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Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > Hotel booking software

There's nothing quite like a group booking in the hotel trade. A single enquiry that results in several room sales is great for revenue, a boon for occupancy and nothing more than good, solid business which also levers food sales.

Unfortunately, hotel booking systems have often made something of a ham-fisted attempt at implementing functionality for the management and processing of group bookings. That's why we've always focused on refining this element of Welcome Anywhere to ensure it's as approachable and deeply functional as it should be.

We also understand that group reservations are just as important to the booker as they are to the hotel. Often, they'll be linked to a key occasion such as a wedding, anniversary, christening or important business event. As a result, such customers can become rather cumbersome to deal with. They'll call the hotel every day, with numerous requests from Uncle Albert to have his room moved or Sarah from accounts who needs a garden view of an evening to aid contemplation of the latest end of year figures.

While it's undoubtedly lovely for hotels to be given the opportunity of regularly speaking to guests, dealing with group bookings can become a burden, with reception staff rapidly growing tired of the endless requests and changes issued.

We'd like to put a stop to this, and we think we've done so with the latest feature addition for Welcome Anywhere.

Enter the guest group booking portal

So, how do you lift the burden from the reception team when it comes to group bookings? You put (some of) the power in the hands of the guest!

With that in mind, we put our development team to work on creating a guest-facing group booking portal, and the results are rather profound.

The new feature enables hotels to provide group bookers with a web address from which the customer can swap people around, change the numbers of guests and add special requests to their heart's content, without ever having to speak to the hotel:

Every change they make is automatically communicated back to Welcome Anywhere, without the hotel staff having to lift a finger:

The time saved on behalf of the hotel is vast, and by giving the group booker just enough control to make the many, common changes on the lead up to the booking (but not enough to do any harm to the hotel's occupancy) everyone benefits.

The guest group booking portal is available today. To find out more about this feature or indeed anything to do with the Welcome Anywhere hotel booking system, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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What makes a brilliant hotel booking engine? As a hotelier or guest, have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question?

You’re excused, if you haven’t. And why should you? It’s the job of the hotel booking software vendor to take care of this for you, after all. If you’re a hotelier, you simply need to be assured that bookings will arrive via your website commission-free and fully intact. If you’re a guest, you just want to book a room - you won’t think about the mechanics behind the process.

However, some hotel booking engines are - let’s be honest - a bit rubbish. They’re slow, confusing and take the highly irritating approach of throwing as many questions at you as possible on a single page.

For that reason, working out what makes a hotel booking engine less than stellar is relatively straightforward. We’ll therefore avoid the temptation to do so and instead lift the lid on those that work flawlessly.

It’s time for a recipe that doesn’t have a frying pan, egg whisk or food processor in sight; here are the constituent elements that make up the best hotel booking engines:

1. An approachable booking process

If you’ve ever abandoned an online hotel booking and headed to a different property purely because the process was so teeth-clenchingly frustrating, you’ll know how important an approachable booking portal is.

Potential guests should be guided effortlessly through the process and never have to think for more than a couple of seconds about what they need to do next. Up-sells should be prominent and the current stage of the booking always made obvious.

This stage isn’t rocket science, but so many systems get it horribly wrong.

2. Full PMS integration

There isn’t a hotelier on the planet who relishes dealing with double bookings, therefore the ability for the online booking portal to connect to the in-house property management system (PMS) is vital.

Such integration ensures that bookings are automatically pushed into rooms on the PMS, customer details added to the database and note of any payment (see no.3) made - without anyone having to lift a finger.

Convenient, eh? Which brings us onto the next point..

3. Convenient online payment

We’re (thankfully) rapidly moving away from a time when independent hotels would take bookings via what essentially amounted to a gentleman’s agreement that the guest would actually turn up on the day of arrival.

Similarly, securing bookings by jotting down the guest’s credit card details on a file which is subsequently stuffed into a cupboard puts both the hotel and guest at serious risk.

For these reasons alone, a convenient online payment method or the ability to store credit card details within a PCI-compliant environment is essential.

4. The ability to slot seamlessly into any existing hotel website

Most online booking systems operate independently of the hotel website, albeit with a clever ‘cloak’ that makes them look identical. However, the process of adding a booking engine to an existing hotel website shouldn’t require a degree in software engineering to complete.

A simple, efficient snippet of code is all any website needs in order to add an online booking portal. If that results in nothing more than a nice, big ‘Book Now’ button that links through to the branded portal - perfect!

5. Constant innovation

Lastly, the best hotel booking engine on the planet will quickly fall out of favour and become a relic if it isn’t treated to constant innovation. This is therefore a recipe which is never quite finished; instead, it is iterated, added to, rewritten and moulded to take advantage of the latest web and cloud tech.

And finally…

A brilliant online hotel booking engine is nothing if it isn’t used properly. Therefore, regardless of how easy it is to navigate or the simplicity of its website integration, the placement of that all-important ‘Book Now’ button is what really matters.

Make it loud and proud within the upper third of every page, and it’ll have guests flooding through your doors - simple.

This is one recipe every independent hotelier needs in their back pocket…

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Online booking for hotels is booming. According to reports, 65% of same-day reservations are now made on smartphones. And, if you think OTAs always grab the lion's share, the fact that hotel brand websites account for over 64% of all bookings will give some hope to hoteliers drowning in commission bills.

OK, so you may not be the Marriott or Hilton, but one fact remains - guests expect an easy, convenient booking experience they can conduct anywhere and on any device. If you offer that on your own website, the likelihood is they'll book direct.

And we all want that, don't we?

With this in mind, we set about completely redesigning the online booking system for Welcome Anywhere Plus. Existing users of our hotel booking system will soon receive a free upgrade, but we wanted to take this opportunity to provide an insight into the changes we've made and the decision process that goes into creating an online booking system that will work for the new generation of hotel guests.

A new look

Design is subjective. But user interfaces? Not so much. In fact, they should always, without question, be simple and utterly intuitive from the moment you lay your eyes on them. It is for that reason our new online booking system is built solely with the guest in mind. Technical jargon was denied entry and we've ensured there are no rabbit holes down which one may fall.

The look and feel of the new booking process can be customised just enough to make it slot seamlessly into your existing website, but not so much that it can be left a shadow of its former self (we've seen this happen far too often with other online booking systems that have been tinkered with). The result is clean, addictive and entirely in keeping with your brand.

The example below features our logos, but the background, header and footer can be fully customised with your own imagery:

Online booking date selection

 

Tailored bookings

Every booking starts with an arrival date. But what if the guest wants to really fine-tune their stay? A ground floor room, perhaps? Or maybe a dog-friendly double with a shower? With the new fully-customisable preferences system, they can do just that:

Room preferences

As you can see above, after choosing the arrival date, the guest will be asked to enter their length of stay and the number of people coming, followed by any room preferences they may have. Simple!

One step at a time

We've retained the step-by-step booking process in order to avoid throwing everything at your guests in one, big, confusing screen of text, drop-down options and buttons. We've stuck by this method since 2003, because we know it works. The new system has just four steps, and the guest's current task is clearly highlighted:

Step-by-step online booking process

That'll get them booking direct!

Easy group bookings

We'll avoid calling it a shopping basket, but your guests will be able to easily create group bookings and keep track of the total cost of their reservation with the new 'Your booking' section:

Your booking section

Transparent rates

When adding a room to a booking, the new system will ensure there is no confusion over the chosen rate:

2a-accomodation_add_room

Beautiful room pictures and descriptions

A picture says a thousand words, and will likely gain you thousands of direct guests. In our new online booking system, room pictures show off the best your property has to offer, and you can add detailed room descriptions, highlights and amenities. Tell your prospective guests what makes your establishment special!

online booking accommodation screen

As you'll note above, we've also included the ability to clearly display when a room type and rate combination is of the premium variety.

Clear calls-to-action

You simply won't sell a room without a clear call-to-action, and we've made sure every button is obvious and eminently clickable:

Call to action buttons

Options, options, options

If there's one thing you want to shower your potential guests with, it's optional extras. Boost your bottom line by offering more than just a bed for the night:

Online booking optional extras

Get to know your guests

Where did they hear about you? What's the reason for their stay? What else do they want? Defining and getting to know your guests has never been easier, nor more valuable:

Guest details

Simple, convenient sign-in

The trick to avoiding repeat agency commissions is to enable past guests to re-book quickly the next time they want to stay. Our new online booking system lets them do just that by signing in to retrieve their details and expedite the booking confirmation process:

Online booking sign-in

When is it available?

Soon! Hold tight, as we'll be sending more information your way once a release date is confirmed. Next week, we'll be taking a look at the ease with which hoteliers can keep their online booking system up-to-date and fresh, directly within the Welcome Anywhere hotel booking system.

 

n.b. The screenshots shown and features mentioned in this blog post are representative of a system that is still in development and are therefore subject to change at launch.

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