Booking All-Inclusive Experiences Online

While online booking took hold of, and completely transformed, the hotel industry years ago, the digital tools available were rarely, if ever, well-suited for properties that feature an all-inclusive experience. As a result, operators of these niche destinations mostly bucked the online booking trend and rightfully pursued strategies more relevant to their own business model. They did so because they understand their clientele desires way more than just a “room night”. Their guests want a highly personalized and premium travel experience packed with world-class activities. Simply put, operators of all-inclusive properties were not willing to put their client expectations at risk, or the integrity of their product, simply to gain the perception of an added convenience.  

Another important factor was generational. For decades the Boomers drove the market for experiential travel, and this audience did not feel the “need” to book online. With the rise of Gen X and the Millenials, the landscape has changed, and along with advancements in technology, online booking is now a very legitimate and increasingly necessary option for the all-inclusive set. Further, as the pool of people who only book online continues to grow, it has become a matter of the “haves” and the “have nots”, and all-inclusive properties that offer online booking absolutely have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

When assessing the needs of your business, and evaluating your online booking engine options, be mindful of these factors:

Keep your clients on your website.

Imagine if a guest stopped in your lodge to have a drink and the bartender said “Sorry, we can’t do that here, but I’d be happy to direct you to the bar down the road.” This example may seem a little extreme, but nowadays, having a guest on your website is akin to having them on your property. Third-party options for online booking abound, but sending them elsewhere sends the completely wrong message. Make certain your online booking engine is fully integrated into your website and keep your clients where they feel the most comfortable.

Your online booking engine should give you more control, not less.

All-inclusive experiences are a completely different ball game from a la carte, and your online booking engine has to be designed with this in mind. Frankly, it is not meaningful if an online booking engine can help you sell more rooms, it needs to help you sell more experiences. Find an online booking system that gives you full control of your accommodations inventory, empowers you to completely control the length of stay, including days of arrival and departure, and a system that also allows for the promotion and pricing of activities and dining options. One last thing, ensure your online booking engine has the capability of two-way communications with your PMS, anything less will likely create more work and inefficiencies where it is not wanted.

Don’t underestimate the power of checking availability.

For many guests, booking online is merely the last step in the often somewhat arduous process of organizing their families and friends, plus all of the associated travel logistics (also known as “herding cats”). The power of checking availability on your website is enormous, and it allows travel decision-makers to conveniently line up everyone in their group and get them all pointed at the same spot on the calendar. In fact, once your prospective client confirms a range of dates that will work for everyone, it is not uncommon for that person to pick up the phone and complete the reservation with you directly. In other words, adding online booking capability can also contribute to reservations booked in other channels.

Photo courtesy of Justin Casey

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