I recently finished a couple months stint crushing season upon season of Hotel Impossible. While I’m not normally the reality TV loving kind of guy, I liked seeing host Anthony Melchiorri rip into complacent owners and managers. While watching the before and after’s are always fun, my favourite part of each show is when the Hotel Impossible team donates a new website to the hotel, optimized for hotel reservations.
While they typically donate more all-encompassing service based hotel reservation systems, being the WordPress lovers that we are, we wanted to find something for a client of ours that had premium hotel features that tourists and online bookers have come to expect. While custom development is always an option for a hotel reservation system, I’m not a big fan of reinventing the wheel. After trying several WordPress plugins, I was wildly disappointed. Was it to much to ask for:
- Online payments
- Branded booking confirmations
- Easy to integrate into current website
- WordPress based hotel reservation system
- Safe, secure, and easy to ease
- Mobile optimized
- Conditional hotel pricing to allow for floating rates (low season vs high season)
WordPress, meet Checkfront – the easiest hotel reservation system I’ve used
Then I came across Checkfront. Introducing our new favourite hotel reservation / online booking plugin, Checkfront. Not only is it a breeze to setup, the monthly fees are super reasonable. At only $50 bucks a month, it costs you next to nothing to increase online bookings. Hotel owners are notorious for jumping over a dollar to save a dime, so with a price this low my hope is that it’s easy for my clients to understand $50 per month for even one additional booking would allow them to break even. Any more on top of that are pure profit.
Hotel Integrations Galore
On top of the awesome pricing, the system is setup by developers who get what hotels need. Integration with Moneris, Stripe, Paypal, and more allow you to choose whatever payment gateway works best with you. You can tie in social media, accounting software, email marketing software, and more. While it’s easy to add these integrations, out of the box Checkfront is already better than any wordpress hotel reservation system I’ve used, and that’s partly because it’s not built directly into your wordpress website.
Not just for hotels! A tourism company’s dream come true
While Checkfront is making online hotel bookings easier, they’re also capturing another market that has long since needed some help. Tourism companies, outfitters, and basically anyone that requires booking specific dates/times will benefit in some way from this software. Operating a tour bus? Taking tourists on safari style photo shoots throughout your city or countryside? Your seasonal business can easily grow with a quality built WordPress website that’s tied into an online booking system like Checkfront.
Free Developer Accounts!
I love when companies do this. I’m not the end user, so please don’t charge me to test your system out. Keep me happy and I’ll forward clients on to you for hopefully years. Checkfront gets this. They have FREE developer accounts that you can use to setup your client. Then once you’re ready to go live, their friendly support team will help migrate that developer account into a live account and you’ll be ready to roll! No fuss no muss!
While this system is 95% perfect, there’s always room for improvement. I don’t have much bad to say about the system that would stop me from using it. The only thing I struggled with was creating weekly / monthly prices, which required me brushing up on my math skills to make it work with their system.
Weekly / Monthly Prices
This may have just been too niche of a problem to solve, but I hoped that maybe I’d be able to set a base weekly rate and the system would be able to auto calculate the rate per night, but instead I had to create a rule so “if bookings are greaters than a week, the price per night discount is X”. Calculating X on my end was a slight pain as I had to take my clients base weekly price, divide it by 7 (days in week), and subtract that number from the base daily rate to find out the specific dollar discount to apply on each night.
The other thing I hoped to see was the ability to customize the embedded hotel scripts layout and design. As you may know, styling embedded pages from 3rd party systems is a huge P.I.T.A. I was hoping to either be able to add some custom CSS into their system to better match the form & layout with our clients brand and colours, but at the end of the day this is likely something only nit-picky designers and developers will catch. Despite not having this ability, the system is still rock solid, and I’d happily give up some CSS customizations in lieu of a system that is easy for me to setup and easy for the client to take the reigns of.