How to Build a Hotel Booking Engine? [Complete Guide]

2964 Updated 09.14.2022
Yuriy Matviyuk

Development Tech Lead


Table of contents

By taking advantage of modern technologies, many of the world’s leading industries can now solve problems efficiently, modernize business processes and generate more revenue while delivering value to customers. A hotel booking engine is one of such technologies.

By going online, users can create accounts, find affordable housing, book it and pay for the service remotely at any time. From a business perspective, this means more direct sales without paying commissions to online travel agencies. But all this is just the tip of the iceberg!

The goal of this article is to help you understand how to build a hotel booking engine and describe the benefits it provides to both customers and businesses. We will reveal the nuances of the development process, must-have features of booking services, and discuss how you can monetize your idea.

So, let’s take a look at how to build a hotel booking engine and find effective solutions to increase your business prospects.

Building a hotel booking engine: What is it?

A booking engine for hotels means software that connects travel providers and customers. By developing this system, the hotel industry can automate routine booking processes and simplify hotel management. As a first benefit, the hotel booking engine allows users to shop directly through your online business.

This opportunity does not involve partnerships with online travel agencies (OTA) and revenue sharing – meaning that you can make your business standalone and more profitable.

According to Statista, by 2026, the travel and tourism market will generate nearly 74% of revenue from online sales. This does not include other industries that can also integrate booking engine mechanisms to grow their customer base through online channels. For example, the real estate market is now gaining momentum by developing digital solutions for property booking and management. So, these numbers will definitely go up.

How does the hotel booking process work?

The hotel booking process works as follows:

  • When customers access a hotel’s app or website, they interact with the hotel booking system interface to do a search.
  • Following a predefined logic, the reservation system retrieves the requested data from the property management system via connectivity technology.
  • The engine adjusts this data based on user filters, hotel pricing rules, and rates, and returns this data back to the user.

This functionality simplifies the user interaction with your system. In turn, you can include additional services and display information in the way you need.

Why do you need to build an online booking engine?

The functionality of an online booking engine results in many benefits for both hoteliers and travelers. Let’s highlight the main reasons why you might need a booking system.

Improve business efficiency

Integrating a booking engine for hotels means streamlining property management. In this way, your property’s availability is updated every time a new booking is created. This results in offloading your employees, increasing productivity, and directing your business resources to areas that need improvement.

Optimize administrative processes

As your business becomes more efficient, the administrative process becomes less burdening. The hotel booking engine is designed to reduce the time it takes to complete a booking.
For example, the booking process requires manual effort to respond to emails or confirm bookings over the phone. Using the online booking system, you can get rid of unnecessary manipulations and reap the benefits of automation.

Drive conversions with a great user experience

Being a self-service technology for travelers, the online booking system attracts a large number of travelers. Such platforms provide independence and ease of use, allowing users to search or pay remotely.

With short forms and secure payments available to users, the booking process is simple and enjoyable. This affects the level of satisfaction of your customers. As a result, your online platform will also be able to generate a lot of conversions.

Attract loyal customers

One of the benefits of direct selling is the ability to run loyalty programs to attract many customers. The booking system may take guests’ data from the loyalty system and include this information when booking online. In this way, your guests will often receive discounts, which in turn will bring you more sales.

Increase sales by personalizing search results

We have already mentioned that the booking system works according to a predetermined logic. This is mainly done to personalize search results and provide additional services to your customers. Depending on user data, such as the browser used, you may be able to offer special packages and sales offers.

Capture actionable hospitality insights

The online booking engine contributes a lot to your property’s analytics in terms of customer behavior and prices.

This information can be collected and analyzed automatically. Based on this analytics, you can capture actionable hospitality insights on booking patterns. This, in turn, will help you better attract customers and improve your business strategy.

How to build booking engine for hotels: Must-have features

When you are considering how to build a hotel booking engine, you must first cover the functionality for all target personas. Customers should be able to book any services they need using the features of an online booking system. Also, there is certain functionality that needs to be implemented on the service provider’s side to process user requests. Let’s take a closer look at both feature sets.

Customer features

  • Sign in / sign up. To sign in or sign up a user, your booking platform must provide several registration options: via Facebook, Google, or any other email. This option simplifies the payment process and eliminates the need to waste time on traditional form-filling.
  • Customer profile and dashboard. This feature is mandatory for any booking system. A customer profile typically displays general information about the user, such as name, age, profile photo, billing address, and payment method. The dashboard includes all booking details, wish lists, and reviews. Through the dashboard, users can track booking updates or modify the booking as needed.
Properties Group properties

Northell Case – Custom Booking Engine Platform Development

  • Search & filters. Your platform’s search engine improves the user experience for customers. By typing in the search bar, your users can select a specific hotel, type of accommodation, number of people, and apply any filtering to display the information they need. High-level filtering makes it easier to navigate your platform and helps users make their choice faster.
  • Geolocation and maps integration. This feature helps display the location of accommodation and measure the distance between different places. This is valuable for users who choose accommodation near a particular location. By tracking a user’s IP address, you can locate the user and provide a personalized offer.

Northell Case – Custom Booking Engine Platform Development

  • Ratings and reviews. The ratings and reviews section allows users to categorize products and services according to their actual quality. In this way, service providers can improve customer service and attract new clients. The types of ratings can be price level, star rating, staff rates, etc.
  • Notifications. The notification feature is not only another usability element but also an additional sales channel. By notifying your customers of booking details, you can offer special promotions and coupons or make recommendations.
  • Payment features. By integrating a secure payment system into your platform, your customers will be able to pay for services online. You can implement this functionality via custom-made payment solutions or by integrating third-party services, like Stripe or PayPal. Each method has its own pros and cons, so you’ll need an individual approach to determine what’s best for your business model.

Want to get professional consultation on how to build a customized web solution? Let’s shape the feature set of your product together!

Hoteliers features

  • Booking management dashboard. When a user places an order, their registration is confirmed immediately. With the booking management dashboard, hoteliers can quickly access and track new orders. Property owners and hoteliers can manage, confirm or cancel these orders if needed.
  • Property management dashboard. A property management dashboard is the way service providers register and add details about their property. Property information can include:
  • Property facilities
  • Photos
  • General description
  • Payment details
  • Accommodation availability

Northell Case – Custom Booking Engine Platform Development

  • Notifications. Once a user makes a new booking, property owners should receive this information via email. This facilitates the tracking process and helps resolve any related issues immediately.

Northell expertise: 10 steps you need to build a hotel booking engine

At Northell, we divide the process of developing a hotel booking system into ten steps. Important to note, that such systems may be applicable to many other industries and business sectors. Therefore, as a practical example, we will discuss each step based on our recent AgentScout project delivered for real estate.

So, let’s walk you through each step of our project to understand how to build a hotel booking engine, mitigate possible development risks, and achieve your goals in every short iteration.

Conduct market research

Every software development project starts with in-depth market research. Competitor research will help you understand what your target audience wants and what the market is missing. For instance, in the hotel industry, travelers are often looking for affordable accommodation and quality service.

In the real estate industry, realtors and buyers lack time management, high-quality remote interaction, and facilitating real estate transactions. So in the AgentScout case, an online booking system turned out to be a suitable solution to existing problems in our client’s business niche.

In general, the online travel industry is consolidated. So, you will also need to study the online travel agency (OTA) market and understand what business model they run their business on. In this way, it will be easier to build a product strategy and understand how to not be acquired by one of the major players. The market research is performed during the discovery phase to help you finalize your software concept.

Validate your business idea and choose USP

Once the market research is complete, it’s time to validate your business idea to avoid project risks. You can use a Lean Canvas business model to validate your idea before launching your project.

This model includes specific blocks that can serve as a checklist to help you quickly evaluate your idea from different perspectives. For developing a booking engine for hotels, you will need:

  • Define what problems are faced by your customers
  • Formulate solutions to help solve your customers’ problems
  • Create a unique value proposition (UVP) for your customers; meaning that you will need to define what value your hotel booking business will provide (in terms of functionality, user experience, or advanced search mechanisms)
  • Determine the list of advantages that you will have over competitors
  • Define the target audience or customer sectors for whom your platform is intended
  • Choose KPIs to help you track the success of your product (e.g. average daily rate, number of rental properties, customer satisfaction, etc.)
  • Understand channels through which you will reach your customers
  • Define cost structure
  • Clarify revenue streams

The Northell team can lead you from a raw idea to an MVP launch. Start with a description of your project, consider hiring a professional development team, and we’ll take care of the rest!

Define app personas

Let’s figure out how to define app personas based on a real case from our portfolio. So, AgentScout is a user-friendly real estate buying and selling platform for the US market. During the discovery phase, one of our tasks was to define the main personas of the platform. As a result, we have developed and described roles for the following personas:

  1. Admin (responsible for platform management)
  2. The real estate agent (a person who actually sells the property and directs the deal process)
  3. Buyer (a person who buys property)

This step is important for setting up user flows and understanding how your users will interact with your platform.

Choose monetization model

There are three business models that booking websites use to generate revenue. Let’s look at well-known companies using each of them:

  1. Agency business model. The company uses this model acting as an intermediary between service providers and travelers. They take a commission from property owners for every confirmed transaction on their website. By partnering with hotels, Booking allows them to list their properties and earn between 10 and 30 percent per booking.
  2. Merchant business model. Expedia uses this model and acts as a merchant. This travel website buys hotels or hotel rooms in bulk and then resells those rooms at a markup of 20-30%. Expedia also uses other models but generates revenue mainly from the merchant model.
  3. Advertising business model. TripAdvisor generates revenue streams predominantly using this model. They make money by advertising properties and take a commission when a user clicks on a link and goes to the advertiser’s page.

The choice of monetization model directly depends on your business model. So, keep this aspect in mind or ask a professional startup advisor.

Select inventory sources

When thinking about how to build a hotel booking engine, you should first consider inventory sources. This is an important part of your business plan. Here, you will decide which hotel rooms or other services you would like to offer on your booking website. If you haven’t figured it out yet, there are several options to consider:

  • Connect to a global distribution system (GDS), the system that has a vast base of travel services and sophisticated management systems. The downside is the cost you will need to pay monthly and the fees for each transaction, as well as the need to be accredited by ARC or IATA.
  • Become an affiliate partner of one of the industry leaders. This is the easiest and cheapest option to get started, but staying competitive with non-unique offerings will be difficult.
  • Build a multi-vendor platform. By developing your own platform, you will be unlimited in developing your own features and providing unique services to users.

Develop UX prototypes

Once you’ve gone through all of the above steps, designers can begin to visualize your product idea through sketching, creating product wireframes, and developing low-fidelity and high-fidelity UX prototypes.

Hotel booking system design is a valuable component you can use to stand out in a crowded travel market. The deliverable of this step is UX prototypes that represent your product’s actual interaction experience. This will serve as a basis for developers to turn prototypes into a working product.

Create UI design

Once the wireframes and prototypes are ready, you can start creating a design system that will include all the components related to your hotel booking system design. Let’s discuss what this means by referring to our AgentScout case.

During the UI design phase, our design team’s goal was to bring together the primary color our client wanted to use, making the platform visually appealing and receptive.

Northell team accepted this challenge and managed to create a specific design system for the platform from scratch. The team designed:

  • Unique icons and graphic elements for 4 different platform personas in corporate style
  • Buyer’s customization system
  • Communication options, including Gantt charts, buttons, checklists
  • New components, headings, dropdowns, and inputs

As a result, this platform satisfied both our client’s requirements and the end users’ goals.

In the hotel sector, a hotel booking system design takes a special place. The better you’ll work out the platform’s concept, the more customers will prefer your design solution to other options on the market.

Move to development

An important step in creating a product is the development of basic functionality for your solution. At this stage, the developers implement the agreed product features.
Back-end developers create the architecture of your booking website based on the functionality required for booking. At the same time, front-end developers translate hotel booking system design into workable code to create the final product.

For example, in the AgentScout case, our team worked on implementing important features of the online booking system. In particular:

  • Admin dashboard. Admins authorize agents’ access and control agent actions.
  • Buyer dashboard. Buyers book their preferred properties and contact agents to negotiate sales deals. On the dashboard, buyers have buying criteria, transaction history, tour and scheduling, financing, and account settings.
  • Seller dashboard. The seller dashboard has the same features as buyers. Sellers describe the properties they want to sell. Moreover, Northell’s team of experts has developed a house sales revenue calculator to help sellers understand the net profit they make from selling a property.
  • Agent dashboard. Agents have their own profile page where they can introduce themselves with videos, portfolios, and general information about work experience.

As a result, this platform includes a robust booking system that provides users with ease of navigation and convenient booking and property management.

Perform user testing

An important step before the release of the final product is user testing. This way you can test your platform from the end user’s perspective to get honest feedback. Planned testing is a must to identify product bugs and find vulnerabilities before end users do. However, user testing will allow you to see how user-friendly and understandable your product is and whether your solution solves customer problems.

At Northell, user testing relies on the individual approach of our in-house UX lab. Have you heard of the technology that allows real-time eye tracking to improve product usability? Find out how we do it with the Eye Tracker tool.

Launch your solution

On the way to understanding how to build a hotel booking engine, you need to consider product maintenance. After you’ve successfully finished the above steps, it’s time to release your product.

This does not mean that your hotel booking system design is mature enough to successfully enter the market. Instead, it means that you will need to collect user feedback, analyze it, and keep making improvements.

Popular booking engine implementation scenarios: effective tips from Northell

There are three common scenarios your business may be facing right now. Let’s take a look at the list of recommendations you need to keep moving forward for each of them.

You don’t have your hotel booking website

If you are currently considering options for running sales campaigns or effectively managing sales channels, you should consider where to start.

So, to achieve this, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  1. Talk to experts and consider developing or upgrading your existing web solution with an online booking engine to attract more customers.
  2. Buy an all-in-one hospitality cloud software and make sure the solution is easy to maintain.
  3. Look for additional integrations and tools that you can use to expand your infrastructure.

You have your up-to-date hotel website

You can face a lot of unexpected challenges when managing own solution to get targeted results.

To avoid this, it’s better to:

  1. Check which website features work well and which don’t.
  2. Consider implementing a booking engine for hotels and replacing old functionality with modern, custom solutions.
  3. Make custom changes to improve user experience and find ways to generate more revenue.

You need more customized solutions

If you have already tried the above practices and are still ambitious about your plans, it’s time to consider creating a hotel booking system design. In this way, you will be able to provide exceptional booking services and connect to any tools or integrations you see fit.

To achieve this, it’s better to:

  1. Clarify and document your idea to understand why you need a custom solution and what results you expect to get.
  2. Browse the review platforms where you can view real customer reviews to evaluate how well companies provide their services. Examples of popular platforms are Clutch, GoodFirms, and Techreviewer.
  3. If you are still wondering how to build a hotel booking engine – choose a dedicated software development team to help you create a custom solution that fits your budget and product goals.

How much does it cost to build a hotel booking engine?

Understanding how to build a hotel booking engine from the technical side is not enough to launch a project. Developing a booking engine for hotels requires significant financial and time resources, which should be estimated in advance. You need to understand how to plan your budget and where to find suitable web development services.

You can get an accurate time and cost estimate after the software vendor evaluates your project requirements and scope of work. However, we offer you to look at the average prices and hours needed for web development services in different regions.

Rough project costs

Rough project costs

Time variables for different project sizes divided by project stages: 

Our work estimate

Our work estimate

Given the average cost, you will be able to calculate the time and cost of developing your hotel booking system design.

How to build a hotel booking engine: Conclusion

In the global hotel industry, having a website is not enough to stay competitive. In any case, building a booking engine for hotels can become not only your additional promotion channel but also a way to build a profitable and value-driven startup.

Nowadays, the integration of online booking systems can allow businesses from different industries to:

  • Open new distribution channels
  • Increase direct sales
  • Optimize business workflows
  • Generate more revenue

However, understanding how to build a hotel booking engine is the first step in the product development roadmap. To develop a profitable solution, you will need expert advice. Need professional help to develop an online booking system? Tell us about your current product development stage and get a perfect solution!

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