There has always been a lot of talk about taking online reservations in the hospitality business. The potential is huge; being able to take bookings online directly with no middleman taking commission is a huge draw card. But there are other less obvious benefits too, being able to speak to your customers directly allows you to send out marketing material, increasing trust between you and your customers (or potential customers) and increasing repeat visits. After all who doesn't want to go back to a hotel that they have got to know and love?
Taking reservations online simply means that your customers can go to a website (most likely your website), select the dates they want to book, enter in their booking details and click a button to book.
But... How Does It Know?
How does the website know what rooms are available? And how does it know what information we need for bookings? And how much to charge and so on?
One way or another you would have told the website what rooms are available and what the charges and terms of staying are.
Isn't That a Lot of Work?
It can be yes, but you can let software do it for you. For example iMagic Hotel Reservation can upload (send) your room availability information to the booking website based on your existing calendar. Depending on which website it is you can also download (get) any bookings that have been made by your customers.
If you're not using some sort of software to update the availability then it can quickly become a pain, since you'd need to manually log on to the website and manually tell it when a room is no longer available. Often websites will get around this problem by not telling customers when a room is available and instead just telling customers when they are fully booked.
How Do I Take Bookings Online?
The easiest way to take bookings online is to use a third party website booking system. In this example I'm going to go through setting up www.AvailabilityOnline.com since in my experience it's currently one of the best ones available and the least expensive with no cost per booking fees. But of course you can use other booking websites.
Once this is set up you would have linked iMagic Hotel Reservation to AvailabilityOnline.com, set your room availability and be able to start taking bookings online.
The first thing to do is to install iMagic Hotel Reservation and enter in your room information. Once you've done that select from the main menu Web Bookings/Configure Web Bookings, you'll see the welcome screen, click Next.
From the Service Provider list choose AvailabilityOnline.com and click Next.
At this point iMagic Hotel Reservation will ask you for your AvailabilityOnline.com username and password. You probably don't have one yet so click Create Account to visit their website so you can create one. (if you already have a username and password then just enter them here)
On the AvailabilityOnline.com website sign up for the account that best suites you and note the Username and Password. You'll want to switch back to iMagic Hotel Reservation and enter in this information and click Next.
You'll see the thanks you've set everything up screen click Finish and you're done.
All you need to do now is upload (send) your current availability to AvailabilityOnline.com. Once you've finished the wizard you'll be asked if you want to do that straight away, click Yes here and we'll give it a test run. Later you can upload availability by selecting from the main menu Web Bookings/Upload Availability.
Since we're uploading to AvailabilityOnline.com you'll see the upload screen for them. If however you selected a different Service Provider above you'll see a slightly different screen. We're using AvailabilityOnline.com so click Upload Availability.
It can take AvailabilityOnline.com a few minutes to update the online calendar, but it's often instant. So you can log into AvailabilityOnline.com and see the updated availability. Of course if you haven't added any bookings yet then all the rooms will be available.
You only have to set this link up once and when it's complete your customers can now make bookings online!
Tip - To update the calendar online at any point select from the main menu Web Bookings/Upload Availability.