Online reservation engines for accommodation providers have undergone multiple iterations of product refinement across channels - from being desktop-based to cloud-based to mobile-based to social media-based.
One size doesn't fit all in accommodation industry, there are reservation softwares that exists exclusively for hotel chains, single-property, bed and breakfast, motels, resorts etc.
In the bed and breakfast (B&B) sector, there are quite a number of players providing reservation engines and other related services.
Is there a room for another player to provide reservation package only targeted towards B&B properties? InnHand, London-based company believes so.
InnHand's parent company Clock Software Ltd, has been developing, providing and servicing software solutions, exclusively for the hotel and accommodation industry since 1996.
"In our experience, we have learnt that a complex PMS is not what a small property owner needs. Modern technology seems to stay out-of-reach for the little ones in the industry and we want to change this situation.
"We stepped in the Innkeeper’s shoes in our aim to develop a new product that will facilitate the basic processes running in such an establishment. Our purpose was to provide them with a powerful instrument too, but without exhausting their budgets. This is how the new brand - InnHand - was born."
InnHand is financed by Clock Software Ltd and its key personnels include: Krasimir Trapchev - CEO, Rosen Kostov - CIO and a five-member team of developers and marketers stay behind InnHand.
Q&A with online marketing manager, Vyara Markova:
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?
InnHand is for small accommodation properties with up to 25 booking units. These are usually run by a single person or a couple, often without other employees. The list of daily duties is long and the day still has 24 hours. How to gain more business and still have some time left for a reasonable lifestyle?
InnHand is a free Internet reservation system that can be easily integrated in the property’s website and Facebook page. An online booking engine and a well-positioned website can vastly increase sales and revenue. Amongst other booking systems on the market, ours is completely free. And simple. A walkthrough leads the customer through the first set-up, so computer knowledge is not necessary.
The second part of Innhand is as simple, but more powerful. Here all traditional (made by phone, email) and online bookings get combined in a single availability calendar. It also includes guest folio and reservation management, invoicing, mailing, reports and statistics. And because it is mobile, all of the above can be done away from the property, e.g. while waiting for checkout at the supermarket.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
Because it is affordable, simple, mobile and user-friendly. InnHand is cloud-based cross-platform application. This means that it runs on all devices under any OS. In other words, you can use it on your computer, but the big advantage is to turn your mobile device into a mini-office. Thus, a big part of the property management can happen while you are on the go, doing other important things. As it is designed to be simple, you can really accomplish a task with a few taps.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
Contacting Innkeepers’ communities directly, writing blog articles with useful content about running a small accommodation or improving online presence. We also count on word of mouth marketing. Ideally, users will appreciate our efforts and the low price of the product and will contribute to our success by sharing their satisfaction.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
InnHand is a freemium product. We believe that online direct sales are of huge importance for the hospitality industry, especially for small accommodations. OTAs are charging significant commissions and B&Bs with their low volumes should keep more profit for themselves. Therefore we decided to provide the online reservation system for free and only charge a reasonable fee for the full management module.
Hopefully, B&Bs will integrate the booking engine on their sites and make so much sales, that they will feel the emerging need to implement the management software and leave the pen-and-paper or other obsolete system in history.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
Once we got to the motto “All bookings in your pocket”, things took off by themselves. So far, there have been no pivots. The original idea was to create a B&B software - different, client-specific and intelligible. We think that we have reached the goal. Of course, clients’ evaluation will show if we are right.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
As the vendor of an efficient, well-rated software, having thousands of loyal, satisfied subscribers and a significant market share worldwide. And reading a lot of “InnHand has changed our lives...” comments in forums and community networks. The big challenge is to change the attitude that such software is necessarily expensive, complicated and not applicable for small businesses.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Small accommodation facilities are probably suffering most severely from the crisis in the industry. With their low budget, most investments are put into furnishing, reconstruction or adding services and facilities.
Concerns are whether or not to provide free Wi-Fi, what kind of breakfast to serve or how to calculate the room price. Marketing, sales and management come lower in the investment plan. Often, B&B owners don’t even consider spending some funds on a management software, online sales are entrusted to OTAs.
It does not have to be like this. We want to see more successful, modern and independent Innkeepers and InnHand is our contribution to the object. Own direct sales and easier administration will free some time and resources to emphasize services and personal approach, which is essential for B&Bs.
Reservation engine for B&B properties is not something that's untapped. As we mentioned earlier, there are enough players in this segment that include: KeepMeBooked, EasyInnKeeping, ReservationNexus, GuestAll, ReservationMaster, MyInnReservations, ReservationKey, InnReserve.
But, still there is room for a new player like InnHand. This opportunity exists because of three main reasons:
1. Sheer number of B&Bs across the globe compared to the number of full-service hotels. InnHand says that the market size for them could eventually reach 5,000 small accommodation units within the first 3-4 years. Until now, there have been 450+ account registrations in less than eight months.
2. Price point. B&Bs are extremely price sensitive market. This not only applies for customers, but also for accommodation providers who purchase softwares to boost their business. Apart from feature-list of the product, pricing of the product plays a crucial role.
Among all competitor companies we analyzed, InnHand's pricing is extremely competitive. This is primarily due to the unique pricing model they have adopted. While the competitors charge in price per room-range (say 1-10 rooms, 11-20 rooms), InnHand charges per room per month. B&Bs will pay only for the number of rooms they have, makes sense.
3. Adoption of latest technologies. Though there are competitors in this space, very few of them offer their reservation engines in mobile, support a facebook-enabled booking engine and a sleek backend management software. Its imperative that companies adapt to the changing customer behaviour, market and technology to stay ahead of competition.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.