Online booking has been the core revenue generating strategy for the corporate hotel industry for over a decade now, but the technology was slow to develop for all-inclusive destinations. Not surprisingly, owners and operators of guest ranches, hunting & fishing lodges have largely bucked the online booking trend. They have done so because they understand their clientele doesn’t want to just book a “room night”. These guests want a highly personalized and premium travel experience complete with incredible dining and memorable activities. Simply put, operators of all-inclusive properties have not been willing to risk the integrity of their product by utilizing online booking technology ill-suited for booking all-inclusive experiences online.
Despite the the challenges however, the demand for online booking has continued to grow, and the underlying driver is generational. For decades the Boomers drove the market for adventure travel. This generation wasn’t in a rush to book online, but with the rise of Gen X and the Millennials, the landscape has changed. With this shift online booking technology solutions designed for the all-inclusive set have finally become available, and it is now a very legitimate and increasingly necessary option. On top of it all, as the pool of travelers who only book online continues to grow, it i is now a matter of the “haves” and the “have nots”, and all-inclusive properties that offer online booking possess a competitive advantage over those that don’t.
Vet these decisions when evaluating online booking engine features and capabilities:
Keep Guests on Your Website
Imagine if a guest stopped in your lodge for a drink and the bartender said “Sorry, I can’t serve you here, but I’d be happy to direct you to the pub down the road.” The notions is absurd. Since having a guest on your website is akin to having them on your property, then why would you ever send them away from your website to complete a booking at your property? Third-party options for online booking abound, but it sends the wrong message. Fully integrate your online booking engine into your website and keep your clients where they belong.
A Great Online Booking Engine Will Give You More Control, Not Less
Frankly, it is not meaningful if all your online booking engine does is help you sell more rooms. It needs to help you sell more all-inclusive packages. Find an online booking system that empowers you to configure the length of stay, day of arrival and departure, and include all of your activity and dining options along with reserving the accommodation. Finally, ensure your online booking engine integrates with your property management system and synchs your room inventory in real-time, anything less will elevate the risk of a double booking, or create inefficiencies in your reservation workflow that will cost you in the long run.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Checking Availability in Real-Time
For many travel planners, booking an all-inclusive package is an exhausting and time consuming process with endless back and forth between the property and the members of their party (a.k.a. “herding cats”). The power of checking availability on your website is enormous, and it allows decision-makers to laser in on a timeframe that works for everyone. This eliminates a tremendous amount of the aforementioned “back and forth” with the property and streamlines the process. In fact, once the dates of availability are confirmed, it is not uncommon for the travel planner to pick up the phone and complete the booking with you directly. In other words, the power of searching for availability through your online booking engine can also have the benefit of increasing your direct bookings.