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Hospitality professionals seek to make the reservation and booking process as fast and accurate as possible, so they can maintain a real-time inventory and maximize occupancy at their properties. From boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts to large hotel and resort chains, hotel reservation software (or “central reservation systems”) can help management achieve these goals. These systems streamline everything from online reservations to the distribution and marketing of hotels across multiple sales channels.
This guide will outline the most common features and functions found in hotel reservation software, and the factors you should consider when shopping for a system.
Hotel reservation systems perform several functions related to online reservations, including managing rates and inventory and storing customer profile information. These systems also interface with various sales channels to ensure your hotel’s inventory and information is available to guests no matter where they reserve a room. These channels include the Global Distribution System (GDS; defined below), online travel agencies, booking engine software and reservation call centers. Finally, most reservation systems can interface with a property management system, which is used to manage other areas of a hotel’s daily operations.
Here’s a list of the most common capabilities of hotel reservation software:
|Reservation tracking||Enter and track reservations in a “tape chart”: a color-coded grid of reservations hoteliers can modify to reflect changes in availability. Some systems include the ability to track where reservations originate (e.g., from the hotel website or an online travel agency).|
|Rate management||Adjust rates and determine which rates are available to certain guests during certain times of the year or during promotions.|
|Customer data profiling||Manage phone numbers, payment information, membership status, statistics on past stays and other information about guests.|
|Internet booking engine||Many hotel reservation systems can enable online booking from your hotel’s website, turning your site into a veritable booking engine—an essential function today.|
|Global Distribution System integration||A GDS is a network that stores the rate and inventory information of hotels connected to it by a central reservation system. Online travel agencies also access the GDS, and use the information to ensure consistency for customers when booking online. Connecting a hotel to these networks with hotel reservation software allows guests to book rooms on systems other than the hotel’s system. Though the technology is aging, four major GDSs exist today (Worldspan, Amadeus, Galileo and Sabre) that are still used by most hotels.|
If you are in the market for hotel reservation software, here are a few factors to consider during your search:
Choose a system that fits the size of your hotel. Hotel reservation systems can vary in the number of rooms, number of properties and room types they support. Select a system that accommodates your hotel’s needs: choosing one that is designed for larger hotels when your business is a small bed and breakfast, for example, could make the reservation process more complicated than necessary. Large resorts, on the other hand, may require dedicated resort tools to meet their needs.
Consider GDS integration. Hotels should still consider GDS integration when choosing a hotel reservation system to ensure that rooms and rates appear correctly on the several thousands of sales channels GDSs link to.
Evaluate usability. Choose a system with an interface that is easy for you to decipher and that gives your hotel the most exposure to sales channels. More importantly, since the systems allow for online bookings, you should pick one with an easy-to-use customer interface. A simple, intuitive interface can mean the difference between a completed guest transaction and a failed conversion.
The biggest challenge for the hotel industry today is wrestling revenue back from online travel agencies, which have attracted travelers with reduced rates from hotels. Keep these trends in mind when comparing hotel reservation systems:
Online travel agencies. With the advent of the Internet, traditional travel agencies were undercut by airlines and hotels that could now offer direct sales to customers through their websites—avoiding the fees required to be listed with an agency.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) developed their own Internet presence by connecting to the GDS. These websites, such as Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz, focused their services on sorting and and comparing hotel rates and inventory to make planning easier for travelers.
OTAs charge hotels 10 to 25 percent in commission fees for being listed—but neglecting the millions of dollars generated through those websites is not an option for the vast majority of hotel managers. By using an appropriate hotel reservation system and increasing your online marketing strategy, you can drive more bookings directly from your website.
Metasearch engines. Other websites, such as Kayak and HotelsCombined.com, scour through the OTAs’ independent search engines to bring users a live inventory of hotel rooms across multiple OTAs. They allow users to sort these results by price, rating and other filters. These sites redirect travellers to the hotel website or OTA for the final purchase, and generate revenue through advertising and listing fees.
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