5 tips for maximising direct bookings in 2020 | hotel software uk

Hosted by TripTease, the Direct Booking Summit is now in its second year and is the first event of its kind devoted to helping hoteliers increase the number of direct bookings they receive.

The fact direct booking now has its own summit is a clear indication of how big a challenge it is for hoteliers (particularly independents) to drive bookings through their own websites as opposed to the commission-based alternatives.

The good news? If you’re an independent hotelier, there are five things you can do in 2020 to maximise your direct bookings - and they’re easier than you might think!

1. A blatantly-obvious online booking button

new website design for your hotel | hotel management software uk

We’ve offered this tip so many times in the past, but there’s no harm in reiterating it.

When you have a new website designed for your hotel, it’s easy to get lost in everything but the most important element - the call-to-action (CTA).

For a hotel, that’s the ‘book now’ button, courtesy of modern online hotel booking systems. If yours can’t be found immediately (i.e. without scrolling, or pinching to zoom on your phone [see tip 5]), you’re missing out on direct bookings - simple.

2. Nail the user experience

hotel industry tips | management systems for hotels london

A beautiful website isn’t necessarily a functional website or one that’s a pleasure to use.

Given the visual nature of this industry, we’ve seen far too many hotel websites where there has been too much time spent on the design, leaving the user experience to chance.

You need beautiful, original imagery and video if you’re to engage potential guests, but you also need to make it easy for them to navigate. Here’s our user experience golden rules:

  • Make it easy to book (see tip 1)
  • Put all of the important information within the upper-third of each page
  • Create a simple, clear menu

That’s it. Easy, right?

3. Make security a priority

5 tips for maximising your hotel's direct bookings in 2020 | hotel booking systems

Understandably, there’s a lot of nervousness about data protection and cybercrime these days, and your hotel website needs to give its visitors the confidence to hang around.

You can do this by investing in a PCI-compliant online booking system for their credit card payments, and by ensuring that you have an ‘https’ security certificate for the website. The latter displays the little padlock icon in most browsers and is an industry-standard form of security.

These little things will add credibility to your brand and encourage people to hang around long enough to book.

4. Rate parity

rate parity to maximise direct bookings | hotel upselling

If you’re advertising rates higher or lower on your website compared to the OTAs, you’ll be both breaking their rules and confusing guests.

Sound odd? Not really. Guests want transparent pricing, and finding multiple prices for the same room at the same hotel across multiple websites including your own doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Why are they different?

If you have price parity across all of your online channels, the choice of booking method for the guest will usually come down to whichever website they land on when they’re at the buying stage of the customer journey. If yours keeps them engaged and makes it easy to book, why would they head back to an OTA?

5. Mobile compatibility

5 tips for maximising direct bookings in 2020 | hotel booking systems

Test your hotel website on your mobile phone.

Most of the people who visit your website will do so on their smartphone. And that means everything should auto-adjust to fit any screen size, while keeping that all important CTA (re-read tip 1!) front-and-centre.

Whats the experience like? Painful?

You’re missing out on direct bookings!

Wrapping up

You’ll never achieve 100% direct bookings for your hotel. If you do, we’d love to hear from you.

But you won’t - sorry.

That doesn’t matter though, because by using our tips above, you’ll significantly increase the portion that originate from your own website and in turn establish a brand that people want to return to again and again.

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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The subtle future of the hotel guest experience | hotel booking systems

You can be forgiven for acquainting the idea of "change" with the word "radical". Often change is punctuated by a glitter cannon. In software terms, innovation is celebrated, advertised, and delivered with a great big neon arrow. Yet, when we think of innovation, we rarely think "hotels".

But that doesn't mean that hotels aren't evolving. In fact, the guest experience is constantly being transformed. Here are 3 things that subtly change the hotel guest experience.

The eco-friendly hotel guest experience

eco friendly hotel guest experience | hotel software uk

You can say a lot about millennials. You can (if you’re that way inclined) ridicule their dress, their music, and their outlook on life. But there are two things that are important to remember: they’re the future customer of every industry, and they tend to care a lot more about certain aspects of modern life – particularly when it comes to the environment.

Travelers are acutely aware of their carbon footprint. Moreover, they're consuming products that openly offer the same values. That includes the hotels they book.

Hotels that responsibly source recyclable goods, or make an obvious effort to conserve energy in rooms are making an impact. Expect more air-conditioning units that turn off when you're absent from the room. Don't be surprised by paperless hotels and downloadable restaurant menus.

The good news? An eco-friendly guest experience is desirable. It's also cost effective.

The fully connected experience

fully-connected hotel guest experience | hotel management software uk

It starts with those Wi-Fi-media-infused coffee machines. You know the ones - they tell you the latest on Trump's wall whilst you’re waiting for your latte. It's a small addition but it's an important one.  The guest experience is only augmented by more connectivity.

Some hotels are already using smart televisions to deliver special offers to their guests (whether they’re in their room or busting reps in the gym). Now the hotels are wrapping their loving arms around the technological revolution, it will move in leaps and bounds from here. Presenting offers in this fashion provides you with additional hotel upselling opportunities.

I’m not suggesting toasters that play Radio 1. But it stands to reason that we may see tablets installed on tables wherein you can place orders, or play Angry Birds. Technology, in all industries, is becoming more prevalent. Subtly, the hospitality industry is putting more and more of the guest experience online.

The "more personalisation, please" experience

personalised guest experience at hotels | hotel upselling

It's becoming a buzzword isn't it? Personalisation. Somehow, the world is automating everything to the point that we only see a human when they’re running back from the bathroom. Yet, we crave a more personalised experience.

PMS platforms are working hard to make sure that they’re offering a service that indulges the nuanced idiosyncrasies of their guests. In the office, behind the singular receptionist, the PMS is humming and clicking. Using the data that their system harvests, hotels are now working towards creating as many guest experiences as there are bookings.

Smart televisions provide rooms with engaging and targeted content aimed directly at the individual guest. Expect more of this. Expect recommendations rooted in the online experience and brought to life in your hotel experience.

Wrapping up

You’ll notice that there’s nothing radical above. Hotels are already moving into the future. And there are no flying cars or AI driven androids. That is the art of the hotel guest experience; a hotel’s motivation and direction summed up in one word…

Seamless.

Nothing glamourous. No glitter cannons. These changes are drawing hotels into providing an experience that can't easily be separated into distinct clunky steps. Just one fluid experience that relaxes the guest.

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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Choosing The Right OTA For Your Independent Hotel | Hotel Booking Systems

Whether you’re new to the hotel industry or have been part of it for decades, you’ll doubtless share one opinion on online travel agencies (OTAs).

No, no - not that one…

This one: there are so many of them. There’s the biggies, of course, but the number of smaller, niche OTAs has simply exploded in recent years.

This presents something of a problem for savvy hoteliers who want to maximise their presence online; how do you choose the right OTAs for your hotel?

As it turns out, it comes down to four simple factors. But first…

It’s about quality - not quantity

Spreading your wings wide online and having a presence on several OTAs has always been good practice, but that can lead to OTA overload if you get too carried away.

Your agency strategy should be one that focuses on quality rather than quantity. Even with the best channel manager in the world linked up and ready to go, you’re still giving yourself rather too much work if you sign up to every OTA under the sun.

Instead, it’s better to seek out the OTAs that best fit your hotel’s ethos, target market and, obviously, which are the most cost effective.

Here’s how to find them:

1. Check the audience

Choosing The Right OTA For Your Independent Hotel | Hotel Software UK

If you list your rooms and rates on an OTA that targets an audience you’d never target yourself your hotel might begin filling with customers who’s demands, tastes and expectations simply can’t be fulfilled.

For instance, if you cater mainly for couples seeking short breaks in kid-free environments, listing your hotel on a family-oriented OTA is probably going to result in some rather uncomfortable guest clashes.

Before you sign up to any OTA, find out exactly what type of audience they’re targeting by either asking them directly or scouring their website (the clues will be there).

2. Suss out the price

OTA market | management systems for hotels london

Every booking sent via an OTA comes at a price - that will never change. However, to avoid getting too grumpy over commission, you need to look at it more positively.

Which commission rates are going to deliver the best bang for your buck? If the OTA appears to target your perfect market, or is likely to bring in some high-spending guests, a slightly higher commission rate is probably a price worth paying.

Oh, and the commission rate should reflect something else you get, too…

3. …the features!

OTA Shopping | Hotel Booking Systems

Not all OTAs are made the same; some offer specific rate management and listing features that you won’t find elsewhere - and some of those features may not be compatible with your marketing plan at all.

One of the key things to check during your OTA shopping trip is compatibility with your PMS and channel manager. Without that, an OTA is next to useless, because you’ll end up in double-booking hell and with a huge amount of work that should be undertaken by software. So you'll have to ensure your hotel booking systems comply with consumer expectations.

OTAs spend a lot of time and money creating new features that hoteliers can take advantage of - just make sure they’re features you’re likely to use.

4. The guest experience

Guest Experience | hotel upselling

Time to put your guest hat on.

What’s the OTA like when it comes to booking a room? Is the booking process accessible, intuitive and likely to resonate with your audience?

A great feature set, cost effective commission rate and perfect audience is nothing if the OTA is a pig to use - tough but true.

Wrapping up

Happy OTA hunting! Take your time, but use the four factors above to narrow down your search to the most relevant websites for your hotel.

Been there and done it? What’s your OTA strategy? Have we missed something? If so, tell us in the comments section, below.

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

 

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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Regardless of how you might feel about the significant interest placed on millennials by seemingly every media outlet, the biggest generation in existence is definitely in the driving seat when it comes to the economy.This year they’ll outnumber baby boomers, so it’s important for businesses across all industries to cater to their needs in order to attract millennial customers.

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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…

Image credit

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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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