By Cloudbeds | Published on March 20, 2019
Independent hotels, hostels, and inns of a certain size have specific requirements that shape how they evaluate technology, such as their hotel reservation system. Pricing is often paramount, which is why smaller properties prioritize affordable solutions with only the necessary functionality — and nothing more. There’s no budget to pay for extra features that will never be used. It’s much more impactful for smaller independents to customize a technology stack that fits a hotel’s unique situation.
When it comes to choosing the best online reservation software for your hotel, there are several considerations beyond price. From integrations to usability, these are the most important criteria for small hospitality businesses when evaluating booking engine software.
1. Reservation System Integrations
Once you’ve eliminated over-priced options from consideration, the next criterion is 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 your 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, because small hotels 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 how 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 system must be easy-to-use 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. Use HTTPS for checkout and invest properly in payment security. The right hotel booking software allows you to use your preferred payment gateway to maximize control and reduce interruptions.
Mobile-optimized & Responsive
It’s painful when a hotel’s stunning website doesn’t translate to mobile. According to Google, over 50% of travelers use multiple devices while planning and booking hotels, 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 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.
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 to add new rate types, manage promotions, and set restrictions (such as length of stay, group size, or age).
There’s also the additional staff training costs associated with a non-intuitive tool. If a new booking engine for your hotel 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 for staff by simplifying tasks and eliminating 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, 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. Powerful Marketing Tools
Since your website is your source for direct bookings, It should put you on a competitive playing field with the big online travel agencies. 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 the 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 displays exclusive rates. This portal approach saves you time by empowering partners with a self-service tool.
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
- What is your pricing model? Do you charge a commission on each booking or a flat fee?
- How customizable is your hotel reservation system?
- Do you integrate with payment gateways?
- Do you integrate with a PMS and/or a Channel Manager?
- What training materials and on-going support do you provide?
- How do you ensure security for the data held on your platform?
- Do you have any case studies and are you willing to provide additional references?
- What additional tools do you have to help run my hotel?
- What’s your customer service availability?
- 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.