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Booking Button on Computer

In today’s market, when innkeepers have limited time to try to concentrate on running a business, online marketing and more, the use of technology for guest management is almost a must have!

Plus booking management systems can streamline finances, track reservations, record and report on a variety of aspects of your business and keep online an updated visual availability calendar so guests and potential guests can see if you have rooms free, without having to call or email you.

As with website designers, there are hundreds of Booking Engines and Channel Managers out there in the Hospitality Industry. Some of them designed specifically for smaller properties, some for larger, and many service both. Most of the booking engines out there integrate with OTAs, but some don’t integrate with all of them. Some of them also integrate with Airbnb for those legal B&Bs that are leveraging the service to compete.

Here are a few of the better known ones for the B&B industry:

Do your homework first when selecting your reservations systems. Most of them now have demos that you can sign up for and test the features.

Call or email each company with your questions prior to taking the time to do a demo, and pick what is most important to you, ease of use, what it integrates with, price, etc.

Those specifics will help you choose when it comes time to make a decision on what systems to use for the first time, or when you consider switching to an alternative booking system.

Book Now Image OTA

Here are some considerations when choosing a booking company:

  • Does it integrate with OTAs and if so, specifically which ones?
  • How long have the companies been in business?
  • How many current users do they have?
  • Is the software easy to use for both yourself, and most importantly the guest making a reservation?
  • Is it mobile friendly?
  • How customizable is the booking engine itself in the ability to match your branding? Does it offer the ability to add large scale and multiple pictures to it?
  • Can it keep track of guest preferences and options, and does it have the ability to flag past guests, or inquiries for potential or past issues?
  • How often and when are the systems backed up?
  • Is it web based or desktop based?
  • How can you access the backend of the system? Is there an app, or is it easy to use the back-end on a mobile device?
  • What is their plan in the event of a data breach (on their end for their system)? And on your own end if you have a data breach? (very important!)

Optional:

  • Can you add packages and specials to the booking process?
  • Can it send emails at specific dates to guests in the system?
  • Does it integrate with a online gift shop, or have gift shop capabilities?
  • Can you offer gift certificates or gift cards through it?

When in doubt, go with a company that offers a few more features than you need, switching reservations systems is a time consuming, and often problematic exercise.

Make sure the systems are compatible with all computer operating systems and browsers (Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer), both from the innkeepers end, and the guests end. Some reservation cloud based systems can only be used in Internet Explorer by the innkeeper for the back end, and I.E. is one of the most unsafe browsers out there.

This should be standard, but check that they are PCI compliant. And what current standard they are at. For more information about PCI compliance visit https://www.pcicomplianceguide.org/pci-faqs-2/.

Attend some lodging trade shows, and talk to the reservations systems people one on one. This will give you a better idea of the type of company they are personally, as well as be able to do a little comparison shopping at the same time. Many state and regional lodging shows have multiple booking software vendor booths, including the yearly PAII conference (http://paii.com/Innkeeping-Conference) and AHLA’s yearly conference (http://www.thehotelexperience.com).

Ask fellow innkeepers what they use, including listening in and asking questions on innkeeping forums. Ask about ease of use, options and customer service as priorities. Of utmost importance is finding out how quickly and how responsive they are to fixing problems.

A suggestion when evaluating booking software, is do some trial run reservations on some websites that use the software before even calling the vendor for a demo. From a guest’s perspective, is it easy to use? Is it clear and well laid out? Is it mobile friendly?

Booking abandonment is a huge issue in the lodging industry. If it takes more than 2 minutes to make a reservation, or if options are not clear, you may be losing a lot of potential bookings. Test them out first.