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How to choose a booking engine for today

When this blog started out, quite a few years ago, it was intended to focus primarily on marketing and evaluating reservation or booking software. With changes in the industry, and in my situation, that emphasis has shifted, but, from a high-level view, it has all been related. However, it has been some time since I've written specifically about booking engines, but for some historical perspective, you can find some useful information here and here. There are several reasons why reservation software (booking software) has not been the focus of posts here. Among them, is sheer volume of the offerings. There were over 40 different offerings emphasizing B&B bookings when this blog began. Today some of those have gone out of business, but many are still there, in one form or another, and there are literally dozens of new additions to the field. Another reason is that my consulting work has lately been occupied with specific booking systems, so I have been reluctant to write about systems I'm evaluating for clients. Yet another is that several of the existing systems have promised to provide me with demo access so I can do a full review, but have failed to come through with the goods. Hmmm. What does that say about their ability to follow-through for customers, I wonder? Meanwhile, many (perhaps most) of the posts have explored ways to evaluate your marketing using Google Analytics - an area of much greater concern to many I speak with. Getting Started Whether you are considering a change of booking engines (and for our purposes I'll be using the terms "booking engine", "booking software", and "reservation system" or "reservation software" all to refer to the same thing - an external system for capturing guest bookings that can be - or appear to be -…

How Did You Do Last Year?

It's that time again. A new year, and with it lots of good intentions resolutions to improve business for the new year. This is the time to go back over some statistics from last year to try to genuinely understand how you did last year, especially compared with the prior year, and to see what worked, and should be kept, and what didn't. I've written previously about year-end reviews, so, instead of re-inventing the wheel, I've revised and updated the three posts for 2014/2015, along with the spreadsheet for checking on room performance, which you can download from the posts. As mentioned in the posts, if you don't have a way of tracking this kind of information, start tracking it now. Use the spreadsheet, and update it once a month. It will take you half an hour a month, and at the end of the year, you'll have valuable information to use when looking back at 2015. These posts describe the most important aspect - using Google Analytics' Ecommerce tracking to validate how paid referral sources are performing. As mentioned there, you should consider other factors in addition to Ecommerce results when decided to keep or drop a paid source. However, Ecommerce tracking is so valuable that one more thing needs to be said: If your booking engine doesn't properly support Ecommerce tracking, get another booking engine! Five years ago it may have made sense to say, "My booking engine doesn't have ecommerce tracking, but it will soon. I'll wait." Five years has passed and they still don't support it. Get one that does! The Year End Review posts are: Year End Review: Making a List (Creating a spreadsheet to track room performance) Year End Review: Who's Naughty or Nice? (Looking at month-by-month performance) Year End Review: Cutting Through the…

Year End Review: Who’s Naughty or Nice?

The first part of this series discussed the sources of information for our year end review. In this post we'll look at ways you can "drill down" in the information you have to learn more about the year's performance. If you haven't been keeping records that will give you the information, we'll talk about how to get started keeping those records. We'll look at two different areas for our year end review. The first will be a look at bookings and revenue. The second, in the third installment in this series, will be website performance, referral sources, and the like. Year End Review of Bookings and Revenue [pullquote]There is gold to be mined in your guest records![/pullquote]Most (but, incredibly, not all) property management software or online booking systems will allow you to generate a report that will show the number of bookings you had over the past year, and the amount of revenue that represents. Fewer of them will allow either a direct comparison with the prior year, or at least allow you to run a second report for the prior year, so you can compare the figures manually. That's a good start, but there is so much more gold to be mined! Year End Review of Room Performance In essence, your guests are telling you, by their booking patterns, which rooms they prefer. Our objective is to see what they are telling us, and learn from it. So we'll begin by looking at the performance of individual rooms. Many PMS systems will provide a report of room performance, showing nights booked by room, revenue by room, and ADR (Average Daily Rate) by room. If yours gives this information, use it. Be sure you can compare it to prior years, as well. If your software doesn't do it, or if…

Year End Review: Making a List

Wouldn't it be nice to do a year end review of the year's bookings and see if there are areas that can be improved? As the calendar year draws to a close, our natural tendency is to take a look at how we did this year. But what will give you that information? Most of us will look at total revenue, total number of room nights sold, and perhaps one or two other statistics, and then hope we're on track and getting better. What else will help us measure our performance, and decide what changes could increase performance? In this post we'll talk about the sources of information we'll need. In our next post we'll talk about how to organize that information so we can evaluate not only our performance, but the performance of our paid directory listings and other paid advertising. Where Does the Information Come From? Our purpose is to review our annual performance in several areas, to see what changes might improve performance in coming years. Certainly knowing total revenue and number of rooms sold, compared to prior years, is helpful, but that hardly gives us any information to see how to improve. Information about bookings, revenue, etc. Ideally we would like all the information about our bookings and guest behavior for our year end review to come from the reports in our booking systems. As we've pointed out in our product reviews, the greatest weakness of most booking systems is their lack of adequate reporting. Even those few who do offer a reasonably good selection of reports may not have one that gives you exactly what you need. If you find that your booking system doesn't provide all the information you need in its reports, there are several steps to take: Determine how much of the…

Online Booking Software Prices: Part Two

Last week we looked at a survey by BedAndBreakfast.com, apparently designed to help it determine new prices for its online booking software products. Depending on the number and kind of bookings you take, the proposals could be better, or significantly worse, for your property. This week we'll look at other ways vendors set online booking software prices. One thing is for sure - no matter how the survey BedAndBreakfast.com is conducting turns out, the results will be very suspect. Why? We've learned from more than one innkeeper that they were able to access the survey from multiple email addresses. That means that there is no control over the number of times one person can respond to the survey. No need to stack the voter rolls with cemetery occupants, multiple email addresses seems to do the trick. Back to the topic at hand... Note that we'll assume a 7 room property since most products are priced differently by the number of rooms, and 7 is about the average size according to the PAII Operations Studies. To contrast with the new pay-per-booking models BB.com seems to be considering, their current model has several components (some of which are optional, and others are only for RezOvation GT users). Here are the basics (according to their published information as of this writing - note that we know the upper limit of the BB.com online bookings is 30%, but were unable to find details of lower rates on their website, hence, that information is from memory - happy to correct it if accurate information is different): RezOvation GT guest management software with booking engine: $90/month BedAndBreakfast.com online bookings: 25-30% per booking depending on percentage of inventory constantly listed Expedia and partners bookings: 25-30% per booking depending on percentage of inventory constantly listed The RezOvation booking…

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