Where do your online reservations really come from?
May 17, 2005
The opportunity to sell rooms or generate reservations online (through web-based protocol) has evolved tremendously over the past few years. Many, if not most, hotels worldwide are aware and try to take an active part in online reservations yields promising results. Nevertheless, hotelier has to keep in mind that online reservations can in fact be made from many sources: they could have come from third party portals (intermediaries) or as well from a hotel's own website.

To properly capture online reservations requires software (sometimes known as a "booking engine"). A hotel may make use of an online travel portal's own reservation system. By doing so, however, this hotel has indeed hopped into the online reservation 'zone'. But is this thus maximized? How about exploiting a Hotel's own website as an "ultimate distribution channel"?

Many articles coming from independent and franchised hotels recount how online reservations originating with a Hotel's own website have grown incrementally over time. Carol Fraser, General Manager of an independent hotel chain operator in Alaska, stated in one article that "Reservations made on our website provide the most profitable revenue...". Another article states, "Best Western International claims to have created an industry record for online bookings - single-day reservations made via the company's website hit $1 million mark already 70 times in 2005".

A Hotel really requires a reservation system that is able to capture online reservations directly from its own website. Even so, this is not the sole purpose of a reservation system. In addition to adding one more distribution channel (the hotel's own website) a reservation system also enables a hotel to input and modify all necessary information ~ hotel description, room rates, inventory, promotions, packages, customer database ~ at any time, and to distribute it to all distribution channels ~ including YOUR OWN WEBSITE.

Does this signify that if a hotel has its own reservation system and online booking feature on its website, it automatically makes intermediaries (travel agents, wholesalers) into competitors, or adversaries? Not at all!!

In fact, a hotel could manage room rates and its inventory for all its intermediaries (travel agents, wholesalers) ~ including for the hotel's own website, in a more systematic, uncomplicated and efficient fashion, for monitoring and evaluating purposes. Urgent and immediate changes could be distributed in a more systematic way, as all intermediaries could also share direct access to designated information, such as updated rates and inventory availability.

Installation and application of such a system could give rise to certain amount of unease or lack of confidence. Then again, a hotelier should remember the past, in times when a hotel reservation's staff had to check manually to ascertain which room was Out Of Order (OOO), which was just checked-out (and thus not yet ready to sell), and which room was are ready for sale. A Property Management System (PMS) has helped reservation staff to do all this swiftly, accurately and efficiently. The airline industry pioneered the notable Global Distribution System (GDS) that is now widely used by hoteliers everywhere as a marketing tool. Isn't technology meant to help speed things up and make more money for us?

The success of a hotel's property will depend on how it is able to follow through in an external environment and to conform all internal elements in line with objectives. A period of adjustment is normal when such a system is first adopted. User-friendly reservation system becomes available according to each hotel's needs. Another consideration is that when it comes to systems or software, the hotel has to ascertain whether the responsible software vendor is continuously upgrading its features or not.