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The Importance of an Integrated Booking Engine in a Hotel’s Direct Booking Strategy



  03, Jun 2024

 Tags: Hotel Marketing Direct Bookings Conversion

There are dozens of ways for travelers to book accommodations. From online travel agencies (OTAs) and metasearch engines to a hotel’s website and social media channels. 

It’s common for hoteliers to focus mainly on OTAs, finding it difficult to diversify their booking sources to include direct channels. This strategy, however, can eat into profits and limit a hotel’s control over the guest experience. Finding the right mix of direct and third-party reservation sources can help lodging businesses maximize occupancy and profitability. 

A modern, integrated booking engine is a fundamental part of a hotel’s direct booking strategy. In this article, we explore nine ways a booking engine can help hotels drive more reservations and the benefits of doing so, such as control over the brand narrative, personalization of the guest journey, and increased revenue. 

Benefits of direct bookings 

While OTAs and other third-party distribution channels are crucial for lodging businesses, having a solid direct booking strategy is equally important. Direct bookings bring a ton of benefits, including: 

Owning your guest data. Direct bookings empower hotels to take full ownership of their guest data. This data can be used to conduct personalized marketing campaigns and pre-arrival communications. When reliant purely on third-party channels, this data isn’t available until guest arrival, resulting in missed upsell opportunities pre-stay. 

Increased profitability. Depending on the percentage of bookings that come from OTAs, commissions can eat into a significant amount of revenue. Balancing OTAs with direct bookings helps hotels save on commission rates, money that can be reinvested into the property and its marketing efforts. 

Diversification. Relying solely on one or two OTAs for bookings can be risky. If an OTA’s business declines or its strategy changes, hotels that depend on it could lose a significant portion of bookings. By diversifying your distribution strategy across OTAs and direct channels like metasearch, social media, and your website – hotels can ensure a steady flow of reservations regardless of one channel’s decline. 

Control over brand and messaging. Direct bookings give hotels complete control over their brand and messaging. They can establish expectations through marketing campaigns, website content, and pre-arrival communications to ensure that guests are prepared for their stay and aren’t met with any unwelcome surprises. 

Shape the guest experience. From the moment a traveler lands on your website to when they leave your property, hotels can shape the guest experience. From using chatbots to answer booking questions to sending personalized email confirmations and pre-arrival messages, hotels can make a big impression before a traveler sets foot on the property.

What is a booking engine? 

A booking engine is software used by lodging businesses to facilitate the direct booking process, making it easy for travelers to book online. 

For a booking engine to be most effective, it must be integrated or connected with other systems, including the property management system (PMS), channel manager, and payment gateway. This integration ensures reservation details and payment information are collected and processed automatically, and changes in rates and availability are updated across channels (both direct and indirect). 

Hotels can then use the information collected from the booking engine to send confirmation emails and pre-arrival communications via SMS, WhatsApp, or Messenger from the PMS or guest engagement platform. If you utilize a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can also store information here to create personalized marketing campaigns.

The integration of these systems is vital because it provides a frictionless booking experience for guests and automates hotel operations, leading to increased direct bookings and revenue.  

9 ways an integrated booking engine helps drive more direct bookings

Direct bookings sound great in theory, but getting travelers to book directly is easier said than done. Here, we explore how an integrated booking engine helps lodging businesses drive more direct bookings. 

  1. Facilitates a seamless booking experience. OTAs have mastered the booking experience, making it easier than ever to book online. Hotels with a modern, integrated booking engine can offer the same experience. Your booking engine should make it easy for guests to select dates, check real-time availability, view room types, browse images, add upsells and add-ons, book, and pay. 

  2. Social media as a booking channel. Your booking engine isn’t just a tool for your website. You can use the link on social channels like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook so travelers can discover your hotel and visit the link in your bio to book. 

  3. Metasearch advertising. Metasearch engines aggregate hotel information and rates from various channels into one place. This includes a link to your booking engine. To rank higher than OTAs on platforms like Google Hotel Ads and Trivago, investments in metasearch advertising can help steer travelers toward your booking engine to complete a direct booking. 

  4. Customization to match brand identity. Customizing the look and feel of your booking engine to align with your brand and the rest of your website enhances trust and reinforces your identity, making guests feel more confident in their booking decisions. 

  5. Rate shoppers & chatbots. Sometimes, travelers need additional tools to get them through the booking process. Rate shoppers are a great way for bookers to compare rates directly on your booking engine, eliminating the fear of a lower rate elsewhere. Chatbots can also be used to answer guest questions and establish a communication channel between the hotel and the guest. 

  6. Relevant add-ons and upsells. Your booking engine can present guests with relevant add-ons and upsells not found on other channels. Think breakfast add-ons, rentals, and activities that enhance the guest experience and increase your property's revenue. 

  7. Multi-language support & currencies. It can be frustrating as a traveler when trying to book in a language other than your own. By offering multiple language options on your booking engine, hotels can better cater to international guests to increase conversions. Additionally, offering currency conversion can help travelers better understand their spending. 

  8. Rate plans & packages. Various rate plans and packages can entice travelers to book by offering better value or exclusive deals not found on OTAs. Consider early-bird discounts or event packages. 

  9. Insights into guest behaviors. Your booking engine can provide valuable data on guest preferences, booking patterns, and demographics, which can be leveraged in marketing efforts and promotions to drive future bookings. 

Drive more direct bookings

Direct bookings offer unparalleled benefits for lodging businesses, from owning guest data to enhancing profitability and brand control. An integrated booking engine serves as a crucial tool, streamlining the booking process, maximizing revenue, and fostering guest loyalty. As hotels navigate the complex distribution environment, investing in a booking engine that integrates seamlessly with the rest of its tech stack will be a game-changer in increasing efficiency and driving more revenue.

The content for this article was provided by our partners at Cloudbeds.
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