Business operations

Sales & marketing

What Is An Online Booking System And Who Needs One?

5 min read

How do you manage your bookings? The optimal solution depends on your volumes, growth plans, and number of channels. However, to make the booking process easy and trustworthy for your customers (and yourself), some kind of online booking system is a must-have these days. A travel website without a booking system is a throwback to the 1990s.   

What is an online booking system? An online booking system is a software solution that allows potential customers to self-book and pay through your website, and other channels, while giving you tools to manage your operations, in one place.

Once you’ve overgrown the email and spreadsheet phase, you’ve maybe added a booking feature on your website. If you have a WordPress site, this can be relatively easily done by adding a plugin. 

An online booking system can help you do way more than just accept bookings and payments online. Some of them act as central hubs for managing many aspects of your business, from marketing to distribution and operations. Here are some examples of what an online booking system may allow you to do: 

  • Real-time bookings and reporting. 
  • Avoid double bookings with channel management.
  • Keep track of your channels and commissions.
  • Gather details about your customers.
  • Plan your daily priorities.

The benefits of online booking systems

One of the biggest advantages of an online booking system is that you are open to business 24/7. Your customers have the convenience to book on their own, when it’s right for them. 

Many customers will be surprised if they can’t perform an online booking on your website. It’s likely to give them the impression that you’re not organised, or that your business is not going well, and they’ll end up booking elsewhere. Having an online booking system makes you look more professional.

With an online booking system, your business information will no longer be stored only on your computer hard drive. It may feel strange to think of the data floating around in the cloud, but it’s actually a more secure solution. Plus, everything’s more accessible when it’s online. You can run your business from anywhere.

An online booking system cuts out your workload whether it’s sending booking emails, creating reports, or updating availability on every channel. You and your staff can focus on more important things, like serving your guests and having a healthy work-life balance. 

People today expect instant gratification. With an online booking system, customers can book, pay, and get confirmation right away. You can also enhance the guest experience by adding personalization for example by showcasing relevant add-ons during the booking process.

When someone books online, with or without a deposit, people are proven to have fewer no-shows. Depending on your cancellation policy, you’ll have their credit card details on hand so that you don’t lose money in case of a no-show.

As an online booking system keeps track of every reservation and the details tied to it, you can see what products make you the most money, better understand who your typical guest is for targeting, and get an overview of your business. 

Most online booking systems have integrations and tools you can use to connect your other favourite software tools, such as marketing platforms. This means that you can complement the processes you already have in place. 

Features to look for in an online booking system

As with any product you purchase, the quality of an online booking system will vary along with the price. Obviously, you’ll want the basics covered at a minimum. Here’s a list of must-have features:

  • Customisation to your brand to ensure an ideal booking experience.
  • A simple booking process with no more than two steps. 
  • Payment gateway options to facilitate real-time payments directly into your bank account.
  • Multi-language and currency capabilities.
  • Mobile-friendly and social media compatible.
  • Customisable emails: confirmation, pre, during and post.
  • Integration with your other systems. 
  • Integration with all of your booking sites.
  • Google Analytics tracking so you can analyse direct booking trends.

Evaluating the cost of online booking systems 

It takes resources to find the best solution for you. When evaluating options, you should always consider the initial investment, both time and money, and what’s best for your business in the long term. Most online systems today charge a monthly fee, some per user, and offer basic features with an affordable price tag. However, it pays off to take a close look at the pricing of modules or features you might need in the future, as once you’ve settled with a system, it’s more or less a lifetime commitment.

Many software providers offer a free trial that will enable you to experience the solution before making a commitment. The free trial period of usually 14 or 30 days is also a time for you to test how your chosen provider offers help with setup, training, and support. 

Online booking systems: key takeaways

  1. An online booking system is an application on websites (and social media pages) to capture and process direct online bookings.
  2. An online booking system works by plugging into your website and processing secure online bookings made through the website. 
  3. Travellers have come to expect this functionality from modern-day travel service providers, appreciating the convenience and security it provides.
  4. Your booking system and website must sync with each other.
  5. Carefully research the features and benefits of online booking systems before committing.


Authored By

Sirje Nikulainen
+ posts

Sirje is an adventurer who loves exploring Nordic wilderness, new business opportunities and emerging technologies. She regularly collaborates with Atelier Digital, a boutique digital marketing agency in Helsinki.


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