A Central Reservation System (CRS) is software used within the tourism industry for the purposes of marketing and sales. This type of system is used by travel companies for booking airline, train and bus tickets, but its principle application is for accommodation providers. In a highly competitive industry, a hotel's website is its most powerful marketing tool -- an integrated central reservation system helps to convert browsers into customers.
Central reservation systems can be accessed by individual consumers, travel agencies and call centre staff. Travel agencies can be assigned personal log-on codes, which automatically generate any special negotiated rates or commission. Information can easily be updated, and the CRS can be tailored to suit the individual accommodation provider's requirements. For example, he can decide exactly what information is to be included, add graphics and maps, and adapt colours, fonts and heading styles to match the existing website design. The system can be programmed to automate features such as customer loyalty programs and group booking discounts. The CRS can also be integrated with other software packages, such as web design or data analysis programs.
With a CRS, accommodation providers can market and sell their products around the globe, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most modern systems have multilingual and currency conversion capability for bookings from around the world. Customers can pay online instantly, which reduces the risk of their having second thoughts and not booking. This form of sales technique can also generate additional revenue by encouraging consumers to purchase extra goods and services, such as champagne, excursions and car rentals.
A central reservation system reduces staff wages, since bookings are processed automatically online, rather than the company having to employ people to take bookings over the telephone or by mail. Internet selling also cuts costs by eliminating the need to print and distribute marketing brochures, write letters and pay commission to third-party agencies.
A central reservation system includes tools that enable the accommodation provider to monitor activity on his website. Real-time reporting shows the number of hits, and how many were converted to actual bookings. This builds a profile of customer behaviour and identifies sales trends - information that can be used for strategic planning purposes. Promotional campaigns can be coded to monitor their effectiveness. The customer database generated through sales can also be used for targeting future marketing campaigns.
Central reservation systems offer an effective and time-saving search tool for the customer, who can refine a search for accommodation by issues such as date, location, hotel rating and features. It is easy to make comparisons between different accommodations, and to instantly check pricing and availability. A CRS also allows customers to take advantage of special offers and promotions, and to add on "extras" such as attraction tickets, airport transfers and meal deals to their booking. Online booking is often more economical, since the accommodation provider does not have to pay commission to a booking agent. It is also easy to retrieve, change or cancel bookings via the CRS.