Software Review: Book At Once Property Management Software

Book At Once provides a powerful and innovative approach to their software for managing bed and breakfasts and other small lodging properties. For many, their power and innovation will be very attractive - especially in the free version. For others, it just may not be their cup of tea. Overview Book at Once is a German booking system, reaching out to become a worldwide provider, and particularly to reach the American, market. Book at Once has also become a vendor member of PAII, as part of its efforts to reach out to the US and international innkeeping market. One of the most interesting aspects of their product is that it is priced according to the features you select. The basic system is free, and that could be powerful enough for some properties. If not, additional feature bundles can be added for a monthly fee per room, or Book at Once can tailor a bundle to your needs and price it according to the features selected. Pricing for the product is given in Euros per room per month (easily converted to US Dollars or other currency), on the basis of a two year contract. We were given a full system for the review, so if you were to purchase a different option, your features may be different. The technical design of Book at Once makes it an enormously powerful system – so much so that as you use the system you are left with the feeling that it can do even more than you can see. That leaves great possibilities for future growth. User Interface [caption id="attachment_253" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Book At Once Dashboard"][/caption] In evaluating the user interface, we consider the layout of the screens (or web pages), ease of navigating the program, ease of entering (or changing) booking or guest…

Tracking Reservation Sources

A few months ago we wrote about the importance of tracking the sources of reservations, and mentioned that we would be testing the Intell-A-Keeper software available from Acorn Internet Services. While the high season bookings will get busier in the coming weeks, we thought it was time for an update on that process. [pullquote]the results are both interesting and enlightening[/pullquote]We have been using Intell-A-Keeper (IAK) since January, and find that the results are both interesting and enlightening. In the interest of full disclosure, I (Scott) have recently started doing a small amount of part-time technical work for Acorn Internet Services that is unrelated to Intell-A-Keeper. We pay the same amount for our IAK service as any other customer would pay. Our Prior Tracking Method Before using IAK we would track our reservations by asking guests (via an online form for online bookings, or directly if over the phone) where they had located Brewster House Bed & Breakfast. We tracked those results in a spreadsheet each year, so we could compare year-over-year changes. We also used Google Analytics to determine hits on our website, and the sources of the traffic, and configured Goals so we could attempt to track the source of bookings. In general, we knew that guest responses were not reliable, but without a better tracking mechanism, were not able to determine which were valid. Using Google Analytics only partially helped in this regard, as we could get a booking, then not be able to determine how the guest came to our site. This is largely because Google Analytics tracks only the last referer (yes, the correct spelling is misspelled - go figure) - the last source before coming to our site. To attempt to do better, we talked with Acorn and installed Intell-A-Keeper. Setting up Intell-A-Keeper Set up…

Put Your Facebook Page to Work

This post describes a Facebook app that uses FBML, which is no longer permitted for new apps on Facebook. The updated post, using static iframes, is located here (posting June 5, 2012). Some innkeepers frequently question the value of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, as being too time-consuming, all entertainment, annoying, or simply not producing any return on the time invested. We recently came across an idea from a large hotel chain that many bed and breakfasts can put to work immediately. A hotel marketing newsletter mentioned recently that a large chain had added booking capability to its Facebook fan page. That triggered a memory that we had seen articles on customizing your Facebook fan page, but had never really pursued it, as the changes we were thinking about would have taken more time than we were willing to devote to the effort. Digging up the article, we put together the idea, and with a bit of cut-and-paste, had a working booking and availability app on our Facebook fan page in under 30 minutes. If your online booking source allows you to integrate the availability form into web pages, you can have on on your Facebook fan page, too. We'll show you the step-by-step process, no programming needed! The 'How To' Section First of all, this will work with any online booking system that allows you to embed a form into a web page for checking availability and booking. Webervations is an example of one that does allow this, and we will use it as the example, since that's what we used to create ours. If you're not sure if you online booking service allows that, check their website (the internal site, where you go after logging in) or contact their support. In the case of Webervations (we're not…

Barriers – Are you creating them, or tearing them down?

After attending the PAII conference in Austin, Texas in early March, we've been on a long road trip to see family and take care of some personal issues. In the course of those travels an interesting lesson arose for all of us. We were driving down the Interstate, with an approximate idea of our destination, and wanted to find a bed and breakfast for the night. However, our actual destination was a local attraction, with the area B&B's scattered among a number of nearby small towns. Because this was short notice, we needed to find a B&B that would show its availability online, as it wasn't feasible to drive from town to town, and sometimes in rural areas, just to see if we could find a room. An added problem was that, if we couldn't find one, the hotels were all in the same small towns, or in a larger city about 20 miles away. Searching for a B&B Turning to our trusty smartphone, we searched for bed and breakfasts near the attraction. That brought up a list of properties and the usual collection of reviews, websites, photos and other information. Only a couple of the B&B's looked inviting, so we selected the one that most appealed to us, and checked its website. That's when the fun began. The rates were reasonable, and the rooms attractive. However, there was no online availability or online booking. The only way to book a room was to call. In addition, the policies were contained in a pdf file, which my browser of choice doesn't open nicely.  By comparison, the others had policies in web pages, but none that we were interested in had online availability or booking capability. So what happened? We didn't want to call the B&B during breakfast hours, of course,…

Slide Presentation: Selecting Guest Management Software

This week we attended the PAII Innkeeping Conference in Austin, Texas. Our first presentation was “How to Select Guest Management Software” on Tuesday afternoon (changed from its original time on Wednesday afternoon). Since it seemed that many were not aware of the schedule change, we wanted to make the slides available for viewing here. During the presentation we also gave access to a Google Documents spreadsheet to help in comparing different Property Management Systems, and evaluating them according to your own priorities. The slide presentation explains how to use the spreadsheet, and we'll describe it again, below the presentation, but if you only need the link to the spreadsheet to download it for your own use, you will find the Guest Management Software Comparison spreadsheet here. Selecting Guest Management Software View more presentations from Scott Thomas. Using the Spreadsheet The first two columns breaks the features we will consider into several categories (User Interface, Online Bookings, Reports, etc.), and identifies the features within each category. The column titled “Importance” is a numeric value you define, setting a value from 1-10 (10 being highest) of the importance of the feature to YOU. The values in the spreadsheet are samples, only. Your values may differ. Also, you can add more features (or delete irrelevant features) by adding rows between two other rows (or deleting a row). However, if you make such changes, you may need to update the formulas which automatically calculate totals in various sections. Read through all the features and edit the values in the Importance column to give relative importance of each feature to you. Download a demo copy of the software you are considering (or sign up for an online evaluation of a web-based system), and try it out, paying specific attention to the features listed in your…

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