Two frequent questions asked when enrolled in the OTA Contract Rate programs that properties may have are: "Why am I getting double bookings or overbookings?" and "Why are my rates not showing up correctly?"
We at BookingCenter strive to avoid any problem bookings at all. However, there are some points of weakness and in order to answer you have to fundamentally understand internet traffic. Massive amounts of information are being sent back and forth from your BookingCenter software and any of the OTAS networks, which takes time. Therefore immediate delivery (or "real time") cannot be guaranteed. In the XML interface, messages regarding your rooms, rates, availability are scheduled to be received by the OTA about every 15 minutes from a CRS supplier like BookingCenter. In some instances, within that 15 minutes, the system message can get stalled or result in errors which means another automatic attempt to send the message will be made, but not for another 15 minutes. This system stall is more likely to happen with bigger the messages we are trying to send.
In the time that it takes the correct information to reach the OTA from your BookingCenter software, or the OTA back to your BookingCenter software, you are vulnerable to overbookings and/or rate parities as bookings are being made every second of every day. In the internet world, this is an unavoidable issue, so the question remains:
What can you do to try to prevent or limit errors?
- The easiest solution is to limit the number of Room Types you place in an OTA Contract Rate program, which will reduce the message size exponentially.For example, if your property has many Room Types (more than 6), then availability and/or rate messages can get very large. This will mean the error rate is higher than a normal hotel that sells just 3 or 4 Types on an OTA. Remember, selling 100 rooms of a single Room Type ID (such as QUEEN) is a 'faster' message than selling 10 single rooms of 10 differing Room Type IDs (such as a single room (SUNSHINE) of a single Room Type ID (SUNSHINE) and 9 more fruit rooms).Consider the geometry - if you have 10 Room Types and 7 Rate plans, each time you make/modify/or edit a booking (alter availability in any way, including Group allocations or an Out of Order assignment) that generates 70 messages that has to get processed for those dates. Consider if you have just 4 Room Types to update - that same event requires just 28 messages.
- Regroup your single rooms into broader, more inclusive Room Type IDs by reducing the description to a 'lowest common denominator' (such as bed type). This is easy to do within your BookingCenter management tool and to do with your OTA Market Manager. We understand that especially for smaller B&Bs and hotels where each room is unique, this would reduce the 'marketing character' of your unique rooms. However, we believe the benefit outweighs the costs of such a strategy.
- Make sure the max number of guests in your OTA extranet matches the max number of guests in your BookingCenter software.
- Do not offer all your rooms to the OTA Contract Rate program. Either keep some Room Type IDs off your OTA Contract Rate inventory or only allocate a fraction of your inventory for each Room Type ID to the OTA. This allows you to make room for that unexpected booking that created an overbooking. We suggest this any way as you want to have some inventory saved for those walk-in guests or those who want to book directly through your website (again, no or lower commissions on both).
- Do nothing and a) hope for few errors (and no double bookings or incorrect rate updates) and b) trust the advancement of technology. Each year the OTAs and networks BookingCenter connects to get faster and better at processing large volumes, so the capabilities are following a Moore's Law growth of doubling in capacity about every 18 months. Fortunately, we continue to push the internet's boundaries daily and each year transactions get closer to 'real time'. So we encourage you to play the game with these suggestions in mind.
-----------------------More Info ----------------------
We have info on OVER as applied to Rates, Room, and Room Types as OVER Bookings in this article.
We explain how you can better manage - and prepare for - OVER bookings that come from Network sources (OTAs, GDS, etc) in this article.