In the hotel business, going digital is essential.
But how should you do it? Where should you start?
We are well aware that this transition brings a lot of questions and we are here to help you with them.
Most hotel owners start by putting their business on online booking platforms. These platforms, often called OTAs (online travel agencies) have become leaders in the hotel sector. Think of Booking.com, Airbnb or Hotels.com, to name but a few.
Today, these giants essentially have a monopoly for online hotel room reservations. They work by keeping a big cut of every reservation made.
The end result is that many independent business owners find themselves having to pay exorbitant fees to these platforms each month.
However, although the platforms are still widely used, travellers like them less and less. Now, 52% of travellers use them as a hotel catalogue to decide where they want to stay before going to the hotel’s own website to make their reservation directly. Why? To get more information about what’s on offer, see pictures of rooms, find out more about the business and, above all, ensure they get the best rates.
Therefore, to help reduce commissions and best meet travelers expectations, you need your own online booking system.
To get started, you’ll need to make your own website if you don't already have one. It must be a perfect digital representation of your hotel. This will turn it into the best way for you to get your name and offer out to a wider audience.
But a website isn't just for online window shopping. By giving visitors the possibility to book a room directly, it will become a powerful marketing and commercial tool.
Advantages for you and your visitors
Below is a non-exhaustive list of the advantages to having a booking system integrated into your website:
The first, you guessed it you’ll save money on commission fees from greedy platforms such as Booking.com, which can hit thousands of euros per month for some businesses.
It will help give your business a more modern image in keeping with the times, and you’ll appear more professional.
It will help you better prepare for visitor arrivals through the data you collect from their reservation. You can therefore adapt your offer if visitors with dietary restrictions or disabilities stay with you, for example.
The program will simplify your and your employees’ work. It will significantly reduce the number of e-mails and phone calls for reservations. In short, the program will do everything for you.
It’s also a plus for your hotel’s SEO.
Here is another list – also non-exhaustive – of the advantages for visitors :
Visitors can book any time, any place.
They can choose the rooms and options they want (depending on availability) directly on your website.
For tourists in a rush, this is a huge time saver compared to e-mails or phone calls.
Your guests will feel safer making their reservation on a dedicated system. They will receive an individual confirmation for their reservation by e-mail.
Our guide in 5 key points
Offers for booking systems have skyrocketed over the last few years, and there are some for all budgets with very disparate levels of quality.
Read our 5 key points below to help you make the right choice and get the best software for you.
1 : Pay attention to user experience
That 52% of travellers that prefer to book directly rather than via an OTA are expecting a quality experience.
This quality experience means that it must be just as easy to book as on a platform but with a better overall experience and range of possibilities offered.
A good booking system should let you ensure this customer experience.
- Your website should be clear with a design that works on mobile devices. This will let guests book whenever they want, wherever they are.
- Your process should be quick and have an e-mail confirmation to reassure guests that their reservation has been taken into account.
- You should also have a multilingual interface to allow anyone and everyone to make a reservation.
2 : Implement an intuitive, easy-to-use system
A well-designed booking system shouldn’t complicate things, but rather should make your everyday job simpler.
To avoid frustrated visitors, the system will only display rooms that are available on the chosen dates.
You can change the price and availability of your rooms with a simple click. This is perfect for your Revenue Management.
Finally, don’t forget that a good and modern booking system should be able to integrate into your PMS and Channel manager systems.
3 : Offer the best payment options
To keep your guests satisfied and ensure maximum security, your booking system should offer all the best payment options.
Concretely, this means:
- Accept as many different types of bank card as possible.
- Accept foreign bank cards.
- Accept cheques and vouchers/pre-paid holiday cards.
- Allow guests to pay just a deposit at booking and the rest upon arrival.
- Have good online banking partnerships such as Stripe or PayPal.
- On your end, this will allow you to:
- Automate payments and save on manual processing.
- Fight fraud effectively.
- Manage deposits simply. Refund guests easily if they have to cancel, for example.
4 : Keep track of visitor data
Visitor data can be a real goldmine and can help you keep your guests loyal. A good database will allow you to easily share your offers, special deals and new services.
For personalised e-mail communication, use data from the customer profiles that are set up when they book. This way, you can take their tastes, preferences and travel habits into account when sending your offers.
OTAs, as well as taking commissions, do not always share all visitor data with hotels. They often do not give the guests’ e-mail addresses to the hotel, nor the hotel’s contact details to the guests. This forces visitors and hotels to go through the platform for all communication.
Bear in mind the visitor data has a very high market value. You need it to implement communication and marketing strategies. OTAs don’t just refuse to share this information with you – they often sell it at high prices to different third parties.
Taking back control of guest data is therefore one of the many issues at hand with direct bookings.
5 : Share your own extra bonuses
The many different settings and options in good booking programs make them powerful sales tools.
Make the most of your visitors’ reservations to offer them specific packages or deals and you’ll come out smiling.
Some example offers include :
- “Get a discount if you stay for the weekend!”
- “Get a spa deal if you book a Deluxe double room!”
- “Unlimited gym access with all half-board stays!”
There are so many possibilities for you to grow your business and win more guests.
To find out more about direct booking:
Are you a hotel owner who wants to go digital? Do you want the best programs at the best prices? Website, PMS, Channel manager, direct booking software, SEO... You’ve come to the right place. Ask for your free demo today!