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Best hotel booking engine

Finding what you need in booking software

Most hoteliers, like yourself, have come to the conclusion that establishing a direct booking strategy without a booking engine is a losing battle.

Very rarely now will your guests call you up or walk into your hotel to make their booking.

Online booking is the order of the day and your website, along with social media pages and metasearch sites, plays a major role in your revenue strategy. At least, it will once you purchase a hotel booking engine.

You’ve taken the step of understanding your hotel needs a booking engine, now the real work begins: choosing a provider.

The explosion of hotel technology in recent years has made the industry a very complex place for hoteliers looking to make quick and easy decisions. There are so many options on offer it can be hard to know where to start.

This page will hopefully give you all the information you need to invest in a booking engine that gives you value for money and delivers the results you were hoping for; namely commission-free bookings and more control over the guest relationship.

How to choose the best online hotel booking engine

Any major decision that impacts the way a business is run normally requires some vigorous research and/or testing. An uninformed choice always carries the danger of becoming an ill-informed choice, which could require you to start all over again.

When it comes to online hotel booking engines, the circumstance is no different.

Since a booking engine is a product/tool you need to do whatever you would do if you were buying a new pair of shoes, washing machine, or television; identify who the top providers are.

Every industry, including the hotel technology industry, has brands that are globally accepted as world leaders. Normally it’s pretty easy to narrow your options down to a top 10 for example, simply by identifying those companies with the biggest and best reputations.

After this, you need to subject this list to a range of criteria to see how they compare to each other. That’s when you can start to form an opinion on which one is most suited to your hotel.

When it comes to online booking engines this criteria might include:

  • Brand strength
  • Product functionality
  • Integration capability
  • User experience
  • Look and feel
  • Range of features
  • Cost
  • Training and support resources

A deep dive into these factors will enable you to easily measure different providers against each other – weighing the importance of each distinction as you see fit. It will put you on the right path for making the right decision for your business.

Characteristics of the best booking engine hotel

To help you in your endeavour to compare potential vendors, it’s important to know some general characteristics of a high quality booking engine.

Your booking engine needs to:

  • Reduce dependence on third-party booking channels by taking reservations through your brand website, social media pages, and via metasearch sites such as Google.
  • Give you control of the guest relationship with pre and post-stay messaging features.
  • Let you build a unique brand vision with the use of images and video content.
  • Consist of a mobile-optimised experience to capture bookings from travellers on the run.
  • Drive last-minute bookings with prominently displayed promotions and codes.
  • Offer a flexible date calendar to ensure availability for guests.
  • Enable multiple room types to be sold in your property.
  • Reduce friction with a seamless checkout experience.
  • Accept online payments through an integrated, secure, payments solution.
  • Enable upsell options with extras and add-ons
  • Auto-trigger reviews on TripAdvisor for guests who have completed a stay
  • Have the ability to integrate with your brand website to increase conversions.
  • Attract travellers in many global currencies and languages.

These are just some of the must-have features a top quality booking engine will equip your hotel with, so there’s a lot to take into account before you even start assessing things like cost.

Best booking engine: What does it cost?

If you’re an independent hotelier, budget is of course an important factor. Value for money and return on investment are some guarantees you’re going to want – especially if you pay a price at the higher end of the scale.

You can be fairly sure of these results once you’ve done your research and are confident in the main providers you’re considering. Often prices will also be pretty comparative amongst the top brands as well.

Most often, the price you’re required to pay for your technology will depend on the size of your property. The more rooms you have, you more you will have to pay.

To see an example of this for your property, visit SiteMinder’s pricing scale.

Best online booking engine: How long will it take to set up?

If you choose a provider who offers a free trial, complete setup will take place during this process, meaning by the time you feel ready to pay for the service nothing else needs to be done.

You should expect to be contacted within one business day of signing on for a free trial. After this it will ideally take no more than a week to get your booking engine configured and ready to go.

You can then immediately start accepting more direct bookings and winning more revenue as you move through your free trial period.

Best hotel booking engines: The training and support you should expect

At SiteMinder, a specialist will be in touch as soon as possible to start your setup on a free trial.

Dedicated onboarding team members will be on hand to take you through your initial setup and your training thereafter. Setup and training will consist of one-on-one screen share phone calls, group training sessions, and other resources such as video tutorials and access to a customer knowledge base. Within the two weeks of your free trial you should already feel comfortable with your product and in control of your property’s new system.

Hotels never really sleep, so your provider is going to have to provide around the clock support, available in your region and language. Speak to your possible partners about what they can offer in this respect.

Questions to ask your online hotel booking engine provider

Whenever you begin using a new product, there are certain results you’ll be expecting. For this to happen, the brand needs to make good on particular promises or guarantees.

You can hold them to this by making it clear from the very start what you want, and what they say they can give you. Ask them plenty of questions about their service.

In regards to an online booking engine, here are some you might consider:

  • How will it make direct bookings easier for my hotel?
  • How will it make the booking process easier for my guests?
  • How will it improve the relationship I build with guests?
  • Can it adapt to my unique hotel brand?
  • Can it integrate with my existing hotel systems – such as a website?
  • How do guest payments get processed?
  • What are some ways I can increase property revenue with the booking engine?
  • Do I need a channel manager in conjunction with an online booking engine?
  • Is the technology roadmapped for continued improvement?
  • What level of support can I expect once I’m a paying customer?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the questions you should seek answers for but it will put you on the right track to choosing your online booking engine partner.

Hotel web booking engine reviews

Reviews can often be your shining light amidst a bottomless pit of information on the internet. Visiting review sites is a handy way to cut through the noise and gain a compact, concise, and accurate view of various products all in one place.

Generally, while taking into account outliers at both ends of the scale, reviews will give you a reliable source of truth about the booking engine providers you are considering partnering with.

The most reliable place to find reviews in the hotel technology space is Hotel Tech Report.

Hotel Tech Report aggregates a range of ratings and scores to give you a complete snapshot of the product you’re researching. There’s a huge range of detail for you to look at, including ease of use, ROI, implementation, customer support, and overall recommendation scores.

You can look further into specific features, pros and cons, pricing, integrations, and even which properties are most suited to any particular product.

After all of that you can even delve into many written reviews of customers or previous users of a product. This is where you can get some more tangible insight into how it helps the day to day lives of hoteliers just like you. Everyone has differences in how they run their property but it’s always good to look at content from your peers in the industry.

Comparing online hotel booking engines

Comparing online hotel booking engines can be done in more ways than simply comparing features and reviews. You can perform a more comprehensive comparison yourself by broadening your range of vision.

Once you’ve filtered down your options to a few or a handful you might take into account the following factors:

  • General brand presence
    To see if a provider is actually making a splash in the industry you could look into their social media profiles to see how many people are following them. Another big factor is to see where the brand is popping up in the media – are they attracting attention from large or important publications? Also take note of how active they are at the big industry events.
  • Opinion of neutral parties in the industry
    Those who are close to the brand or directly interacting with the brand will certainly have informed and passionate opinions but sometimes neutral parties can offer a valuable, untainted view. Look at publications that serve the hotel tech industry as a whole and see how each provider is regarded in that light.
  • How many customers and partners they currently have
    Many people see power in numbers and when it comes to booking engine software providers, numbers can be very significant. If a provider has a large volume of customers and partners already, then it’s a good sign they are delivering a quality service that can be trusted.
  • Expertise and professionalism of their content
    Salespeople and sales-based content can say all the right things but how can you tell when a brand actually knows what they’re talking about? Investigate the website of your potential providers and see if they have blogs and other resources. If these impress you or teach you something you didn’t know, then there’s probably value to be found in investing with this partner.

Free booking engine for hotels

Trying to find a ‘free forever’ booking engine for hotels is not recommended. Truly free technology often won’t have the necessary infrastructure to provide the functionality you need or offer the continued updates that are required within the industry. Technology moves fast so you need a provider that has their finger on the pulse and keeps you at the forefront of development. This way, you won’t have to worry.

For those nervous about commitment, the top providers offer free trials so you can test all the benefits a booking engine has for your business.

A booking engine’s free trial should be at least 14 days; this will allow you to get setup, begin using the product, and have enough time to see the potential value in keeping the product long-term. You should have full access to the company’s resources throughout this process. It will be exactly like you are a paying customer – you just aren’t paying yet!

To start a free trial right now, SiteMinder offers a 14-day free trial of its booking engine. Click here to get started.

List of hotel booking engines

If you haven’t yet consolidated your options for a hotel booking engine into a manageable list, it’s a good idea to do so.

You can quickly pull together a top ten via a quick Google search. Once you have this you can do further research we’ve explained above to find the one that is right for you.

To get you started, here’s a list of the best hotel booking engines you might consider:

Commission-free online booking engine, with seamless website integration, secure online payments and the possibility to take bookings from your Facebook page. Coupled with an integrated channel manager and over 400 bookings channels, available in more than 20 languages and currencies, attracting guests is made easy.

  • Mews
  • Net Affinity
  • Travel Tripper
  • TravelClick
  • GuestCentric
  • RoomRaccoon
  • SHR
  • Bookassist
  • Cloudbeds

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