What is an Internet Booking Engine?
If you are about to launch a travel website or you just started your first job in a travel company, you most probably have came across the term Internet Booking Engine (IBE) or Online Booking Engine (OBE). It is basically the search engine on any travel website that allows you to search for hotels, vacation rental, flights and so on. Upon selecting any of the offered services, an IBE or OBE allows you to book that service using your preferred payment method. In the hotel or vacation rental industry, one could say that it is basically just an online shop for accommodations. And quite frankly, it is.
Do you need an IBE?
The history of the Internet Booking Engine
There were reservation systems long before the Internet and Internet Booking Engines. One of the first hotel reservation systems to remember is Holidex, built by Holiday Inn in 1965. During that time period, reservations were mainly done by phone, mail or local travel agents. With the appearance of the World Wide Web in the early 90s, technology companies in the travel industry started to experiment with booking hotels through a web browser. On of the first to mentioned was travelweb.com, built in 1994. The year 1994 marks the birth of the Internet Booking Engine.
What does an Internet Booking Engine actually do?
Price, rates and availability are managed inside reservation systems of the supplier like the hotel company for example. They define how much a room costs per night or day, what the policies are and how many people can stay in it. Alongside these basic information several other information are stored either in the reservation system or within the content management system of the IBE. Some contents are also stored within the content management system of the website, the IBE operates on. An Internet Booking Engine has to aggregate all these information and make them available to the user. The IBE has to display the information, facilities and amenities of the hotel. Further it has to show availability, calculate prices and provide a booking funnel. Through this funnel or path, the user can select a room and make a booking with his or her details.
What are the key challenges of an IBE?
An Internet Booking Engine needs to aggregate all the data, allow to customise and optimise it. An e-commerce conversion process for the booking as well as integrated marketing and content management have made IBEs extensive software products. An IBE needs to provide marketing capabilities besides the actual booking. Connecting it with all the systems it needs to interact with, is one of the key challenges. That's why many internet booking engine solutions are expensive and incredibly time consuming to maintain. The Internet Booking Engine is a constant headache for almost all marketing departments in travel companies, especially in the accommodation business. The requirements for marketing alone, are so vast that software suppliers often struggle with providing even the necessary basic functionality.
What Internet Booking Engines are there?
While there seems to be an endless supply of online shop solutions for the retail industry, the supply of Internet Booking Engines and E-Commerce technology seems to lack behind the retail industry. The majority of Internet Booking Engines comes bundled with reservation systems for hotels, vacation rentals and many others. They are tailored to the operators of the accommodations theirselves and tightly integrated with the respective reservation system or channel management software. The majority of the IBEs in the market are not self-service, but highly customised solutions that are custom-built for the respective customer. Marketing automation, search engine and social media optimisation as well as open APIs for integrations are very rare among IBEs. Although these features have become a defacto standard with online shops in the retail industry. A cloud based SaaS solution comparable to Shopware or Shopify in the retails industry did not exist. That's why we founded LODGEA.
How is LODGEA different and why is it not just an IBE?
We realised a significant frustration with IBEs in the travel industry. The lack of marketing automation, even basic marketing features and limited content management and customisation features have made us thinking. How is it possible that retail has a vast amount of simple and self-service e-commerce solutions while the travel industry lacks most of that? We've built LODGEA to provide an integrated solution tailored to marketing accommodations. It contains content management, a complete website, a fully fledged IBE and most importantly the marketing automation. We believe that in today's e-commerce landscape, an Internet Booking Engine cannot just be a nice add-on to a reservation system. It needs to be a product of its own and it needs to be focused on marketing accommodation to the fullest extend. LODGEA is all of that. It's not a reservation system, it is not just an IBE and it is not just a marketing automation solution. We provide a solution for the entire digital marketing cycle for accommodations.