The Beginner's Guide to Booking Engines in Hotels

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What is a booking engine in hotel?

A hotel booking engine is a web application used to receive and process on-line reservations.

It allows prospective hotel guests to book their stay directly on the hotel’s own website. Some hotels also use their booking engine to receive reservations via their social media pages.

How does a booking engine work?

A typical booking engine would maintain an inventory of rooms available to sell with a variety of room rates. This inventory can then be served via a web form interface that a hotel guest can visit and complete their reservation.

Booking engines can also integrate with other back-end systems the hotel may have. This is mostly typical with larger hotels and hotel chains. Common examples include Central Reservation Systems, Property Management Systems and Channel Managers.

Most booking engines allow guests to complete their on-line reservation by entering their credit/debit card details. The payment can be processed in full if the booking engine provides payment gateway integration.

What is a booking channel?

A booking channel is the way guests book rooms in a hotel. Most hotels would have many booking channels to receive guests from, with varying degree of costs associated with each of them. Typical booking channels include OTAs (Booking.com, Expedia, etc.), phone, website booking engine, bricks-and-mortar travel agencies, etc.

A booking engine would allow a hotel to expand the direct booking channel, allowing them to accept hotel reservations on their own website. Using a booking engine is a popular way in reducing commission fees.

What are the benefits of using a hotel booking engine?

The primary benefit of using a booking engine on a hotel’s own website is the reduction or elimination of commission fees. When guests book with the hotel directly, it eliminates the commission fees a hotel needs to pay to the on-line travel agencies (OTAs) or any other distribution provider. The savings can be as high as 30% in some cases.

Another benefit is the retention of control of the entire marketing channel. By receiving guest bookings directly, hotels maintain full control of the marketing channel before, during and after their stay. This opens up opportunities such as cross-selling or upselling to the guest. It also allows direct relationship to be built to further on-line marketing efforts.

From the hotel’s perspective, the direct booking process is more efficient by cutting the workload for the front desk staff. By accepting reservations on-line, the reception team can focus more on serving guests during check-in and check-out. The hotel can also receive on-line reservations around the clock 247, even at times when the reception may not be open.

What features does a booking engine need to have?

The hotel booking engine should be flexible enough to customise the UI of the booking pages to the look and feel of the hotel’s own website. This is to ensure a smooth user experience.

Multi-language and multi-currency support to simplify the booking process and minimize friction for international audiences. If a hotel regularly welcomes international guests, research shows that displaying prices in their local currency can improve the bottom line.

It needs to be responsive, to be able to receive reservations from mobiles, tablets and computers. A booking engine accessible from a variety of devices, can help increase conversions and improve the search engine rankings.

It needs to support upselling and cross-selling of products and services, such as room upgrades, special packages, or airport pick-ups. This helps to increase revenue per guest.

Personalised emails to communicate with guests. This would help improve the guest experience and reduce calls to the front desk. Typical emails include confirmation of reservation, pre-arrival, during and post-departure email for feedback.

A variety of payment processing options. These can range from secure reception and storage of payment information, to real-time processing and deposit into the hotel’s own bank account.

User behaviour tracking using a web analytics package such as Google Analytics. Web analytics can provide an overview of the entire booking funnel and indicate pages that need improvement to increase conversions.

What is the best booking engine?

There are hundreds of booking engines currently on the market today, from various providers, serving various geographic regions. The following providers are the most popular based on their user count.

RankBooking engineSuitable for
1Oracle OPERA Cloud servicesLarge hotels, hotel groups and hotel chains
2Sabre SynXisLarge hotels, hotel groups and hotel chains
3TravelClick iHotelierLarge and medium sized hotels
4SiteMinder Booking ButtonSME hotels
5AvailProSME hotels
6StaahSME hotels
7Bedvine Booking EngineSME hotels
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