PAII hosted its annual conference in Las Vegas recently. Some of the biggest news on the trade show floor was that almost every seasoned software company is coming out with a new version of their product in 2013. RezOvation is moving to web-based. RezStream too. Reservation Nexus, already web-based, is focusing on a mobile, tablet and touchscreen friendly version.
As innkeepers, what is the next big thing as far as software for innkeepers?
Lodging Software: The 90s
Before we talk about the future, let’s take a moment to talk about the past. The mid-nineties was the reign of desktop software. You’d install desktop software on your computer and spend hours setting it up. As new versions were made available, you’d update or re-install the software. If your computer died, unless you were doing a nightly backup, all your data was lost.
A popular solution and great example of this era is Guest Tracker. It helped with reservation and guest management, from recording phone reservations to printing confirmations to various reports.
Web-based online request solutions like Webervations and Availability Online soon followed. By adding a link to your website guests could see availability and make online reservation requests. Innkeepers would receive a request email and be approved it within minutes, hours or days.
During the 90s most inns would sync the availability from their guest management software with these online request systems. But having two different solutions talking with each other every couple of minutes led to double bookings.
Lodging Software: The 2000s
As the industry evolved and improved, online requests were replaced with online reservations. Guests no longer waited for a manual response. For innkeepers, using two or more different solutions was becoming burdensome.
Newcomers Super Inns and Reservation Nexus introduced solutions that were 100% web-based / cloud based solutions. Instead of innkeepers storing their reservation information on their own computers, web-based products store innkeeper information in a cloud. A cloud is a series of resources (hardware and software) for delivering a service over the Internet.
Web / cloud based solutions:
- Eliminate double bookings since both online and phone reservations are handled by one product.
- Protect guest and reservation data from being lost in case your computer dies.
- Product updates are instant and don’t require any re-install.
- No installation is required.
- Is accessible on any computer that has the Internet.
- Works on PC, Mac, tablets, smart phones and any device that has a browser.
With the introduction of web-based software, some desktop software providers elected to try a temporary fix. They offered to move an inn’s reservation database from their computer to the company’s cloud. This eliminated double bookings but these solutions were often slow.
Lodging Software: Now
One of the big changes this decade deals with touchscreen devices from smart phones, to tablets to Windows 8. If you’ve seen the recent Windows 8 commercials, most new Windows 8 desktops and laptops now come with a screen you can touch. This means that in addition to using your mouse and keyboard you can reach up and touch the screen. We will have to see if Apple follows suit and offers a touchscreen on their next generation of Mac laptops and desktops.
While it will take several years for this to be the new norm, looking at how successful tablets and smart phones have been, touchscreens are more than likely here to stay. For the lodging industry, this means that software vendors will have to adapt their products to be “touchscreen friendly” for smartphones, tablets and now Windows 8 laptops and desktops.
A mobile version of a website (as shown above) needs to compile everything on the page into an easy to navigate format. The most important elements are along the top with large links and buttons. Everything on the page fills the space on the screen but does not require the user to scroll from side to side. Additionally a link to the full website should be included as it allows the visitor to select the full website if they find it easier to navigate.
In the picture above is an example of a touchscreen friendly solution for a tablet. For example, if you are on an iPad, it’s easy to click on the various buttons, tabs and navigational elements. There are no small links or small buttons.
In the picture above is an example of a touchscreen friendly online booking engine. Notice that the calendar on the left is large enough that by touching a screen, guests can change the date they are looking at staying.
What should innkeepers look for in the upcoming wave of reservation software?
It’s very exciting to see what is coming out in 2013. There are big changes from almost every major reservation software provider on the market.
As this next wave of cloud-based software hits the market:
- Look for a solution that is web based / cloud based. Upgrade from desktop and multi-vendor solutions.
- Verify that the solution works on smart phones, tablets, Windows 8 and Mac.
- Choose a solution that it is touchscreen friendly. Your guests are moving to touchscreen devices and you will capture more business if you can accommodate their new tastes.