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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…

Software Review: RezOvation GT

RezOvation GT began as a re-creation of the very popular Munsenware GuestTracker software. It aims to be a full-featured program, providing a simple interface, and all the features necessary for daily lodging operations. Some six years ago, when RezOvation GT was in its infancy, we researched and tried several different programs for use at our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast, and settled on RezOvation GT as the best choice. In all honesty, we were not excited about choosing it, as it was relatively untested, and had a number of significant blemishes and a very high price tag, but we considered it to be the best choice despite many shortcomings. In the ensuing years there have been many improvements, and a few miscues, but there is little doubt that RezOvation GT is now a much more mature product, and is one of the top choices available today. Overview Unlike most reservation systems released in the past few years, ResOvation GT is stand-alone system, installed on your local computer, rather than a web-based system. The primary advantage of a stand-alone system is that they tend to offer many more powerful features than web-based systems, especially in the area of the reports you can obtain, and also generally allow for more user choices and preferences. The primary disadvantages of most stand-alone systems are (1) the need to back-up your data yourself, and (2) they can be difficult (or impossible) to access remotely. RezOvation GT deals with the back-up issue by mirroring your data remotely (at their facility), and suggests using LogMeIn as a secure way to access the system from a remote location. There is also an online option, called RezOvation GT Online. We have not tested that version, and have heard sharp criticisms of it, so thorough testing is recommended before signing…

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…

Software reviews: Online booking and property management software

As we have previously mentioned, one of the most frequent questions on innkeeping forums and elsewhere is which property management (or guest management) software ("PMS") is "best." Like most things, this is a subjective decision. What is the "best" property management software depends on your circumstances, your preferences, and your priorities.  One size most definitely does not fit all. If you search around the property management / guest management software world a bit, you'll quickly see that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find software reviews. Because of Scott's experience with this type of software (although on a much larger scale), and his ownership (with his wife, Ruth) of a small, seven room bed and breakfast in Freeport, Maine, we are adding software reviews to our information on About The Inn. About the Reviews When reviewing these products we have obtained a demo version, or in the case of web based software, a demo account, and used the product exactly as a new user would. When we review a product we have used for our own property, we are using it with our account and our configuration, so there may be minor differences from a new user's configuration. We attempt to use the version of the software which is most current at the time of the review. As we use the software, we evaluate it in regard to several categories: Rate Capabilities (types of rates and how they are supported), User Interface (ease and intuitiveness of use, availability of commonly required information), Guest Communications (emails, statements or folios), Reports (financial, occupancy, tax, gift certificates, etc.), Accounting (export to accounting software), and Online Booking (appearance, update frequency, features, etc.). Each of these areas include objective aspects (those that are simply present or absent, and subjective features (those more important to…

7 Things to Consider When Choosing Guest Management Software

Our B&B, Brewster House Bed & Breakfast, was recently in a position to re-evaluate its guest management software choice. You would think that the frequent evaluations (and upcoming reviews!) of various systems (we'll call them guest management software, though some call them property management software) would make this an easy thing to do, but it never works out that way. You see, while we did a careful study of the available software before our initial purchase, every time we have to review that decision, there are new players, with new products, and the older players and products have changed, and their pricing has changed. So, while we felt we made the best choice for our property at the time, it is always worth the time to review the competition instead of blindly renewing with the same product. 1. Take the emotion out of the equation From forum discussions and other contact we've had with innkeepers, it is clear that some guest management software companies give the impression of being a faceless corporate giant, while others give the impression of being the small, user-friendly company. Some make friends by giving things away, or being helpful in public forums. One may make you disinclined to buy from them, the other may make you want to help them out, but neither of these emotional reactions is a solid foundation for an important business decision. 2. Compare features that are the same Almost all products provide a list of their features on their websites. However, there is no industry standard for naming the features, so be sure that you understand what the feature actually does. For example, if being able to export guest transactions to an accounting program (such as Quickbooks or Peachtree) is important to you, make sure you know what the company…

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