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Online hotel booking system

How to make a smart investment

So you know what an online hotel booking system is. You understand what it does and roughly what benefits it may deliver to your property.

You’ve probably also concluded that you need one at your property; you’re on a mission to boost direct bookings and increase your property’s revenue and profit.

This all very well but, as we know, with any major purchase in our lives knowing what we need and actually acquiring it are two very different things. When we begin our product research we can often be drowned in an overload of information. This can occur for something as simple as a washing machine, nevermind a significant piece of functional technology for a hotel.

Finding the cream of the crop isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve never used a cloud-based online hotel booking system before.

In the same way guests painstakingly choose their accommodation, you need to do the same with the systems that will attract them to your property. This page will help you on your own customer journey, giving you tips and insights on choosing the best booking system for your hotel.

Where to buy an online hotel booking system

There are plenty of providers who offer online hotel booking systems, including SiteMinder, so there’s never any need to purchase this kind of technology via third-party. You can get it straight from the source and undertake a free trial before you commit to a purchase.

SiteMinder is certainly one of the best options on the market. It offers a commission-free booking engine, with seamless website integration, secure online payments, and the ability to take social media bookings. SiteMinder is also one of the most powerful tech providers in general, connecting to more than 400 booking channels and more than 250 integration partners.

Other providers include:

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

Hotel booking: Online system cost considerations

Given you are running a multi-faceted business, your costs and expenses are pretty vital. You want to be sure your investments are giving you a healthy return for them to be worthwhile persisting with.

Here are the considerations for your online system:

Is there an upfront cost?
Commonly there will be a small initial setup fee you get your property up and running on the system. This is a one-time only cost.

What’s the best payment structure?
The best providers will offer a flat monthly payment model with no lock-in contract. You should be able to cancel your subscription at any time you want.

Are there transaction fees?
Preferably no. Top providers will only charge you a set monthly fee, no matter how many bookings you generate via your online booking system.

How is pricing set?
Most commonly, the price your property pays will depend on its size. The more rooms you have the higher the monthly fee will be.

To get an idea of how this would look for your hotel, check out SiteMinder’s pricing scale here.

Will a hotel online-booking system deliver ROI?

As we said this is a huge promise you want to be fulfilled. Guarantees are always hard to make but there are a couple of reasons why you can feel confident about ROI.

Generally, even if you only increase your annual occupancy rate by two percent for example, which is more than achievable, the added revenue from these reservations will easily cover the costs of your monthly fee. An occupancy rise of 5% is also very achievable and this would see your revenue and profits jump quite significantly. In this respect, the monthly subscription fee is normally no cause for concern.

During your free trial you can also do some analysis, albeit from a minor sample size, and see if you can spot the potential of the system. If after two weeks or a month you don’t think your property will benefit your hotel to the extent you’d like, you can always drop-off thanks to the contract-free arrangement.

However, provided your online booking system and website are working seamlessly together, there will be no reason you won’t enjoy a welcome increase in direct bookings.

A free online hotel booking system: Does it exist?

The simple answer to this question is that there is no free system that will perform on the same level as the paid subscriptions offered by the industry leaders.

The reason online hotel booking systems cost money is because the developers need funding to keep maintaining, updating, and improving the products. It’s sophisticated technology that requires a lot of work in the background to improve the booking experience for hoteliers and guests alike.

That’s why it’s always good to think of your payment as an investment, because the money is going towards an even better product that will deliver your property greater benefits as time goes by.

‘Truly free’ options won’t have the operating power, infrastructure, or support that you want, and you would end up jumping from service to service, until you realise the quality you need has to be paid for.

Free trial for a hotel booking system

The good news is that the best providers of hotel booking systems have nothing to hide and let you trial their products completely free before asking for any payment.

Coupled with a payment model that refuses to lock you in, this approach is always a good sign that the technology can be trusted to deliver on its promises.

SiteMinder offers a 14-day free trial of its hotel booking system, allowing you to get up and running immediately and see for yourself how the product will increase direct bookings – both from your website and other sources such as social media and metasearch sites.

You won’t be on your own either, your free trial includes the whole onboarding process with specialised staff to make sure you’re setup for success from the moment you begin your free trial. Additional support is also available after setup.

Click to here to try SiteMinder for free.

Setup time of an online booking system at your hotel hotel

An added benefit of going through your free trial process is that setup will be completed at this stage too. This is on the providers time and doesn’t cost you any money. This way there’s no time wasted when you are ready to start paying for your use of the service.

When you do sign up for a free trial, you should expect to be contacted within one business day. An additional week may be required to get your booking system ‘live’ and ready to accept reservations on behalf of your hotel.

It’s important to make sure your systems integrates well with your property management system, website, and channel manager if you have one. These four systems together can really make a difference to the results you achieve in your business.

Training and support offered by a hotel online booking system

No piece of technology ever really exists without any teething problems. Even the most popular products in the world, such as Apple, certainly aren’t fool or error proof.

Every powerful and successful product needs training and support services. When you enter into a free trial you should expect your provider to give you full training. This should include hands-on guidance from a dedicated staff member and additional resources such as training videos and helpful articles in the form of a customer knowledge base.

Knowing you can make a call or request and receive help is very comforting – nothing would be worse than trying to run your business and being unable to do so because of a technology failure. Ensure your online booking system provider offers around the clock support so that your region and language is taken care of.

Hotel booking system must-haves

You already know roughly what a hotel booking system should be giving you, but there can be many subtle differences in the amount of features offered and the level of sophistication to these features.

So it’s good to have a checklist handy of the absolute must-have features when you’re assessing your options. Here are some to consider:

  • The ability to take direct reservations through your brand website, social media sites, and metasearch sites such as Google
  • Adapts to your unique brand vision and content
  • Offers control of the guest relationship with personalised messaging features pre-stay and post-stay
  • Is mobile-optimised to give travellers on the run an unhindered booking experience
  • Drives last-minute bookings with prominent promotions and codes
  • Offers a flexible date calendar
  • Is setup to offer multiple room types
  • Makes checkout simple with a seamless checkout experience
  • Includes an integrated payments solution
  • Enables the upselling of upgrades, extras, and add-ons
  • Auto-triggers guests to leave a review on TripAdvisor when they complete a stay
  • Integrates easily with your website and other systems to increase conversions
  • Attract travellers from many countries, in many global languages and currencies

There are even more to take into account and as you compare providers you’ll begin to discover the differences. It’s your job to decide which ones are the most important to you. It can all have an impact on whether you think a product is worth the investment or not, of if certain providers offer significantly more value than others.

Questions to ask your hotel booking system software provider

Even amongst all your research it’s likely you’ll still have questions you want to ask before you make a purchase decision. You should certainly make sure you’ve covered all the bases before you make a final call. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions if you’re struggling to choose between a few different options.

To help prompt you, here are some questions you could put to your hotel booking system software provider:

  • What’s the one reason I should choose your product?
  • How will my direct bookings increase?
  • What benefits will my guests see?
  • What is the extent of its integration capability?
  • Can you show me how it will adapt to my existing brand image?
  • How will guest payments be processed?
  • What are some ways I can increase revenue and profit with this product?
  • Is the technology roadmapped for continued improvement?
  • What level of training and support do you offer?
  • Do I need a channel manager in conjunction with an online booking engine?

You don’t have to ask all these questions immediately, some happen as a matter of course during your free trial, just as long as you are satisfied before it comes time to start being billed.

Which online hotel booking system software should you choose?

You can make it easier to choose which software will take your hotel forward by directly comparing providers. There’s a few ways to do this.

Some independent research you can do is to analyse the general brand strength, industry reputation, customer and partner volume, presence at events, social media reviews/comments, and the knowledge and professionalism of content. This will give you a good overall picture and if the provider ticks all the boxes in your opinion then they’re probably a safe bet.

You can also use dedicated review sites as a resource to help you out. Hotel Tech Report is the best of these.

This site will aggregate a number of factors such as ease of use, support, ROI, implementation, integration, and more into ratings so you can where each product ranks compared to its peers. The platform gives its own in-depth review and lets you how recommended a product is and what properties it suits the most.

You’ll also find written reviews from other hoteliers detailing their experience with the product, including pros and cons. This is a good way to find any key points of interest you have and see what previous users have to say.

After this, you should feel more confident in any purchase decision you make.

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