Some weeks ago, our Tourism Revolution Blog published Javier Silvestre’s thoughts on the challenges faced by the hotel owner to create and strengthen a direct sales channel.
The title is very descriptive – “The Direct Sales Channel Cannot Be Made in Two Days” – and I recommend reading it as a reference before this post in which I intend to identify the main factors to consider when choosing the appropriate Computer Reservation System (CRS) on which to build a hotel distribution strategy.
Within the different parts of the business cycle that we have to manage to achieve increased sales on our Web page, the choice of a CRS is without doubt the most critical. If we have done everything else well, we will have a good product, represented by a good brand and described by a good Web site. We will have implemented well-planned Marketing efforts that will attract qualified traffic to our site at an attractive cost.
Now it is to make good on all this effort with the hoped-for reward: the sale.
Synthesizing the post, the basic difference between a good reservations system and the poor one is that the former makes it easier for us to convert visits into sales. This is our main goal.
As to the aspects to bear in mind at the time of selecting a reservations system adapted to your business, we will examine the following criteria:
1. The Interface.
It is the part that the customer sees. It should be attractive and simple to understand as well as rich in content and quick to complete the booking process. In addition, the interface should be customizable to fit the image of your property and offer a mobile version for those users who connect to your Web page with a mobile device. Connections via mobile phone are growing and it is estimated that by 2013 there will be more hits to your Web site by mobile phone via than by PC. In a recent study by Morgan Stanley, we see the projected growth.
2. System capacities.
On the other hand, we have the system that supports the interface. To begin with it must be easy to use – we already know the challenges of introducing a new technological tool in one or more hotels. If the staff is not comfortable using the tool, they will avoid having to deal with it, ending its usefulness. It sounds terribly irresponsible, but experience has proven it to be the case.
The system must allow us to sell all those initiatives we consider appropriate to convert visits into sales.
Some of the functions the CRS must provide are:
- Assign availability by room type and rate category.
- Create quotas independently or in association with a global inventory.
- To be able to open and close sales in a single operation.
- To have to possiblity to upload and submit confidential and negotiated rates.
- Automatic price change by room type, starting with the base price.
- Wide range of possibilities to load packages and promotional offers as well as extras to promote up-selling and cross-selling.
- Treatment of children appropriate to the policies of the hotel.
- To differentiate cancellation policies and sales norms by rate, room type and meals.
The security and reliability of the system should also be taken into account when opting for one system or another. The client has to be sure the system will not “crash” with high volumes of requests or server problems.
It is increasingly important to take into account the ability of a CRS to integrate with other systems. The goal is to achieve centralized management of our quotas and tariffs in a single system. Equally important is that the system has connections with those intermediaries with which we work most in order to use our limited resources on more productive tasks than loading prices and quotas in 10 extranets. Also important is the ability to communicate with our Property Management System (PMS) to avoid errors, delays and other wasted resources loading reservations in our hotel management system.
Within this section, one has to determine how well the system can be integrated into your current web page, either via iframe, where the reservations process occurs on your domain, or via a new window where the booking process occurs in a new domain, type: “reservations.yourhotel.com.”
As for the price, the most widely used model is that of commission per booking. It makes sense since that, depending on the number of reservations that you get on your Web page, you’re willing to pay more or less for your system. The result is a Win-Win model: if you win, the system provider does too, letting you know that you have a partner with the ability to reinvest constantly in technology. In addition one has to evaluate that as the system handles a greater volume of requests and reservations, your costs increase and therefore the business model of a technological company makes sense.
Just be sure that the registration costs are low. If after a few months, you discover that the engine you have chosen is not the most suitable you always have time to change without having to regret the high registration costs of the failed system.
After reading this post, do you think that you have the appropriate booking engine?