Hotel Online  Special Report



Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...
You Never Know What Youíre Gonna Get!
By Neil Salerno Ė October 2003

Recently, Iíve received many emails from hoteliers who are in the process of developing their strategic marketing plans for the Internet market in Ď04. Itís exciting that so many people recognize the ultimate potential of the Internet. Itís a shame, however, there are still many people hiding their heads in the sand, while their competition and third-party providers continue to erode their market share. 

Among all the elements of a successful web site marketing program, certainly one of the most important is the siteís reservations booking engine. The booking engine performs two important functions. It satisfies the net usersí desire to make real-time reservations while on-line and also provides the hotel with a database of visitors and guests to solicit future repeat business. 

For hotels with a keen instinct for one-to-one marketing techniques and recognize the future long-term value of communicating with their visitors and guests, the database building and maintenance features of a good booking engine are essential. If all the experts are correct, this database will represent up to 20% or more of a hotelís total room business; a significant number.

Marketing 101 teaches us that it is far easier and more cost-effective to solicit repeat guests than it is to find new ones. If your sales team is sharp, itís already being done for group business. Now, you have the ability to solicit repeat Internet guests and the many additional visitors to your web site. 

OK, so what is the best booking engine out there? Although I am familiar with several booking engines, I recently set out to see what is available for individual hotels and hotel chains. After a solid week of after-midnight surfing and many cups of coffee later, I found several good functional booking engines and some not-so-good ones.

Since I have several friends who sell booking engines, I wonít rank or even list them here, but I would be happy to share my findings with anyone who cares to email me. For the most part, they can all accept real-time reservations; although some much better than others. Anyone looking to improve their siteís booking ability or those needing a reservations booking engine, there are some important considerations:

  • Functionality. Is it easy to use? Does it look professional? 
  • Design. Does it use hotel/travel terminology? Is it customizable to match your web site? Does it get the job done in the fewest clicks possible?
  • Technology. Will it accept an unlimited number of rates, room types, and packages? How well does it handle negotiated rates? Is it password enabled? 
  • Database. Does it have the ability to build and maintain a database of visitors and reservations-makers? Will the database download to Word or other common application? Do you have access to it on a 24/7 basis?
  • Maintenance. Is it easy to maintain rates and inventory? 
  • Affordability. How much is the monthly ďrental chargeĒ or booking percentage?  Is it reasonably affordable? 
Obviously, nothing with real value is free. I found that prices vary considerably, but the average is around $90 per month. Of all the engines I reviewed, I found one that gives the hotel and/or hotel company the ability to actually own the booking engine while providing the ability to have technical support and access to future software upgrades. Its beta pricing is less than a comparable booking engineís rental fees for only one year. It has good flexibility and will also operate on your own server, providing total and complete control of your data. 

Bottom-line; find the booking engine thatís right for your hotel; one that provides the tools you need to promote future business, while efficiently taking real-time reservations. If you are already working with an Internet marketing consultant, itís a good idea to have them investigate what is available in the marketplace. Some of the popular early entrees to the marketplace a few years ago simply havenít kept pace with the many changes in technology since then. 

Neil L. Salerno, CHME
Hotel Marketing Coach 
1369 South Wembley Circle
Port Orange, Florida 32128

Also See: Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesnít Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? Itís Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... Youíll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelierís Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003

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