Do you have an online booking engine for your bed and breakfast? In the digital age, it’s not ideal to rely on phone calls or emails to generate bookings. Your guests want to make instant bookings, without finding time to make a phone call or engage in a volley of emails – only to find out that you have no vacancies anyway. An online booking system allows them to check your availability whenever they want, as well as make direct bookings through your website.
You can also connect your booking engine to Proper BnB using a channel manager tool, so that people can check your availability on the site.
If you don’t have an online booking system, you don’t need to be a technical genius to set one up. Here’s our guide to getting it sorted.
Choosing a Booking Engine
First, you need to choose which booking engine you want to use. You have a range of choices, both free and paid. They all have different advantages and disadvantages, so you need to know what look for in a good booking engine.
Here are some of the top things to think about when you’re choosing which application to use:
- Your budget
There are free options you can consider, as well as some that charge a fee. If you want to start off with a free one, Proper BnB recommends freetobook. There are paid subscription levels if you want more functionality, such as Stripe payments or iCal, which you can use to display your availability on Proper BnB.
Online booking engine tools can offer you a range of functionality. The ability to let guests book online and to manage your bookings are obviously two key functions that you need. However, you can discover plenty of useful extras, from adding special offers to connecting to social media and review sites.
Look for a channel manager function or the word iCal, which will allow you to connect with Proper BnB and other sites. A channel manager helps you to watch over your property across various booking sites.
- Customer support
Nothing is more frustrating than experiencing a technical problem and being unable to get the help you need. When you’re choosing which booking engine to use, check out reviews to get a good idea of their customer service. If it’s poor, that will be reflected in reviews and ratings.
- Compatibility with your site
The booking engine you use also needs to be compatible with your website. Most of the time, there won’t be any problems adding your booking engine to your site. However, some website builders might make it tricky. Some website builders have their own apps or plugins for managing bookings, while some booking engine services will offer their own for integration with specific site builders.
These are some of the top online booking engines for bed and breakfasts, guest houses and other accommodation:
Connecting Your Booking Engine to Your Website
Once you’ve signed up for your chosen booking engine, you can add it to your website. How you do this can differ slightly, depending on how you manage your website and which booking engine you’ve chosen. The best thing that you can do is to follow the instructions on the booking engine provider’s website. If you need help, get in touch with the support for the service provider or support from your website builder or developer.
Adding Availability to Proper BnB
Proper BnB makes it easy to display your availability calendar on the site, so that people can see your availability before visiting your website. We do this using iCal URLs, which your booking engine and channel manager can provide.
What is iCal?
iCal is short for iCalendar, and is a file format used by various calendar applications. An iCal feed allows us to fetch information about your availability calendar. You can have one calendar for each room or a single calendar for your whole property. You should be able to find your iCal URLs on your booking engine account.
Here’s how to do it for the four booking engine services we suggested above.
Freetobook: Log in to your account and click the Plus tab.
Cloud Beds: In your account settings, find Channels under Channel Distribution, then copy the link under “Other calendar based channels”.
Beds24: Find iCal URLs under the channel manager pages for each of your rooms. More information here.
Inn Style: Go to InnSync in the top menu of your account and select the Airbnb/iCal tab. Each ‘bookable’ has its own calendar address.
Adding your iCal URLs to your BnB listing on Proper BnB couldn’t be easier. When you add a BnB to the site, just add your URLs in the “iCal” section under “Extras”. Put one per line if you have more than one. If you want to add an iCal to your listing after you have posted it, you can edit your listing.
Here’s what your calendar will look like on the site:
Still confused or having problems? You can get in touch with Proper BnB for support through the site or on social media, or get support from your booking engine/channel manager provider, or your website developer.