What is a booking system vs a reservation system
A booking system - also known as a booking platform, a booking engine, or a reservation system - is the most basic way a tourism business - or any business - can sell or capture sales online. It might be on your website, or your Facebook page, or you might just be selling through an e-newsletter with links straight to a third-party financial software like PayPal. First there are two types of bookings; direct and indirect.
direct and indirect BOOKINGS
Most people in tourism start with direct bookings and quickly more to indirect bookings thorugh a third party. There are pros and cons with this, but that’s another article. Direct is great for starting out.
An example of a direct booking system is your website. You may have a contact page, or a Book Now button, linked to an online shop. You set up a product in that shop, set the price and people can pay using major credit cards. Examples of ‘shop’ software include Stripe, PayPal, Shopify etc.
But in tourism, you are scheduling departures, dates, and timeslots. Even for events, workshops and appointments it’s the same. This needs a booking system. In its most simple form you can manage time slots manually or with simple software like Calendly that links directly to your calendar (or many, many other apps that do the same). If you had set departures that run consecutively (i.e. just one bus or camel train) you could easily use this to sell overnight tours directly to your markets. This means you would be responsible for your own distribution using your website, and the state tourism body ( sa.com.au).
As a tourism business the most important thing is to have a calendar integration, so people can select dates, or times in dates to book their tour, entry ticket to your attraction, or overnight stays. The major benefits to you, are that you don’t have to manually mange a calendar, and you avoid double bookings.
Indirect bookings from more than one or two channels get a little more complicated. Getting a calendar is straightforward through a third party, if you only use one (you would have what's called a 'dual booking channel' – you use direct bookings and one ‘channel’, Stays.com for example).
Most third party online travel agents (or OTAs who are Bookings.com, Stayz and AirBnB) - know the value and power of the calendar for customers to check availability of reservation dates and compare options in one spot, especially for overnight stays.
GROWING DISTRIBUTION - Managing multiple channels
At a certain point you might start looking into multiple third parties selling your product on their retail customer facing site. Many accommodation operators have an ‘omni-channel solution’ and it helps to hit better occupancy rates to make profits. But they cost. Examples of omni channel manager software include Guesty, Front Desk, ResDesk, RMS and more. These are not consumer facing brands – your customers don’t see them. They integrate the back end of your website booking software, and into the back end of other consumer facing channels that you choose like Airbnb and Stayz to coordinate your calendar availability when customers are searching dates online. Some travel agents may use them also, to get wholesale rates. Again, another topic.
So, a booking and reservation system are the same thing, but can vary in complexity depending on if you are selling directly, or indirectly through third parties. Then you need a calendar that can integrate and talk to other calendars your indirect sellers use. It depends how many 'things' you sell – if you run concurrent tours and sell concurrent bed nights in multiple properties, this complexity means you’d benefit from having a channel manager software on your website to eliminate the legwork of manual handling and reduce risks of double booking or overbooking.
A ‘channel manager’ sits on your website and can manage multiple booking channels, integrate their calendars to ensure there are no double bookings, and (hopefully) helps you coordinate your rate setting strategy. This is an 'omni-channel' manager. They charge a set up fee, charge per booking and charge monthly too. Owch if you only have one property, but worth it if you have lots of rooms to fill. Examples of omni channel manager software include Guesty, Front Desk, ResDesk, RMS and more.
These are not consumer facing brands – your customers don’t see them. They integrate the back end of your website booking software, into other consumer facing channels that you choose (and pay) like Airbnb and Stayz to coordinate your availability when customers are looking at you on those OTAs. Some travel agents may use them also, to get wholesale rates. Again, another topic. This is the start of a distribution strategy.
If accommodation is not your jam, there are some booking system software providers like Beyonk, Rezdy and others who focus on ticket sales for tours, attractions and activities. Beyonk for example offer multi time slots and also multi day tours and integrations with other software, BUT not other retail travel booking sites or consumer facing channels.
Do your homework, and book in a demo to ask your questions.
Contact us, call Susan Lee