by Stephanie Miles
Published on 29 January 2014
More than 148 million travel bookings are made online each year, and over 76% of U.S. travelers are now using digital tools to plan their trips. Businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry that do not accept reservations through their existing websites may be missing out on a significant chunk of potential revenue.
Speed, simplicity, and ease-of-use are three of the most important factors that consumers look at when making travel reservations, and hotels and tour operators that require customers to book via telephone or fax score low in all three of these metrics. Thirty-nine percent of online bookings are made outside of normal business hours, according to research from BRS Golf. Given that statistic, it's clear that accepting reservations and bookings online is incredibly important for businesses in the tourism industry.
Implementing an online booking and reservation software doesn't have to be difficult, and it doesn't have to be expensive. A number of digital marketing vendors have introduced web-based tools that businesses can utilize to enable online reservations and bookings through their existing websites.
Here are three tips for businesses that are willing to integrate an online booking and reservation system into their websites for the very first time.
The first step in the successful rollout of an online reservation system is to get the front desk staff on board with any new changes. Employees tend to be resistant to change until it's explained to them how the changes will impact their roles within the company. Explain to your employees that adding an online booking option for customers should make their lives easier, since more customers will be able to make reservations online without calling in for assistance. During the initial rollout of the online booking software, employees should be prepared to answer questions from customers who are confused about how the new process works. The more informed your employees are about how the online system functions, the easier the rollout will be.
Custom-built reservation software is expensive, and it can be difficult to integrate into an existing business website. However, large hospitality groups and tour operators may find that the high cost is a worthwhile tradeoff for the freedom and control they are able to have over their custom systems. For example, businesses that opt for custom-built software can decide for themselves how their customer portals should look and how the back-end of their systems should function.
The majority of businesses in the tourism and hospitality industries will find that the downsides - particularly, the cost and time investment - outweigh the upsides of custom-built reservation software. These businesses are better served by opting for ready-made online booking software. Ready-made software is generally easier to implement than custom-built software. In most cases, ready-made software can be integrated in mere minutes, compared to the months it can take to build and integrate a custom solution.
Potential guests are going to read customer reviews before they make a reservation online. However, as the business owner, you can use digital reservation and online booking tools to influence where customers go to read those online reviews. Adding a guest review component to your website is an easy way to solicit feedback from past guests. Positive responses can be posted front and center, giving new customers an easy way to gauge the quality of service at your establishment. A number of online reservation and booking platforms provide businesses with tools that they can use to solicit reviews and photos from customers. Adding this functionality, and giving potential guests a safe place to read honest reviews online, is an excellent way to entice potential guests to make a reservation
If you have not yet implemented an online booking and reservation system, you can find a list of the most popular software on GetApp.