It really helps if guests can book directly online from your own website.
Ten years ago, most guests preferred booking in person with an owner on the phone. That has changed as people have become more comfortable buying online generally.
Now when someone does their research and finds me on my website or by recommendation or from my newsletter – they have choices. Often they call to book directly with me, and after asking a few questions, about half prefer to book securely online rather than passing details over the phone. No problem, the booking link is on the website.
Online booking also adds convenience for the guest. The guest can be searching at odd hours and find the website, satisfy themselves that the experience is right, the photos look good and the reviews are reassuring. They check availability and price, and book securely online on the spot, job done. Easy. No need to find if the owner is answering their phone or email, their holiday is booked.
For these reasons it is important to have a facility on your website for guests to book online. It will also save you a hefty commission.
Online booking is good for guests and good for VR owners with their own websites
You have many options, but after many hours researching the alternatives, I chose Thebookingbutton, from Siteminder, which is a simple and powerful booking engine for small owners.
How Thebookingbutton works
You set up your rates and dates on their system with a few photos, and there is a public link to your calendar with everything a guest needs to book. The link goes wherever you want on your website, you can even make it look like a button.
Once the guest is ready to book, they click on the booking link and the Bookingbutton booking engine takes over. The guest enters their dates, their details and credit card securely and the details are stored on a secure server. The system instantly sends you an email with details of your booking. You can log into the system to use the credit card manually or payment can be taken automatically through Paypal and deposited into your account.
More information here.
There is a small monthly rental (A$35/mth in 2018) for the bookingbutton, and no commission. When I had 3 VRs, I ran each as a separate room on the system with no extra price, excellent value.
Is it safe? Siteminder claims to be the world’s biggest online booking system with over US$16 Billion in revenue from thousands of hotels in 160 countries, and countless small VRs like you. It partners with some of the world’s biggest accommodation websites like booking.com and cTrip.
Disclaimer: I receive no benefit for endorsing Siteminder, I just like it and use it.
The other online booking options.
- Put a link on your website to your existing OTA listing – simple, but you lose control and are charged a commission.
- You can get various plugins that work with a wordpress site, with the various security headaches
- You can get an integrated website/ booking engine software from a number of providers, but making a decision is not easy and not cheap
- Do nothing, and lose online bookings.
I like the simplicity, and cost effectiveness of the booking button, but you make up your own mind.
Online booking is another reason to have your own simple website.