A husband and wife who designed their own booking platform for a small hotel in Wales are now rolling out a property management system and designing websites for small and independent establishments.
The Booking Factory bills itself as an ‘all-in-one solution’ for hotels – offering a platform where hotels can record bookings, modifications, cancellations, check-ins and check-outs in one place.
Hotels can then use the data to review occupancy, revenue and booking channels to work out where to focus their marketing and how to price rooms around certain events or at different times of the year.
And the start-up, currently based at London’s Traveltech Lab, also designs websites for hotels that they can white label and update themselves.
Co-founders Tikky and Evan Davies used to run a small hotel in Carmarthen, south west Wales, together before focusing on The Booking Factory.
Tikky said: “The hotel we used to run was using pen and paper. I had come from a background of working at big hotels in Thailand so it was all very new for me. We used to printout the bookings every day and it was a long process. Bookings would come only on the phone and it fell off a cliff because everyone started booking online.
“We were looking for a fast way to make it easier. One person was doing the job of 20.”
Evan, co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) has an IT background and with Tikky’s knowledge of modern hotel management systems they went to work on creating their own.
They key, says Tikky, was having it work in real-time. So The Booking Factory shows the hotel manager when new bookings come in, and where they come from, which these days is usually an OTA. If people still call up on the phone, bookings can be entered manually.
The company currently has 55 hotels signed up, and focusses on properties with less than 50 rooms. Clients are based in the UK, Portugal, the Caribbean and Tikky’s home country Thailand.
The site launched its beta phase in May 2016 and the Davies’ are hoping to scale and fine-tune it while working at London’s Traveltech Labs for start-ups in the travel sector.
Tikky gave Travolution a quick run-through of the site, and it was fairly straight forward – which is exactly the point. A template system for adding new offers to the website and adding bookings is akin to updating your Facebook profile, so about two billion people could probably pick it up in an instant. Data is pulled from pre-written and pre-approved content so that the likelihood of human error is reduced.
“It’s super flexible to make sure it is easy for people who are not super technical,” she said. “We spend quite a lot of time and resource in making it easy for people to use. It gives people the confidence that they can’t break it.”
New templates are added continuously as the network grows, so that not every hotel’s website looks exactly the same – and it can be integrated into Facebook as well.
Websites have their own booking engine which has been designed to encourage direct customers and offer discounts to members.
One customer who runs an eight-bed B&B in Bournemouth saved herself £400 in commission payments in a month. “She just took to it,” Tikky said. “We give hoteliers the platform and they can use it as much or as little as they want.
The Booking Factory had a successful first round of funding in September 2016 for £150,000 and has recently confirmed a second round, taking its total investment to date to £300,000.
It is up against a lot of competitors in the sector but the husband and wife duo believe targeting independents will help them stand out.
“There are some companies like OPERA which are doing great,” said Tikky. “But not everyone needs all the high-tech functions that it has. A lot of people need the basic things in an easy-to-use format and we want to focus on the niche and independent hotels – especially those in developing countries – that might not have the budget for something like OPERA.”
A standard membership costs £39 a month and you can pay more for more features, including an online chat customer service contact. But The Booking Factory offers a free month-long trial with the theory that once hoteliers use it and realise how easy it is they’ll soon decide that’s it’s worth the fee.
“When bookings start rolling in, people always start to pay,” Tikky said.