5 Major Differentiators for Resort Booking Engines

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:

Rich Content 

Although all hotels seek to differentiate the stay for the guest and the value of the property, there is a larger burden on resorts to sell "the experience" of the property. This often requires more and larger images, property walkthroughs, video, and other rich content. Social media and UGC (user-generated content) can be important to validate the potential guest's view of the experience.

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

Promotional Opportunities

All hotels rely on promotions and offers to entice potential guests. But, for resort marketing departments, clever promotions and the ability to expose the value proposition in unique ways is even more critically important. Resorts need flexible tools that sell the low season, just as well as they sell the high season. The ability to meet the customer with the right offer at the right time and with the right messaging is the essence of resort marketing.

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.

Cross-sell

Whether you're operating a local ski resort or a Las Vegas strip mega-resort, you have a property and amenities that are crying out to be exploited as value-adds for the guest. You want to be able to get potential guests as excited about the fine dining options and the pool cabanas, as much as you're interested in selling the excellent accommodations to be found at the resort. Selling add-ons is not a "nice to have" for resorts. It's the difference between the success and stellar success of the property's online marketing spend.

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.

Packaging

One fundamental differentiator for a resort can be the ability to bundle multiple travel products together at a discount for the customer. This has traditionally been the purview of airline and OTA sites, keeping the best hotel rates opaque by bundling them with airline reservations. Why can't the same technology and marketing paradigm be applied to lift tickets and jet ski rentals? Flexible packaging is not just a great benefit to your customers - it is also a means of creating unique value in your direct channel. This can't easily be matched by other companies selling your accommodations.

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

For end customers on a resort website, we can't assume that the accommodation itself is the primary motivator for coming to a resort. If a guest is more interested in a once-in-a-lifetime experience swimming with dolphins than they are in whether they can get one bed or two in their room, they may want to ensure the activity they are interested in is available BEFORE they consider the cost for the room. Ecommerce sites like Amazon don't assume a path for you to buy specific complementary products. They also don't assume that just because you've entered your card number, you're not interested in buying more.

Applying standard e-commerce principles like "shopping cart" and "orders" to hospitality booking, allowing customers to access their "itinerary" and add to that stay, yet still providing discounts for bundled products and observing specific business rules, creates a different and more extensive environment in which the resort marketer can interact with their customers.


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.

If you are interested in seeing how IBS' iHospitality Retail booking engine addresses the specific needs of the resort property, contact Dwayne Long (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) in our hospitality sales organization.


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.

 

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Monday, 27 September 2021

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