The Online Booking System Game – Which One to Choose?

Online Booking system solutions for accommodationThere are plenty of choices out there in the market for accommodation operators in selecting an online booking system that suits them.  You can view a list of New Zealand booking systems available on this article “Online Booking Strategy for Tourism Operators“.  One notable change since that article was published is the merge of Bookit with Vianet – now both owned by Trade Me Travel with plans to phase out the Vianet system for bookings later this year.

The decision on which online booking system you choose will come down to a few key areas that are relevant to your business:

Cost model

Is it commission based per booking or a set monthly fee?  The certainty of a set monthly fee will suit some and not others.  Those will lower volume bookings are likely to be better off using a supplier with a straight commission model.

Flexibility with Inventory Management

Can you opt to offer real time or on request bookings?  Can you mix it up between the 2 options?  There are definite key benefits to having control over your availability type for different time periods – particularly for smaller suppliers who don’t have the luxury of large room inventories to always offer instant bookings.

Distribution opportunities

Does the system offer a retail distribution channel or network to increase your booking opportunities?  Many of the key systems either have set up their own retail website, work with key retail websites or have been purchased by a large retailer.

Functionality

Does it come with all the bells and whistles of a full reservations system or simply accept online bookings?  Can you choose what you use in the system to suit your business?  Pick a system that will work with your needs.

Channel Management

Does it offer an automated link to updating key retail travel websites or at least link to a channel manager that does?  This ability opens up the opportunity for you to gain broad exposure and easily manage your pricing and availability with key online travel agents.

Easy to use

For both yourself and your customers.  It’s an important consideration as to how your customers experience the booking process on your own website.  It should be simple, quick and easy to understand (likewise for you!).

How Do New Zealand Online Booking Systems Score?

To me, a great system would offer you options in all of these areas and give you the choices to make it work for your business without dictating how you use it.  Does any of the New Zealand systems offer all of this right now?  Not really, there is no perfect system yet that will suit every type of tourism business.

Don’t get me wrong – many of the systems work fine and offer comprehensive solutions, but I think all of them fail in one respect or another so it’s a matter of picking the one that is the best fit for your business based on some of the criteria discussed above.