5 Major Differentiators for Resort Booking Engines
There is a very natural tendency for technologists (people who work in the development of technology solutions, software development, product management, etc.) to think their solutions apply to most or even all use cases. Those who have been in the game long enough understand that there are subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which an IT solution that is perfect for one business may not meet the needs of a similar business. This is certainly the case for hospitality solutions for hotels that run the gamut from chain hotels in small towns to country inns to mega gaming properties, to beach resorts. While some solutions work well for many or all kinds of hotels, there are certainly examples where a kind or grouping of hotels would need a more focused solution.
One example of this notion of a segment-focused requirement would be the need for specific solutions to meet the e-commerce needs of resorts. If we define "resorts" as facilities that provide both accommodation and activities in equal measure, we can broadly say that simple hotel booking engines don't have all the required functionality to support this type of organization.
Here are some of the critical capabilities that resort operators should consider when evaluating their online booking solution:
This content is typically found on the hotel's ".com" website but not in the booking funnel where it is most important to answer the customer's need at the point of purchase
Very often the limitations of a very linear and uncomplicated room-only booking path don't provide the kind of tools that a resort operator needs to expose the value of the promotions and offers that are available. Again, limiting the exposure of promotions to just the website and forging them in the booking funnel means they are not exposed to influence the guest at just the right time to close the sale.
While many booking engines have the ability to offer simple add-ons like breakfast or late check-out to the reservation, very few are providing integrated access to ticketing solutions or access to limited inventory, timed amenities (like cabanas). If your booking engine treats add-ons as an afterthought, then as a resort operator you're missing revenue opportunities with every processed reservation.
Even for those hotel booking products that offer flexible packaging for air and hotel, the ability to apply the same or even more complex rules to other product types is usually either totally missing or is being done in suboptimal ways.
Shopping Cart & Itineraries
In all these ways, resorts are often unable to meet customers where they want to be met - the solutions designed and developed for direct online bookings did not consider the resort model use cases first. They were built with small to medium-sized hotels or hotel chains as the initial clients. And, over time they adapted what was there to try to meet the needs of resort properties. This lack of attention to the needs of resorts and focus on what makes them distinct is what lies behind the historical lack of innovation to support a resort's unique selling needs.
IBS Software's booking engine, iHospitality Retail, was designed with the most complicated use cases in mind, based on the observation that if we can do this right for full-service resorts, then providing a booking engine for less complex hotel properties is easy by comparison. It's not always easy to bite off the biggest morsels from the start, but in doing so we have created a solution that can handle maximizing conversion, ADR, AND cart value in one seamless solution. By considering activity and amenity products to be just as important as selling hotel rooms, we have booking paths that accommodate the way that the end customer wants to plan their stay. The combination of shopping cart, packaging, and itinerary management in our online offering, while compelling for a standalone hotel, is a knockout for any hotelier who has to not just fill rooms but also provide access to a world of experiences.
About the Author
Will Berrey, Senior Director, Product Management, iHospitality, IBS Software
Will has been involved with hospitality operations and technology his entire life. From Will's first job at a Golf Course in Western Pennsylvania at the age of 12, through his 3 years at IBS Americas, he has held roles in hospitality.
Will worked for over a decade for PMS companies including Micros, Oracle, and Springer-Miller. He moved into the digital world at VEGAS.com, Caesars Entertainment, and Las Vegas Sands. Will is currently managing IBS Software Groups Distribution, Internet Booking Engines, and Analytics.