What is a hotel reservation system and how to choose one


By Cloudbeds

What is hotel reservation software?

A hotel reservation system is a software used in the hotel industry to process and manage online direct bookings from the property’s website. 

The difference between an online booking engine and a hotel reservation system

Hotel reservation system refers to the software with a broad set of features that hotels use to manage a booking in its entirety, including modifying or canceling a booking, adding charges, notes, split folios, and many more options.

Booking engine refers to the app or software used to complete an online reservation by processing the data entered by the guest online. It may be used in conjunction with an integrated PMS to manage all reservations or a CRM to handle guest details.


Evaluating hotel reservation software

Hotel chains, independent hotels, hostels, B&Bs, and inns of a certain size have specific requirements that shape how they evaluate technology, such as their property management software.

Pricing is often paramount, which is why smaller properties prioritize affordable software solutions with only the necessary functionality — and nothing more. There’s no budget to pay for extra features that will never be used.

For larger properties, getting the right modules is much more impactful, and they may even customize a technology stack to fit their unique situation.

When it comes to choosing the best hotel reservation management system, there are several considerations beyond price. From integrated apps to usability, these are the most important criteria for different hotel operations when evaluating booking engine software.


Hotel reservation software key features

1. Software Integrations

The best online reservation systems for independent hotels connect directly to other mission-critical systems, especially your property management system and channel manager. When guests book their rooms on an OTA, the reservation system must immediately relay information to both your PMS and channel manager to keep all of your distribution channels up-to-date and in sync.

Your reservation system must be accurate and play nice with other tech, especially if you manage a small property such as boutique hotels, guest houses, or motels that rarely have the extra resources to absorb any availability-related issues. Without near-real-time synchronization, the booking system doesn’t have the latest availability and overbookings can occur.

Integration also extends to the look on your website. The best systems perfectly match the rest of your site. The colors match and the font is the same. The calendar feels on-brand. The experience feels modern and trustworthy. The last thing you want to do is give a potential guest a reason to book elsewhere; an on-brand booking flow gives the confidence to complete the reservation.


2. System usability

A hotel reservation management solution must be user-friendly for both potential guests and hotel management staff. Here’s what makes a hotel booking system useful for your future guests:

Preferred language and currency

One of the benefits of intermediaries is the support of many languages and currencies. If your hotel does any trade with international guests, your reservation software must accommodate. Choose a platform with localization support so you can compete effectively across borders.

Secure payments online

A lack of confidence in your hotel’s payment solution is a conversion killer. The right hotel booking software allows you to use your preferred gateway or point of sale (POS) to accept credit card payments and other novel methods, both online and in-person at check-in.

Mobile-optimized & responsive

It’s painful when a hotel’s website doesn’t translate to mobile. According to Google, over 50% of travelers use multiple devices in their planning and booking process, so an effective hotel reservation software must be optimized and responsive for mobile and tablets.

Rich imagery and descriptions

A boring reservation system won’t convert as well as one that includes rich imagery and descriptions of each hotel room type. When researching a stay, travelers want to see exactly what they’re going to get — at both the hotel and the room level. Check the basics of hotel website design here.

Integrated tools

A top-performing hotel website builds trust with potential guests, resulting in more online bookings. One powerful way to build trust and convert more reservations is a Rate Checker widget. Be transparent and give users the confidence that they’re getting the best rate right here own website.

Usability also matters to your hotel’s staff. A solution that’s hard to use or difficult to navigate discourages adoption. It should be straightforward for your front desk staff to add new rate types, manage promotions, and set occupancy restrictions (such as length of stay, group size, or age).

There are also the additional staff training costs associated with a non-intuitive tool. If a new hotel booking engine causes headaches with either existing staff or new team members, it may not be worth the hassle. You want a booking engine that makes sense to your sales, reservations or front office staff by simplifying and eliminating their repetitive tasks.



3. System reliability

If your hotel reservation system is not available 24/7/365, then you’re losing revenue. Uptime is essential for maintaining the strength of your branded online booking channel. Your website must be reliable when it comes to room availability, rate types, and pricing. Poor synchronization may cause unreliable search results or double bookings, wreaking havoc on the guest experience.

Reliability extends to customer service — especially for managers and owners of smaller properties, who almost always wear many hats. When you’re responsible for customer service, IT, and revenue management, the last thing you want to do is struggle through uneven and unresponsive customer service.


4. Marketing tools

Since your website is your source for direct bookings, It should put you on a competitive playing field with the big OTAs such as Expedia and These platforms invest heavily to provide strong incentives for hotels to offer promotional rates. The best hotel reservation system leverages the same technology used by OTAs to manage promotional rates, with full support for last-minute and early-bird bookings.

All relevant rate details become inputs for personalized marketing emails, so you can craft confirmation emails for different types of reservations, including those with or without deposits. Email templates should also be customizable to match your property’s website branding. This type of marketing functionality builds consistency throughout each guest interaction and ensures a professional reservation process from start to finish.

Your reservation software can also become the portal for partners. It should facilitate the creation of promotional codes for existing marketing partners and travel agents. The ideal booking engine goes a step further with dedicated landing pages for partners that display exclusive rates. This portal approach saves you time by empowering partners with a self-service tool.


5. Pricing

When all else is equal, choose the solutions with the best value-added pricing. Ideally, you’ll only pay for the features that you need. Avoid commission-based models, as that defeats the purpose of building your direct channel.

Equally pernicious are per-room pricing models. Vendors that offer flat-rate, commission-free pricing without lengthy contracts are most likely to see themselves as partners in growing your hotel’s business.


Questions to ask hotel reservation software providers

  1. What is your pricing model? Do you charge a commission on each booking or a flat fee?
  2. How customizable is your hotel reservation system?
  3. Do you integrate with payment gateways?
  4. Do you integrate with a hotel PMS and/or a Channel Manager?
  5. What training materials and ongoing support do you provide?
  6. How do you ensure security for the data held on your platform?
  7. Do you have any case studies and are you willing to provide additional references?
  8. What additional tools do you have to help run my hotel?
  9. What’s your customer support availability?
  10. What happens if I’m not happy in the first 30 days?


Cloudbeds offers a modern hotel reservation system that reliably converts your website visitors into happy guests — all without charging commissions. 

Published on 20 March, 2019
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About Cloudbeds


Founded in 2012, Cloudbeds is the hospitality industry’s fastest-growing technology partner, serving a global customer base of thousands of properties across 157 countries. Its award-winning Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform seamlessly combines operations, revenue, distribution, and growth marketing tools with a marketplace of third-party integrations to help hoteliers and hosts grow revenue, streamline operations, and deliver memorable guest experiences. Cloudbeds was named No. 1 PMS and No. 1 Hotel Management System by Hotel Tech Report in 2022, Best PMS and Best Channel Manager by the World Travel Tech Awards in 2021, and has been recognized by Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 in 2021. For more information, visit

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