one of the most elusive aspects of hotel management to manage – enlisting an expert with a booking engine for hotels mindset is a key first step.

Booking Engine

What is RevPar?
RevPar is a key performance matrix used within the hotel industry to define and monitor the revenue per available room.  This is one of the most important indicators of a hotel’s health in a hugely competitive industry, allowing hoteliers to forecast subsequent revenue and predict continued profitability by providing a snapshot of its ability to fill rooms.

With all the theories as to how to make RevPar increase, don’t overlook your own hotel’s booking engine. A hotel booking engine which gives guests what they are seeking can be a wonderful tool for growing your revenue.

But what features should a booking engine designed to increase revenue per available room include?

Keep It Simple
Usability and user-friendliness should be chief amongst the concerns of any hotelier serious about maximising their bookings. Simple, intuitive designs smooth the reservation process and minimise users leaving the website before making a booking – a major cause of revenue loss for even the most sophisticated of hotels.

Keep it Speedy
Slow, sluggish booking engines are a complete turn-off for hotel guests. They don’t want to wait to see reservation options, or panic while wondering if their card payment is going through because of the millennia it is taking to process. Perform a speed test of your booking engine if  you are in any doubt as to its performance – and be sure to put a fix in place if it’s not up to scratch.

Give Guests Options
Seemingly small gestures such as allowing a guest to state their preferences during a booking process go a long way towards encouraging them to make a booking with you. This could be achieved in a number of ways through your booking engine – either through the addition of ‘add-on’ options to opt in/out of, or simply through providing hotel guests with a small text box to add any clarification messages or queries they may have at this stage.

Make it Mobile
A mobile-friendly design is an absolute given for a modern booking engine. Holding out on making sure your booking engine is mobile responsive could cost you dearly in annual revenue, as guests are increasingly browsing and booking using mobile devices. Adding a mobile version of your website is a quick fix if you don’t want to switch over to a fully mobile version – but with new advances in technology, it is only a matter of time before you’ll need to make the change to keep up with the pack.

Personalise Responses
Nobody wants to feel like a number – and this is especially true when making larger purchases such as booking a holiday or a hotel stay. Personalised responses on booking give customers added reassurance and increase their trust in your establishment. Adding this simple function to your booking engine will pay dividends for years to come.
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Booking Engine
It can be tempting to invest a lot of time and money in gaining new customers, but these efforts can sometimes shift focus away from those who offer you repeat custom. The needs of repeat guests are a little different from the needs of first-time visitors, so making sure repeat customers have a smooth booking experience is a top priority when designing a booking engine for hotels. But what can you to do make the process of booking with you again even better?

Booking Engine

Reward Repeat Custom
Rewarding customer loyalty with unique promotions helps to increase bookings and make your repeat visitors feel their custom is valued. Giving your booking engine the ability to accept programmed voucher codes will give you an almost limitless number of options from which to create and run sales promotions, and can have a positive effect on both your bookings and your levels of customer satisfaction. By rewarding customers and providing them with added value, you will keep yourself top of mind for subsequent bookings.

Provide a Feedback Function
Letting repeat customers input feedback or particular requirements they may have for subsequent visits is a great way of showing their custom is important to your establishment. This could include anything from enabling them to reserve a particular room they liked, to a specific table in your on-site restaurant, to stating their preferences over how their breakfast is cooked. These features add the personal touch to what could otherwise be an overly automated process, which can be off-putting for repeat visitors.

Stay In Touch
The process of acquiring and maintaining repeat custom does not begin and end with their experience of actively staying at a hotel. The information you receive from bookings offers a vast array of options for keeping in touch with your loyal customers (or those you think may become loyal customers). One of the most effective of these methods is incorporating the option of an opt-in newsletter or follow-up e-mails to your booking engine. This way you can keep your repeat customers up to date with the latest goings-on; let them know about promotions, or about any vital information which may apply to their current or future bookings. A combination of a solid e-mail strategy as part of your booking engine design and an active social media presence will go a long way towards keeping repeat guests involved and engaged.

Exceed Expectations
Repeat customers have already stayed with you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t expect anything to change when it comes to new ways of booking – so don’t be afraid to upgrade your system if it makes for a smoother transaction overall. Continually exceeding customer expectations from start to finish will help to enhance their experience with your hotel. By taking note of some small key considerations for customers when making a booking, repeat customers will begin their next stay on a positive note.

Here at Digital Hotelier we know a lot about building successful booking engines for hotel websites – get in touch with our team to find out how we can help you increase revenue.
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Booking Engine
Tourism-related institutions and successful internet companies are clamouring to join the uber-competitive e-commerce market .It creates so many new business opportunities, and enables even smaller organisations to thrive and flourish, even if they have experienced financial difficulties in the past. You need to make sure that you keep an eye on any changes and developments when it comes to digital marketing so that you are able to move with the times and make sure that your business continues to be successful.

The ongoing evolution of information-based technology has already had a significant and considerable impact on the travel agency service industry as a whole. We are all aware that the internet has created a number of different conditions which have become real game-changers in recent times, and its widespread public use opens up so many doors. The modern travel agency has witnessed both beneficial and detrimental developments as far as digital marketing solutions are concerned, as you now have to make considerable adaptions in order to remain relevant.

travel-tourism-industry

In the 21st century it is all about setting yourself apart from others and being aware of the strong competition out there. Whilst computers have always been an integral and important part of the travel agency business since their widespread adoption, the dominance of the technological era has brought considerable new benefits. Data can be stored far more quickly than in the past, thanks to speedier hardware and better software.

Enterprise-level software enables travel agencies to download specialised programmes dedicated exclusively to managing their businesses effectively and categorising data in a structured and organised manner. This allows agencies to run far more productively, preventing losses of earnings due to slow running loading times and other arduous tasks which seem to make life far more difficult than necessary.

Vastly improved communications technology has greatly widened the ways in which travel agencies can communicate. This does not only relate to customers, but also with business connections and partner services. High-speed internet connections allow instantaneous video, text and voice communication right across the globe, often at considerably less expense than normal, traditional methods such as long-distance telephone communications can offer.

Data can be sent almost instantly to an airline from the agency, which can then be relayed to customers. This makes sure bookings which might have taken hours or even days to be process with immediate effect, thus reducing wait times and increasing productivity. Hotels can also benefit from these services, and guests do not have to experience long delays or unexpected interruptions which could have proved to be problematic in the past.

One of the largest impacts on the travel agency overall has been the steady rise of online booking. Customers who are looking to secure a reservation or wish to plan a trip away no longer have to visit an agency, but can instead do everything on a computer or laptop. You can even use mobile apps if you are on the move, and they can be accessed from practically any location. Airlines and hotels themselves have also chosen to remove the requirement for travel agents altogether by allowing customers to book lodging and tickets directly from their sites, cutting out the ‘middle man’.

This is not good news for travel agencies on the whole, as they have traditionally relied on being perceived as a necessary intermediary point between customers and the services they require. Now that everyone chooses to do things online, they have to look at other ways in which to attract attention and secure a concrete consumer base.

As more and more people book online, fewer people are now heading into brick-and-mortar agencies, dealing directly with someone on a one-to-one basis. Immense pressure has mounted on traditional agencies such as hotels, airlines and other service providers, so they need to think quickly if they want to make sure they do not lose custom.

Even though this may seem like cause for concern, the travel agency business is far from collapsing. Travel agents are still responsible for 77% of all cruise bookings, 73% of all package travel bookings and 55% of all airline travel bookings. Like so many service industries, travel agency businesses are changing in order to adapt to new and unfamiliar technology.

A booking engine for hotels can be a make-or-break moment in the entire customer journey, so you have to make sure that you invest in solutions which are efficient and cost-effective. Many agencies have chosen to shift their focus to online services when it comes to hotel and airline bookings, whilst maintaining an element of physical activity, doing business face-to-face rather than via the internet.

Whilst adaptation to new technology has subjected the travel agency industry to a number of obstacles which they have had to overcome, the industry is still financially sound. The main focus for the majority of agencies has been directed to online agencies, which allows clients the ability to book their trips with minimal effort. You are not constrained by office hours and do not have to worry about re-arranging your schedules in order to make sure that you have everything planned right down to the finest detail.

Because so many travel and tourism businesses are so widespread and heavily dispersed, they choose to use computer systems in order to stay well-connected. Computer systems allow for constant communication between branches and locations, which makes it far easier to monitor and streamline reservations and adhere to cross-company policies.

They are also used internally so that staff can be informed of any new developments and are kept on the same page. Information can be accessed quickly and the overall guest experience is far more satisfactory. Housekeeping details, specific preferences and requests and reservation dates can all be kept on one single system so you do not have to go through hundreds of files or sift through a hoard of emails in order to find the information you require.

Many travellers take some kind of mobile phone with them on the road, whether this is a tablet computer or handset. In order to keep customers up to date and let them know of any changes a great deal of hospitality and tourism businesses use mobile communication nowadays. They can send delay notifications, offer deals and sponsor location-based advertising. Depending on the type of device preferred, this communication can occur through emails, GPS tagging or text alerts.

Airlines are constantly updating and renovating their apps so that travellers can check in on their phones and create a unique code in order to activate their boarding pass. This makes the entire process completely paperless, and far more advanced than the normal self-check stations which seemed so radical and modern when they were introduced 15 years ago. Passengers can even use their devices to check what seating is available, and upgrade whilst waiting to board a plane.
All of this is aided by wireless carries which lower or even eliminate their roaming charges, making it feasible to connect for less. Phones have become automatic travel guides which weigh next to nothing, and you can receive instant information sources when visiting historic points of interest which will tell you everything you need to know.

So why not embrace the digital age and plan your next vacation when on the go? Just download the latest must-have app and you will have everything you need at your immediate disposal.
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Booking Engine
Small things can make a big difference to small hotels. For instance, just three little letters – SEO – could work wonders for your boutique accommodation. Having said that, there’s really nothing small about search engine optimisation; either in its scope or possibilities. In simple terms, SEO is an indispensable online tool should you wish to increase your hotel’s presence on the Web and promote it far and wide to guests throughout the world.

How does it work? Well, SEO – or ‘search engine optimisation’, to use its full name – is a collection of strategies and techniques that combine together to improve a website’s appearance on Internet search pages. In short, thanks to SEO, your hotel’s site will rank higher when people look for potential hotels to stay at on search engines like Google.
Booking EngineSEO cheat-sheet
The following are all points that any hotel website should aim to focus on for effective SEO:

Ease of use
  • First off, your website needs to be responsive – that is, its design must be flexible so it facilitates all screen sizes and shapes
  • You’re a hotel, so visitors to your site should be able to book a room via the site; should you invest in a booking engine for hotels, they’ll be able to do so instantaneously and with ease and convenience – for both them and you!
 
Focus on content
  • Content is king to enable effective SEO, that means you should be producing and updating text that’s not just informative about your hotel, but also blogging – in other words, unique, insightful and compelling content about your property, local attractions and the hotel experience.
  • Content’s not just text, though; users respond enormously to multimedia – high-resolution imagery and videos
 
Rich keywords
  • The secret to SEO is packing your content with great keywords that relate to what your potential visitors are typing into Internet search engines; keywords then need to be included in your content and chosen carefully – relevance is key
 
Linking for the win!
  • Linking redirects visitors to other pages on your site, so link from one page to another – especially to pages of imagery and video, a contact page or one detailing local attractions.
  • Look to get local amenities (restaurants and attractions) and local businesses to link to your site from theirs,
  • Establish social media accounts for your business (Facebook and Twitter and the ilk) and be sure to link to your site’s content (and packages and offers) from them regularly
  • Become listed on review websites, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and politely ask for guests to provide reviews of your hotel on them.
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