Anyone running a small hotel or hostel quickly realizes how many different products and online options there are to help with this. The range of vendors and offerings can be overpowering – leaving many to wonder what they really need! Our short guide here will introduce the main concepts and systems you need to consider as you set up, or look to improve, your operations and sales.
Managing the business
At the core of the day to day running of most hotels and hostels is some sort of Property Management System (PMS). This is essentially a computerized way to manage customer bookings, handle check in and check out, and report / share key information. There are many options out there for this, with differing functionality, pricing and integration options. These may be standalone systems you install on your own computers, or online “cloud based” solutions. Whichever option you choose, these have come a long way from the days of managing everything with paper and book ledgers!
As well as managing bookings and customers, you will need something to look at your takings and profitability. A revenue management system can help with this. At its simplest, this will track revenue, occupancy and yields. Going further, there are possibilities to use the data to model profitability, test out new pricing strategies or methods to maximize occupancy. Such functionality is often built into a PMS, or could be a separate system.
Having the best management software around is not much use without customer bookings! Of course, manual bookings, group or corporate booking may all be handled directly and entered in your PMS. To reach out to customers online, you can either do this yourself or use some of the major online booking options out there.
To take your own bookings you will need some form of online booking engine. This is a booking platform most likely built into your own website. A number of vendors offer packaged solutions for this, ranging from simple booking apps to custom made flashy websites. Having your own booking system is a good way to bring revenue more under your own control as well as boost your brand and online image. Of course, it is possible to start simple with this and build up.
Alongside your own bookings you will likely also want to take bookings from online agencies, so-called Online Travel Agencies (or OTAs). There are many of these out there - Expedia, Agoda, hotels.com and booking.com being amongst the better known. Remember that there are many others too, some of which may have a special focus or target customer set of particular interest for you.
They will all market your rooms or beds to their customers, but rely on you keeping them up to date with property information as well as availability and pricing. Of course they will charge a commission for this! Many PMS systems will integrate with the leading OTAs. This is an important consideration to avoid some messy interfacing, or booking problems.
Managing these two sources will likely become a focus of your marketing efforts. OTAs will have a larger customer base, and established reputation, but the more bookings you drive to your own booking engine, the higher your takings. Many people who find your property through an OTA will then seek your own website too - for more details, or perhaps to see if they can save money!
Streamlining it all
The key with all these different products and options is to get them to work for you. This may sound clichéd but it is true! Having systems that handle well your bookings, hotel and customer management gives you more time to focus on the REAL business – running a great hotel and making your guests happy!
Some initial investment to choose the right systems and booking channels will certainly pay off. Get these working together. With fewer systems you will waste less time on administration. But even better than this you will have more accurate and up to date information, and much better control of your inventory and pricing.
Justin Hayward, blog post for HappyBooking, December 2016