With so many changes affecting the hotel and bed & breakfast industry, it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed.
One of the best solutions for this problem is to keep a pulse on the travel industry and plan accordingly.
Following BookingSuite websites and their development since the company’s purchase by Priceline has been a lesson in and of itself.
Effective hospitality website design is the foundation of everything we do here at Q4Launch. So understanding what makes a great website is important to know before you start adding-on other layers of your strategy, especially hospitality search engine optimization.
We’ve updated this article as of November, 2017 with new developments coming out of BookingSuite!
What is BookingSuite?
Buuteeq was a small start-up based in Seattle, Washington. From a small base, it gained customers all over the world. They charged a monthly fee for services ranging from website creation tools and SEO services to an online booking engine. Their appeal and rapid growth into one of the best online business tools in the travel industry was largely due to their flexibility and esthetic appeal.
A quick search in Google for the term, “hotel marketing by BookingSuite” demonstrates the prevalence of BookingSuite websites across the hospitality industry. 200-room hotel websites and 3-room bed and breakfast websites all use BookingSuite websites.
Janice Fitzgerald of By the Side of the Road in Harrisonburg, Virginia, said they chose Buuteeq because “we could easily stay up to date, and… It looked good.”
The success of this small company of 200 employees drew the attention, and dollars, of Priceline. Priceline added Buuteeq to its collection of offshoot companies including Booking.com and Kayak, two of the biggest travel booking sites in the world. As of January 1st, 2015, Buuteeq changed its name to BookingSuite.
This change occurred with little notice by most BookingSuite website customers. Others took note with a certain amount of trepidation.
We hope the noted reservations of former BookingSuite customers will help innkeepers make an educated decision about their websites. We’ll also provide some tricks and tools to find a solid alternative to BookingSuite websites.
For an in-depth guide to bed and breakfast website design (and to get some inspiration), be sure to read our complete guide to reviewing effective website design!
BookingSuite (and Now Priceline) Owns Your Data
One innkeeper who asked to remain anonymous declared,
“one thing a lot of these small and large innkeepers don’t seem to recognize is that BookingSuite has access (and thus owns) all their data, both bookings and website traffic. That means that Priceline and their family of companies also has access to it. And that’s a rather frightening thought to me, and should be for everyone else.”
As a customer, you don’t have much control over how Priceline plans to use their new data.
Buuteeq / BookingSuite Website Reviews
Find Out if Your BookingSuite Website is Working Now!
1. BookingSuite Websites Platform
While its user interface is appealing, its platform has serious shortcomings. Fitzgerald explained that not all BookingSuite website templates are responsive bed and breakfast websites. Responsive websites change size according to the size of the screen viewed, a necessity in search engine optimization. Fitzgerald noted that for what they were paying, they expected more personalization.
“Problems with page speed or adding a new logo were met with what became a standard response from Buuteeq, that it’s just not possible with their bed and breakfast website templates.”
While a standard platform helps companies scale up, this doesn’t bode well for flexibility.
As of the end of 2017, even new BookingSuite website templates still do not offer secure hosting.
2. Poor Customer Service and Communication
At the end of 2017, BookingSuite announced updated website templates.
This announcement was made via email to some customers, but not all. Rather, for some it was a simple update on the backend of their websites.
Marci at House on the Hill reported:
“I just received an alert on my back office of my current site that states that they will no longer be supporting the platform that I’m on. It said that I had to contact them before December 15 if I want my site to be saved. Sounds pretty ominous and makes my decision to go with Q4 all the wiser.”
She has called and emailed BookingSuite for more information about this change and to date has had no response.
3. Slow Speeds are Now Penalized by Google
Bryon Parsons of Castle Marne in Denver, Colorado, left BookingSuite as well. He noted that many of their platforms pass the mobile-friendly rules Google favors in its search results. And yet, they fail the Google speed tests. Their sites load comparatively slowly. That means visitors to your inn’s site may not wait long enough for your BookingSuite website page to load.
BookingSuite has rolled-out 4 new website templates. Click the links to see websites on these new frameworks:
While these updated versions were created to improve site speed, they are still above the industry average of 3 seconds. To confirm, check your website (or the above) in a free tool such as:
Marci at House on the Hill reported an 8-second load speed for her site in November 2017. Cheri at Prairie Side Inn expressed frustration at a 6-second load speed at the same time.
4. No Integrated Bed and Breakfast Marketing Strategy
Parsons also left BookingSuite because of their lack of integrated marketing options. Having an attractive website isn’t enough for an inbound hotel marketing strategy. Hotels and inns should have many ways to draw people to their website and convert those leads into bookings. Blogs, email campaigns, SEO, and lead capturing tools are crucial to an integrated bed and breakfast marketing strategy.
5. No Bed and Breakfast Blog Page
“We recently realized the importance of blogging for drawing potential customers to our site,” Fitzgerald said, “but Buuteeq’s platform could not even provide a satisfactory blog… We were forced to create a bed and breakfast blog separate from our site, which defeats the purpose.”
The recently updated bed and breakfast website templates still do not offer an easy to use and intuitive blog setting similar to WordPress.
6. Booking.com is the Only Option as a Booking Partner
Priceline owns Booking.com. As such, BookingSuite customers now must use this booking engine for their sites, instead of being able to choose the one that best suits their business. Only accepting bookings through Booking.com does not fit the goal of getting guests booking directly on your website.
7. A Focus on BookingSuite’s Bottom Line, Not the Customer
BookingSuite websites offer some newer tools. Tools include BookingSuite RateManager, a way of implementing yield management strategies within their platform. Another new tool is BookingSuite WebDirect, a free hotel website in exchange for 10% of the total take of each direct reservation earned.
But like all companies that grow rapidly, there has been growing pains.
Marci at House on the Hill remarked on her misgivings sending her payments abroad for her website. In her experience, response times took days. For comparison purposes, Q4Launch maintains an expectation of a response within 4 business hours.
What is in the Future for BookingSuite Websites?
Some of these shortcomings may change for the best now that Priceline owns BookingSuite. That said, it’s not a bad idea to start looking into other options. An integrated bed and breakfast marketing strategy is the key to your inn’s online success. Chances are BookingSuite isn’t going to expand from bed and breakfast websites soon, if ever. While you may pay a higher monthly fee for a company that will do it all, the difference will show in a skyrocketing ROI.
Fitzgerald was not concerned about Priceline buying Buuteeq. Yet she was convinced it would not result in any improvements in the product.
“It’s not about us as customers, but about the bottom line. With all these bigger players, we small business owners get lost in the mix.”
Cheri at Prairie Side Inn took a different perspective. On the topic of Booteeq being bought by BookingSuite, which was then bought by Priceline:
“They’re the neighbor I don’t even recognize anymore”.
Ready to Look for Other Options?
Not sure what to do next? Read our secrets for beautiful, high-converting bed and breakfast website design. You can also sign-up to receive a free 21-point inspection of your current hotel website by our bed and breakfast website design experts.
Find Out if Your BookingSuite Website is Working Now!
Photo courtesy: Ellagrin/iStock/ThinkStock
Colin Pearson | Director of Marketing Services
Learn More About Me and Q4Launch on LinkedIn today!