Blog category: booking engine

The Booking Engine For Growing Direct Business

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, July 15, 2010

Did you know just how capable the Bookassist Booking Engine really is? If your hotel is already a client, you still may not be using all of the capabilities fully so it’s a good opportunity to review what we can bring to your direct booking business and what continues to make Bookassist unique.

Bookassist’s Booking Engine delivers on customer service because we know that your guest’s online experience needs to be as good as their offline experience. Bookassist has been frequently first-to-market with new features that others rush to catch up to. Under constant development to bring you what need for today’s demanding customer, here are just a few of the features it gives you right now:

  • Multilingual Corporate & Frequent Booker system allows preferential rates for each corporate or individual for your hotel or across your hotel group
  • Loyalty System to reward regular bookers with any gifts or reductions, or private rates, as you wish
  • Promo Codes to allow instant discounts on displayed rates
  • Electronic or offline vouchers used directly in the booking process or in the hotel
  • Customisable Email Confirmation with mapping and hotel specific information
  • SMS Reservation confirmation, a first for Bookassist since 2004
  • Full PCI-DSS compliant security, a first for Bookassist since 2009 - if your supplier is not certified, you should ask why not
  • Book multiple rooms and room types - a feature we’ve had since launch in 2000
  • Book family rooms and have dynamic pricing based on number of children and their ages - a first for Bookassist since 2005
  • Book additional services and add-ons along with room bookings to allow customers to dynamically package - a feature we’ve had since 2006
  • Multilingual throughout, uses UTF-8 so that multiple languages display properly and customer details can be entered in customer’s own alphabet (eg Russian, Polish, Czech etc)
  • Live currency exchange built in - a feature we’ve had since 2003
  • Automatic emailing of guests after arrival for reviews collection - a feature we’ve had since 2007
  • Display a full table of rooms and rates direct from the booking engine on any page of your website as a handy price grid
  • Display special offers and packages with dynamic content, and fully bookable, on any page of your website or in newsletters and emails
  • Over 99.99% uptime annually over the last 5 years giving industry-beating consistent reliability

To help you out at the back end, here are just a few additional features that keep you in full management control of your system:

  • OTA/XML Integration with leading front office systems such as Protel, Softbrands, Micros Opera
  • Full integration via Ecommerce API with Google Analytics lets you track advert spend right through to specific bookings - a feature we’ve had since 2008
  • Administration Reporting using Google Charts for quick visual data - a feature we’ve had since 2008
  • Administration Reporting with alerts on low availability and email reporting
  • Administration Reporting on what is selling and what is not so you can see your missed opportunities
  • Direct-to-hotel-account banking capability for 100% upfront offers and packages
  • Administration management so staff only see the information they need to see
  • Base rates for rooms or packages can be in multiple currencies
  • Linked rates system allows you to define room rates with respect to a master rate, simplifying quick rate changes across the board
  • Full control of length of stay, day of arrival and other required limitations
  • Manage guest reviews and ratings, and post responses visible on your website and on webapp
  • Channel management solution to control how you sell on third party websites
  • GDS connectivity
  • Downloadable guest contact details with Privacy Legislation Compliance as verified with the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland and elsewhere as applicable

With the Bookassist Booking Engine integrated into your website, matching the look and feel of your website, you can choose to have a tabbed version that brings you all the following features, or you can use the content of each of these tabs on different pages of your website as embedded dynamic content. Click any image to see more:

Hotel Online Booking System from BookassistBooking Engine Allows Multiple Room Booking
Languages & Currencies Create Customer Confidence

Hotel Online Booking System with Reviews from BookassistIntegrated Customer Reviews
Encourage Confidence In Your Product

Hotel Online Booking System with Maps from BookassistMapping To Aid Your Customer

Hotel Online Booking System with Vouchers from Bookassist
Hotel Online Booking System with Package Vouchers from BookassistSell vouchers for packages or for fixed amounts

And of course Bookassist was the first supplier to bring you a hotel-specific webapp for iPhone, Android and mobile devices to ensure that you are giving the mobile customer exactly what they want.
With Bookassist’s Facebook integration about to launch soon, we continue to innovate for our hotel clients. There is much more to come from our development and research teams. Stay tuned grin

Labels: social media, security, booking systems, booking engine

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Video of Bookassist’s hotel webapp on iPad

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, November 04, 2010

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqgjfTkwkEA?fs=1]

This is a highly-optimised touch-screen app which works in portrait or landscape mode for iPad. Automatically served to your hotel customers when they visit your hotel website on iPad.

Of course the customer always has the option of viewing the full hotel website instead by tapping the exit icon (shown here) on the screen at any time, just as in the iPhone/Android webapp.

As a live example, while on your iPad, visit m.moranhotels.com.

For more video, see bookassist.tv

Labels: webapp, mobile, ipad, booking engine

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3 Great Reasons to Choose Bookassist

By Claire Sawier | On Tue, October 22, 2013

Here are 3 great reasons why we think you should choose Bookassist for your hotel’s online needs:

Our booking technology is better than ever!

Our Booking Engine has continuous major upgrades making it more flexible, more responsive, with higher conversion and strong new features:

  • New modern interface with advanced CSS, highly adaptable to your hotel’s website
  • Dynamic Pricing capabilities to offer automatic packaging, discounts and specials with prices recalculated on-the-fly
  • Meal Plans to offer breakfasts, dinners as add-ons depending on occupants and ages
  • This year we launched our new Distribution Manager, a game-changer for the industry. We are different from other channel manager companies in one very important way, we actually help hotels to find the sale with the best margin

Our technology continues to beat the industry

We always strive to deliver above the industry norm

  • Our team are Google Adwords certified AND Google Analytics qualified.
  • We are not only PCI compliant but we are registered Visa merchants. We take your business very seriously and work very hard to protect it.
  • We don’t just advise on direct business, we also integrate with Meta Search providers to automatically manage hotels information straight from the booking engine admin system delivering more direct business and higher margins for our hotels.
  • We don’t just bring you local expertise we bring you global expertise. Our international market intelligence helps us to make our booking technology and our online strategy advice second to none.

Bookassist - for those who won’t settle for second best.

Labels: strategy, booking engine, bookassist, awards

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What if your Booking Engine was hacked?

By Editor | On Mon, November 18, 2013

Cybercrime - It could happen to you!

Cybercrime is a reality and no company is completely immune. But you can and must take steps to protect your hotel and your customers from a security breach. With the rise of online payments and the increasing technical ability of cyber criminals, your data needs to be much better protected or you risk destroying your business.

The highly-publicised recent data breach at Loyaltybuild, estimated to be the largest data breach in Europe within the last three years, emphasises the importance of taking action to ensure the protection of your business and your hotel brand against such a data breach.

Loyaltybuild operates reward schemes for companies across Europe, including well known brands in the Irish market such as SuperValu, Axa, StenaLine and Electric Ireland. In October 2013, personal and credit card data processed by Loyaltybuild on behalf of a number of companies was compromised and a number of investigations are ongoing into the matter by the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Breaches of this nature have the potential to have major implications for all companies and brands to whom Loyaltybuild provided services.

Given the serious damage a data breach of your booking engine data could do to your business, we have compiled the following FAQ to help you put in place the best protection for your hotel.

1. I don’t need to worry because our booking engine provider processes bookings for us, so it’s their problem if there is a data breach, right?

Whilst a data breach would cause serious problems for your booking engine provider it would also have a huge negative impact on your hotel brand. Just as brands associated with Loyaltybuild are currently suffering from a crisis of customer confidence, you would be similarly affected through association with your booking engine provider. You need to protect your reputation by making sure that your most valuable asset - your customer - and their data is fully protected whether you or your suppliers are handling that data.

2. What can our hotel do to reduce the risk of a data breach of our booking engine?

First and foremost, you must ensure that the provider you work with is PCI DSS compliant. PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance gives you the peace of mind that your suppliers know what they are doing and that your customers’ data is being stored securely by that third party in accordance with certified best practice.

3. What is PCI DSS?

The aim of PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) is to set standards that assist in the prevention of fraud. Being PCI DSS compliant does not mean that you won’t have a data breach but it does mean that in the event of a data breach arising, the credit card companies will support you. Working with PCI DSS compliant suppliers is like having an insurance policy that helps you when things go wrong.

4. How do I find out if my current booking engine provider is PCI DSS compliant?

Simply ask them for their PCI DSS statement of compliance.

5. My booking engine provider does not have a certificate of PCI DSS compliance so what effect would it have on my hotel if they experienced a data breach?

There would be serious implications for your provider as they would be offered little protection from the credit card companies for failing to comply to acceptable standards. Your hotel brand would experience significant damage as irate and unhappy customers, who had placed their trust in your brand express their anger. It is your responsibility to exercise due diligence to ensure that the partners you work with protect you and your customers.

There may also be implications for your costs in processing credit cards with the main providers, or hefty fines from them, that could compromise your ability to do business.

Conclusion

Your single most important asset is your customer. You need to ensure that your hotel and the third parties that you contract with protect your customer’s data to the highest level.

You can reduce the risk to your hotel by ensuring that your Booking Engine Provider provides you with evidence of PCI DSS compliance and adheres to the standards.

About Bookassist and PCI DSS

Bookassist, the World’s Leading Booking Engine Technology Provider, is certified PCI DSS compliant and was one of the first booking engine providers to adopt the standards. Bookassist has been compliant for over six years and continually invests in ensuring the highest standards of security. Bookassist can provide their certification on request, and we are listed on the certified Visa Merchant List https://www.visamerchantagentslist.com/

Labels: security, pci, data protection, booking engine

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Mobile User Behavior Is Changing On Hotel Websites

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, May 21, 2014

WebApp versus Responsive

There’s always been a strong discussion about whether responsive is really fit for purpose for hotels’ web and mobile presence, or whether a separate mobile-focused webapp and desktop/tablet website is better. A strong advantage of responsive sites is that the content is largely the same and managed in one place, it’s just adjusted physically to match different screen sizes or devices. This makes it easier to deal with for the hotel, and ensures a consistent image and brand projection across devices for the user and prospective customer.

However, such an approach does not always take account of differences in user requirements and behaviour across different platforms. A strong advantage of webapps is that they are not tied to the structure, content or philosophy of the desktop website, and can focus much better on the mobile users’ specific needs. Webapps represent a good mobile-first strategy compared to a catch-all responsive strategy. Or certainly that was the case.

Responsive typically takes the same basic elements and alters their presentation or priority for different screen sizes or devices.
Responsive typically takes the same basic elements and alters their presentation or priority for different screen sizes or devices.

The Mobile User Is Different

In 2010, when Bookassist pioneered mobile solutions for hotels with direct booking capability, we launched a stand-alone webapp approach for hotels that operated quite separately from a hotel’s own website. (Throughout this article, I’m using mobile to refer to smartphone only, not tablet.) Our analysis of mobile traffic across hundreds of hotel websites at that time showed that users on smartphones had very different and more immediate demands to those users on desktop/tablet, which meant that responsive was not quite good enough as an approach. Our webapp system forwards a hotel website user on a smartphone to a dedicated webapp for the hotel, where the popular functions that mobile users want are immediately catered for:

  • location details for the hotel,
  • phone and contact details,
  • map,
  • routing,
  • same-day booking,
  • photographs.

Analysis showed that pages with large amounts of text were simply being ignored or quickly exited by mobile users. Their demands were quite specific and short term. We built (and build) our mobile approach based on analysing the user, not based on what we “thought” would be the best solution.

As we approach mid-2014, our webapp solution (soon to be upgraded to WebApp V3) and the philosophy behind it continues to evolve to match mobile users’ needs. Our user research continues to track strong changes in mobile user behaviour. Mobile bookings for our hotels through their webapp platform continue to grow steadily, as shown below. But we have noticed very interesting trends and changes in mobile user behaviour.

Growth in mobile bookings in Bookassist's Dublin hotels
Growth in direct mobile bookings recorded in Bookassist’s Dublin hotel clients

The Mobile User Is Different?

Firstly, the mobile platform itself is evolving very quickly. You don’t need statistics to understand this - it’s clear to everyone that in the past 3 or 4 years, the market penetration of smartphones has been enormous. Screen size continues to grow, with Apple’s flagship iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c now among the smallest screen size in the top sellers (the upcoming iPhone 6 expected to address that issue). Screen quality and pixel density have both improved, meaning that more of the web is visible with clarity on a smartphone screen without scrolling.

All of these physical device changes (see Appendix 1 below) mean that you undoubtedly find it increasingly easier and more comfortable to browse and work on your smartphone. As a result, user patterns on mobile and desktop are beginning to quickly converge and they do not show the kind of differences in behaviour that we saw just 2 or 3 years ago. Increasingly, catering for a different user behaviour (as distinct from screen size) across devices may now be less relevant than it was before.

Secondly, smartphones are no longer new-fangled devices. Now, they’re normal, they’re everyday. People have grown used to them very quickly, and as a result people are using them more and more as everyday web access devices. Accordingly, the patterns of behaviour we are seeing on mobile are less different from desktop than they used to be in previous years. And our analysis of booking trends on mobile shows this evolution in stark terms.

Last-Minute Is Diminishing On Mobile

From a booking perspective, mobile has always been touted as a strong “last minute” channel, but again here we are seeing a clear shift in mobile user booking towards a more “normal” distribution. The portion of same-day bookings is clearly decreasing on mobile, from close to 30% in 2011 to less than 15% today in our figures. Long lead-in times are also becoming more prevalent, just like the typical desktop booking distribution. People are planning ahead on mobile, and booking ahead, more than ever before. It should be noted that last minute booking was very significantly swayed towards business travellers, and business travellers had a larger share of smartphones in the earlier years. But as the profile of bookers on mobile switches from business-dominant to everyday users, the result is a drop in the last minute portion of bookings on mobile.

Change in booking lead-in for Bookassist's hotels on mobile
Change in booking lead-in for Bookassist’s hotels on mobile

The trend is quite clear. Mobile user behaviour for hotel websites is approaching the norms of desktop user behaviour. The differences in behaviour are reducing as mobile phones evolve and users get more comfortable with their use for everyday online access.

This is probably one reason why last minute mobile booking company Hotel Tonight are now also offering a look ahead service for rates up to 7 days in the future as reported on thenextweb recently - possibly pre-empting the increasing desire of mobile users to plan ahead.

Responsive Revisited

All of this of course is good news for responsive design. There will always be a need to ensure that responsive design takes note of the different requirements of users on each platform, not just the layout of information. But the data here does clearly show that those behavioural differences are rapidly diminishing to the point where they are very manageable with a single, well thought-out responsive solution across all devices.

At Bookassist, our Web Design team now designs all websites for hotel clients on a smart responsive basis, while ensuring that key processes such as booking are genuinely optimised for the smaller screens and other limitations on mobile. This fuses the best of our knowledge on responsive design with our knowledge and experience of hundreds of hotels using our webapp platform. We continue to offer a strong dedicated and ever-evolving webapp solution for hotels who wish to retain their non-responsive website designs but need a proven, effective and award-winning mobile browsing and booking solution.

Recent examples of our responsive approach are:

Appendix 1: Screens Are Growing

The following two figures illustrate the rapid change in screen size that has accompanied the growth in mobile phone usage online. From 2010 to 2013, mobile phones’ diagonal screen size has shot up by 38%, giving a far more useable area for the mobile user. More importantly, if you look specifically at browsing, the average screen size being used on mobile web has also grown in that period. So the devices themselves are growing, and browsing is increasingly making use of those larger screens.

Growth in average diagonal screen size (inches) on shipped devices to end 2013, from NPD Display Search.
Growth in average screen size (square inches) used on mobile web to mid 2013, adapted from 51Degrees.

The screen size issue is not the full story, as screen resolution has also seen a stark change, allowing more of a web page to be made visible on the same notional screen size, as illustrated below. While standard desktop monitors traditionally ranged 72ppi (pixels per inch) to 96ppi (and that is also changing with Apple’s Retina displays on its MacBook Pro line and the recent introduction of 4k monitors), mobile devices pack far more pixels into each inch than typical desktop displays do, and can therefore display much more on the same real estate. Mobile ppi figures on the popular smartphones are now in excess of 4 times the density of traditional desktop monitors, essentially cramming more of the visible web onto your screen.

All of these physical device changes mean that it is increasingly easier and more comfortable to browse and work on smartphones, and so user patterns on mobile and desktop are beginning to quickly converge.

Screen pixels and pixel density in the top smartphones as of March 2014, adapted from Gizmag.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and founder at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the award-winning technology and online strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

Labels: website, webapp, responsive, mobile, booking engine

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