It is well known that online travel agencies (OTAs) are widely used by hotels as part of a diversified distribution strategy. The challenge, however, for independent hotels is that they are often in competition with their very partners – third party distribution sites – who are able to invest millions of dollars on advertising and enhancing their online booking experience.
While global reach is only really achievable through a tightly integrated partnership with OTAs or a substantial marketing budget, independent hotels may overlook the importance of direct online booking channels as part of their distribution. An online booking engine should be at the heart of any hotelier’s direct booking strategy, allowing hoteliers to secure more online direct reservations with minimal effort. This clever piece of technology plugs into the hotel’s existing website CMS and business Facebook page, transforming Brand.com into a revenue generating machine.
Give guests what they want
Guests value the convenience that online booking engines give them. Instead of having to wait for hoteliers to take their calls or respond to their emails, with integrated booking technology, guests can quickly check availability, book and confirm their stays.
A barrier to booking is the issue of sensitive data in the payment process. Travellers today are familiar with online booking, entering credit card details into a secure booking form, and usually feel more comfortable with this process rather than providing their details over the phone or email.
An online reservation system should deliver a professional payment process, be PCI DSS compliant and make sure each guests’ sensitive data is safe from hackers.
Enhance the guest experience
Part of the guest experience is how hoteliers engage with guests before and after their stay. Typically, reservation technology can automate guest email communications such as a booking confirmation, a reminder before stay with tips on activities or local attractions, and a feedback or review request following their stay.
Without a hotel booking engine, hoteliers are stuck creating templates in word documents, relying on their own memory to send individual emails at the right times or simply not communicating with the guest at all. This ultimately does not convey a professional, consistent experience and many hoteliers have suffered at the hands of reviewers as a result.
Modern hotel booking engines allow hoteliers to schedule and personalize these emails, applying brand themes to each template, and making sure each recipient gets a personal greeting. Each guest receives a consistent online experience from start to finish, which is proven to enhance a hotel’s reputation.
Drive guest loyalty
Guests expect to be personally remembered, especially after booking their stay. That’s why storing guests data in multiple spreadsheets is not the best long term strategy if the goal is to foster loyalty. Hoteliers need to be able to search their database to access guest information instantly, when it is needed.
A modern hotel booking engine will be cloud-based, with a customer database functionality built into it. This gives hoteliers immediate access to all of the guest information they need. In this scenario, when a repeat guest calls the hotelier to make a booking, the guest’s details can easily be searched so that past data can be used to personalize the service provided.
Following a customer or guest-focussed approach to the online booking process will ensure a successful direct booking strategy for hoteliers in the long term.
About the source
The article was supplied by SiteMinder, providers of a leading platform for hotel bookings. Hoteliers can implement commission-free mobile bookings on their existing website and Facebook page with SiteMinder. To learn more, click here.