What is a hotel booking engine and why do you need one?
New to the accommodation business? Or just new to the idea of a booking engine for your bed and breakfast, hotel, or vacation rental? Whatever the case, we’re here to make things a little clearer. So, here are the benefits and the basics to finding the perfect system for your accommodation website.
What is a booking engine?
A hotel booking engine is a software application that plugs into your website, and allows you to take online bookings securely through your own website.
What is a booking button?
You may have heard of a booking button in relation to a booking engine. A booking button is a button you can add to your website that will allow you to take direct bookings from your website (commission-free in the case of eviivo). When a user clicks on the booking button, they are taken to a booking page that looks like your website, and is integrated for guests to make a seamless transaction and book their stay with you.
How does a hotel booking engine work?
A booking engine hooks up to a hotel or B&B website. Guests enter their details on your website in order to securely book a room and (if integrated with a property management system) the booking software synchronises the booking information with your calendar so that you can manage the booking. This can be incorporated into a new website for you so you can start taking bookings online. Or, if you’re already happy with your accommodation website, you can add a booking engine via a booking button. Guests click on the ‘book now’ button and are redirected to your booking engine to input their details and secure their reservation. And that’s how a booking engine works!
Do you need a hotel booking engine?
If you plan on taking bookings online via your own website, then the simple answer is yes, you need a booking engine. These days, hotels, B&Bs, self-catering accommodation and apartment rentals all need to be bookable online – numerous studies have shown that that’s what guests want. If you only take bookings via the telephone then you’re cutting yourself off from a huge chunk of business.
There are some plugins available for WordPress websites that let you add booking functionality on your website, but don’t allow for direct payment. In these instances, owners need to manually re-record booking details in their calendar, which isn’t as reliable – and is a lot more time-consuming – than a proper booking engine.
What are the benefits of using a booking engine?
There are many! So take a look at the booking engine benefits we’ve listed:
Fill more rooms with more direct bookings
It goes without saying that having a booking engine on your accommodation website will increase your occupancy rate. It also increases the percentage of your direct bookings, because guests can book instantly and securely and are less likely to book elsewhere or through an online travel agent (OTA).
Direct bookings are a huge bonus for hosts and hoteliers, because they are commission-free and there’s no need to pay a portion of your hard-earned cash to an online travel agent.
Avoid double-bookings & streamline your admin
If you have a booking calendar or property management system (PMS), you can integrate with a booking engine and all of your direct online bookings will be transferred automatically to your electronic calendar, so there is no more room for human error or double bookings! This will save you and your staff hours in tedious admin and leave you free to get on with the more important stuff.
Another benefit for your accommodation website is that it encourages bookings from overseas, by offering payments in different currencies and translations of your descriptions in a variety of languages, making it easier for guests from around the world to book.
Safe & secure
With integrated payment software, you’re able to take payments simply and securely from guests. There’s no need to wait until your guests arrive to take payment!
Booking engines can require deposits from guests in order to secure their booking. With a financial commitment already made, guests are more likely to show up in order to avoid a penalty. Handling and reducing cancellations is particularly important for independent hotel and bed and breakfast booking engines, as these can cause more of a hit to the business’s bottom line.
For overseas visitors in different time zones – and night owls – this is especially important. You want the booking process to be as easy as possible for customers, and having an automated, online booking system allows you to take reservations while you’re asleep or otherwise occupied.
The best booking engines for hotels will provide statistical analysis of your hotel website in easy-to-digest reports. If you’re able to interpret these and adapt to your customers’ behaviours, you’ll be able to tweak your site or booking process to minimise the chances of potential guests being put off and maximise the chances of them booking.
Take share from OTAs
Customers often prefer to book directly on property websites over travel websites because they are often cheaper.
Did you know that 52% of guests who book online visit the accommodation’s website before booking – even if they don’t book on the accommodations’ own website? Therefore, if your website can take direct bookings you can try to convert all of these guests who might otherwise have booked your property via an OTA site – and save yourself a bill for commission.
How do you build a hotel booking engine for your website?
Fortunately, you don’t need to know yourself how to build one for your website – that’s what a booking engine provider is for! They do all the hard work and set it up, connecting your website booking engine and merchant payment accounts, and integrate your PMS if you have one.
How much does an online booking engine cost?
The truth is: it varies. Booking engines can range in price but most are charged per room. Therefore, the larger your property, the more you pay.
What is the best booking engine for hotels, B&Bs and vacation rentals?
Well, that depends on your budget and what features you want. There are many hotel booking providers with slightly different rates and features.
We would advise doing a comparison based on your property type to get the best booking engine for you. When you do, see what they provide for the following:
- Budget & pricing
- Setup & training
- Payment security, such as PCI Level 1 compliance
If you have a property management system (PMS) you may want to look for a booking engine that offers full integration with your PMS, and can offer:
- Promotion codes & offers
- Guest communication emails
Always ask for a demo of a product with a salesperson, so someone can talk you through how to use the software, and you can decide what booking engine features are right for you.
In summary, a booking engine is a necessity for independent accommodation providers who want to make it the world of online booking.
If you’re looking for a booking engine for your B&B, hotel, rental property or serviced apartments, have a look at what eviivo can offer.