What is a Hotel Reservation System?
A hotel reservation system, or hotel reservation software, is a technology platform that enables hoteliers to accept direct bookings through the hotel’s website and through various distribution channels.
Also known as a booking system or online booking engine, it is a tool that allows hotel guests to schedule the dates of their stay, choose rooms at the time of booking, and take payment from them.
Advanced reservation systems for hotels even empower customers to select extras such as wine, flowers, or other niceties to be placed in their room at the time of arrival or at a later time.
Table of contents
Why is using a Hotel Reservation System important?
Whether your accommodation is a 5-star hotel, a bed and breakfast or a holiday home for lease, there’s a single, unifying fact: if you’re not online, you’re missing bookings. Today’s digital world means just about everyone who travels for work or pleasure is online.
In an age where consumers are used to instant gratification and the ability to make decisions while on the go, it’s instrumental to any business to be as discoverable as possible. But being online is just the tip of the iceberg. The real game-changer is having a robust hotel reservation system that not only puts you on the map but also enhances the guest experience.
- A hotel reservation system brings efficiency and accessibility, allowing potential guests to book rooms at any time of the day or night without the need for staff oversight.
- Reservation systems enable direct bookings from your website, cutting out the middleman and ensuring that guests get the best rates—and you keep the most revenue.
- Real-time updates in the hotel reservation system prevent overbooking and keep everything in sync, while the system itself enhances the guest experience by allowing them to tailor their stay according to their preferences.
- Understanding your guests is key to success, and a reservation system provides valuable, accessible insights into guest behaviour.
- By moving to an online booking system, you’re also taking a step towards sustainability with less paper and waste. Good for the planet—and good for your operational expenses.
A hotel reservation system is not just a tool; it’s an essential part of the hospitality industry in the 21st century. Whether you’re a boutique B&B or a global hotel chain, the right reservation system can transform your business, making you more competitive, more responsive, and more in tune with what your guests really want.
It’s not just about being online; it’s about being online with purpose.
Types of Hotel Room Reservation Systems
There are different types of reservation systems in the hospitality industry primarily based on property type, hotel preferences, and business needs.
Any kind of hotel booking reservation system should easily integrate with the accommodation provider’s existing technology infrastructure.
Generally, there are 2 major types of hotel booking reservation systems:
1. On-premise reservation system
Formally called locally-hosted systems or sometimes referred to as a computerised reservation system, this type of software is installed in computers at the property and runs on the hotel’s own servers, where they won’t need the internet to work and have complete control over their data and security but can be difficult to set up and expensive to maintain.
2. Online hotel reservation system
Often known as cloud based hotel reservation system or web based hotel reservation system, this type of software is securely hosted in remote servers and can be accessed by authorised people online which means that users from different locations can manage real-time reservations on any device such as desktop, laptop, and iPad or tablet with internet connection.
Benefits of Reservation System for Hotels
A hotel reservation system software is the helping hand you need to keep your occupancy up, even during the slow times and make sure everything is running smoothly.
There’s a range of benefits to having this technology in place at your hotel, mostly based around simplifying your life as a manager or staff member and speeding up a number of processes.
Here’s 13 benefits of implementing a hotel reservation system:
1. Streamlined administrative tasks
Rather than requiring you to respond to email inquiries and accept reservations over the phone, a hotel reservation software system does the work for you. Instead of being stuck completing your administrative duties in the office, you can then spend more time interacting with your guests.
You also can keep the rest of the staff more organised and efficient, because everyone will have access to live information about the current occupancy at the hotel. It is the easiest way to increase productivity when you manage a hotel or any other type of accommodation.
2. Reduced risk of double or over bookings
When a hotel reservation system is not in place, one person has to manually update the reservations coming in from all the connected distribution channels. Given the fact most hotels have a diverse distribution network with a wide range of agents, this can be an extremely difficult task.
With a hotel reservation system in place, all live rates and availability are automatically updated by the software. The risk of overbooking rooms is massively reduced, which significantly improves the smoothness of your hotel operations.
3. Improved guest experience
With an online hotel reservation system, guests can book their preferred room type on their computers, from their tablets or on their phones. They can also complete the transaction quickly, efficiently from the comfort of their own office or living room.
With short forms and secure payment portals, your hotel reservation software makes the process of online booking a room simple, easy and enjoyable. Remember, this is their first impression of your hotel and it will have a lasting impact on their perception of your brand. It should be user-friendly if your guests will complete the process and book online.
4. Less work for the front office
When guests input their own reservation details through the system, everything happens automatically. As guests book their own stays, the reservation simply pops into your system with all details intact and your staff don’t need to worry.
There’s no need for the front desk staff to process reservations—all they have to do is get ready for the guests’ arrival when the time comes, which also gives your reception staff more time to tend to their other tasks.
5. Decreased chances of losing or messing up reservations
With guests putting in their own details, there’s less chance of the wrong data being entered. Human fallibility is a far less significant factor when they input the dates and specifications themselves.
That way, if something goes wrong, you’ll have a record to prove it’s no fault of your business. You can still provide them with a solution, but your reputation is protected.
6. Easily gathered data
Data collection is absolutely critical, especially in the hotel industry where guests are demanding a more personalised experience. A hotel room reservation management system captures a huge amount of valuable guest data and compiles it into comprehensive reports that allow you to utilise it more effectively.
Without a hotel reservation system, it’s hard to know how many guests are travelling, what their interests are, what amenities they prefer, how old they are, where they’re coming from, why they’re visiting your destination, and so forth.
That’s very useful for you to know and will help you improve both customer service and hotel marketing, tailoring your campaigns to attract the most motivated guests to your hotel brand.
7. Simpler administration of rewards
Guest loyalty programs work and you could be leaving a lot of money on the table if you’re not using them. A good hotel reservation information system empowers you to keep track of customer stays and reward them accordingly, keeping them around for the long haul. Gain better management and monitoring of rewarding guests for their loyalty.
8. Round the clock bookings
Potential guests don’t only want to reserve a stay during business hours. In fact, they are far more likely to surf your site and think about a weekend away or a holiday while they are at home at night so by having a ‘book it now’ button on your website, anyone can book a stay with you any time of the day or night.
Enabling a customer to book a stay with you online through a user-friendly system is something consumers have come to expect.
Time-poor people today don’t want the hassle of phoning properties and leaving messages.
Online bookings are fast, easy and secure – for you and your customer. If you don’t offer a booking button on your website, customers will jump to another property’s site that does.
10. Saves you money
Offering online bookings 24/7 is like employing a night-shift reservations clerk but without the cost of paying for an after-hours employee, saving you money.
11. Save you time
Instead of processing bookings manually, an automated, online booking system will do all the hard work for you, with the system generating automatic booking confirmations, updating your availability and procuring guest information – without you having to do anything.
And because you don’t have to spend time during the day taking bookings on the phone, you can spend more time on all the things you wished you had more time to do in your business.
12. No commissions
Selling your rooms or holiday rentals direct to your customers on your own website means you don’t have to pay booking commissions to OTAs, again saving you money.
13. Turning lookers into bookers
In an age where consumers are used to instant gratification and the ability to make decisions while on the go, it’s instrumental to any business to be as discoverable as possible. And the last thing you want is for a potential guest to click away because the process of making a booking is too difficult.
The whole idea, of course, is to convert traffic to your website – your most valuable sales channel of all – into confirmed bookings so it’s important your website’s bookings page looks appealing and easy to use.
And it’s a good idea for your booking engine to also be able to package rooms to include extras such as breakfast, late checkout and tours to provide a value-add to every room sale.
Learn more by checking out SiteMinder’s own commission-free hotel booking engine.
Features of Hotel Reservation Management Systems
A hotel reservation system does more than just allow you to accept and manage bookings through your hotel website. Reservation systems offer a variety of features that enable you to streamline your tasks and automate your processes as well. There are a number of basic features every online hotel reservation management system should have such as:
Functional Features of a Hotel Reservation System:
- Associate every online booking with an account
- Limit every account to a single user
- Enable users to search and find the most relevant booking options
- Accept date and time to check available rooms for that particular time
- Booking confirmation should be sent to the specified contact details
- Calculate and display accommodation charges and other utilities
- Cancel bookings
- Display and change records of guests
- Change rooms
Non-functional Features of a Hotel Reservation System:
- Use encryption to avoid bots from booking
- Search results should populate within acceptable time limits
- Users should be helped appropriately to fill in the mandatory fields, in case of invalid input
- System should accept payments via various payment methods
- Easy to use, efficient, and accessible
- Keep track of documentation, activities, and responses
The main point to remember is that this technology enables guests to choose and book their own rooms online via a secure portal. It must be straightforward and safe, but it must also offer you the same convenience and range of use it does your guests. This way, it won’t only make life easier but you can use the data it provides to source more revenue and profit for your hotel.
How a Hotel Reservation System Works
As an overview, hotel reservation systems typically work by allowing guests to reserve the dates for their stay based on the real-time display of your rates and inventory across all booking channels and finalise their reservation through an online payment portal.
After completing their transaction, it automatically updates your property management system (PMS) and with the help of a channel manager, all your hotel listings on reservation websites get updated as well. Below is a simple step-by-step process of how a hotel reservation system usually works:
- A potential guest inputs a specific number of people and their planned check-in and check-out dates in the calendar of the system.
- The system validates the availability of the hotel’s different room types and your indicated travel dates, then displays the available rates at the time of the search.
- The guest reserves their desired room through the system by providing their personal information such as name, contact number, and payment details. They can also add special requests such as a room with a view or a specific location, and the system will notify the hotel of these requests.
- The system confirms the booking and automatically updates room inventory in the hotel’s PMS. It also generates a confirmation number which can be automatically sent to the guest via email.
What to consider when choosing a Hotel Reservation System
While hotel reservation systems and software as a class are massively beneficial for hoteliers, not every online booking system is created equally. What’s appropriate for a small B&B may struggle to manage a larger hotel’s needs, while an enterprise grade reservation platform could simply be too confusing, complex, or outright unnecessarily expensive for a smaller operator.
However, there are some consistent factors that must be considered before investing in any reservation software, no matter the specifics of the user. We’ve put together the most important ones below:
Easy to use system
An intuitive and user-friendly interface is essential. Your staff should be able to navigate the system without extensive training – or if training is required, the software provider should have an excellent onboarding programme. Look for a system that offers a clean design and logical flow, making daily tasks a breeze.
Integrates with existing management system
Your new reservation system should seamlessly integrate with your existing management tools. This ensures a smooth transition and allows for real-time updates across all platforms, reducing manual errors and saving time.
Mobile compatibility is a must. Ensure that the system is accessible and fully functional on various mobile devices. This allows guests to make reservations on the go and staff to manage bookings from anywhere.
Effective channel management allows you to distribute your rooms across various online platforms without overbooking. Look for a system that offers real-time updates and centralised control, ensuring that your inventory is always accurate.
Secure payment gateway
Security is paramount to ensure guest confidence and risk management. Choose a system that offers robust payment gateways, adhering to the latest security standards. This not only protects your revenue but also builds trust with your guests.
A system that offers comprehensive guest management features can enhance the guest experience. From personalised greetings to special requests, having these details at your fingertips makes for a memorable stay.
As your hotel grows, your system should grow with you. Look for a scalable solution that can adapt to your changing needs without requiring a complete overhaul. Is the software you’re looking at right for your future – or just for right now?
Research what other hoteliers are saying about the system. Good reviews from peers can provide valuable insights into the system’s reliability, customer support, and overall performance.
Many providers offer a trial period, allowing you to test the system before committing. Take advantage of this to ensure that the system meets all your specific needs and expectations. Be wary of providers that only offer a short trial period – there’s only so much you can learn about the software’s capabilities in seven days, after all.
Best Hotel Reservation System in 2023 and Beyond
It’s not exactly a revelation that if you want to run a successful hotel, you need guests. Crucial to your chances of capturing and keeping those guests is the use of a reservation system. It is a practical essential at any property, regardless of size or location.
When you have the right hotel reservation system in place, it can increase both your efficiency within the office and your profits as a business. We’ve listed 3 of the best hotel reservation systems to help you get started—or try for free:
Voted number 1 by hoteliers worldwide, SiteMinder is the top choice for managing hotel reservations. Our online reservation system easily connects with many other hotel software and systems which makes it easier to manage every aspect of your business, from day-to-day operations to online distribution. Start your 14-day free trial today.
Specifically designed for small accommodation providers, Little Hotelier is the best pick for a simple hotel reservation system. Easily manage your bed and breakfast or boutique hotel reservations and more—all from a single platform. Their small hotel reservation system has a user-friendly interface, making it easy for non-technical staff to use.
Hotel App Store
If you’re looking for more options to suit your hotel reservation needs, the world’s leading hotel marketplace is the place to go. Hotel App Store is a curated collection of the most useful mobile apps for hoteliers. Search through nearly a hundred applications or filter by what you’re aiming for e.g. make more money per booking, get more guests to book directly, etc.