Guests Expect It, Does Your Website Have It?
Online Reservations; a Website Must Have
Potential guests have many choices when choosing a vacation destination. Their time is valuable. Why not make your website one-stop shopping for potential guests?
Online bookings are not new. Websites large and small have been using booking engines on their websites for more than a decade. Yet an amazing number of lodging properties do not offer online reservations. Many lodge owners feel taking reservations the old-fashioned way, over the telephone, builds a connection with the guest and helps set or limit, guest expectations. While building a relationship over the telephone is important, why let potential business go to a competitor? Consider that 85% of travelers prefer booking online with the added convenience of securing the reservation quickly, having a secure payment experience and accessing all booking information in one place, according to HomeAway. If your website does not offer online reservations and your competitor’s website does, you could be losing bookings.
In the first six months of 2014, travel bookings made from a mobile device increased a whopping 20% vs a 2% increase in laptop bookings according to Criteo. Today, 21% of hotel reservations originate from smartphones and tablets. Having a mobile ready website, with an easy to use booking engine, is a must.
Many Booking Engine Choices
So where does an innkeeper begin? There are many solution providers. Here are a few features to look for when choosing a solution provider.
- 24/7 Support. As any busy hospitality property owner can tell you, problems seldom arise between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
- Cloud Based. Many older property management systems were a program you could buy and install on a PC or a Mac. Today’s property management systems are cloud based. The benefit here is that you no longer have to preform back ups and you do not need to be in front of the computer in your office. You can see new reservations come in from anywhere there is a phone / tablet / laptop with an internet connection.
- Easy Website Integration. Whether the booking engine is embedded code or a plugin, easy website integration is a must.
- Ease of Use. The booking engine should be very easy for guests to use. A guest should be able to complete an online reservation in just a few, short clicks. Complicated booking pages often end in abandonment.
- Advanced Features. Today, the playing field has been leveled for hospitality properties. Small lodging properties can be featured on large booking sites such as Expedia or TripAdvisor thanks to some advanced features in property management systems. To be part of Expedia, a property must be listed on the GDN (Global Distribution Network). Reservation systems such as RezStream offers a booking engine which connects to Expedia, Travelocity and other third party booking channels. CheckFront offers connection to TripAdvisor’s TripConnect service. With TripConnect, potential guests can book directly from a TripAdvisor listing.
Be ready for a busy and profitable 2015. Consider adding online reservations to your website. Guests expect the ease of online reservations. Take advantage of spur-of-the -moment travel plans by offering instant bookings on your website.