A client recently emailed me a question about a “reservation calendar” for an eleven room inn. This is really a two-pronged question. There are reservation systems, and there are reservation calendars. I’m answering the reservation calendar question in this article.
Before we had electronic calendars, or as active an internet and thus internet-based calendars, I was urging clients of small inns to put their reservation calendar on a PDA (personal digital assistant) so they had their calendar with them at all times. Electronic and internet-based calendars take that option one step further by letting more than one person access the calendar to book reservations when guests call, or for you to access your calendar from more than one place. Cloud computing, where you treat resources in the internet to be like your desktop computer, may hold many answers for your various business needs.
The criteria my client set out was wanting remote access to their inn’s calendar so they don’t have to keep two calendars. While there are lots of reservation systems out there, you may want to operate more independently and with simple software options. Some simple software solutions include using calendars and spreadsheets, and you can do that remotely when needed. However, I do urge you to also have an online reservation calendar so guests can book immediately upon making that buy decision; I urge this whether you are using a reservation system or a reservation calendar.
The electronic options available for this approach to your reservation calendar include pads/tablets and smartphones. In the pad/tablet category you can choose from Apple iPads for the Mac crowd, while the PC crowd has myriad options. Non-Mac pads/tablets have Windows-based and Android platforms, including Xoom, Acer Iconia, and bModo — with many more coming out all the time. In the smartphone category select from the Apple iPhone or Android (HTC, Samsung, Motorola, etc) — and again there are more coming out daily, it seems. I see an advantage in having two devices so you can talk privately while you enter the data on your electronic calendar on a separate device. But there is something to be said for one device, and using a headphone/ear piece to give you the desired privacy.
I see a couple of alternatives for creating a “reservation calendar”. You can set up a Google calendar and have it synch to your desktop and/or phone calendars. You can create a spreadsheet in Google Documents that will act as your calendar. In either case, you want to keep a database of your clients to track details about them, and Google Documents or DropBox will help you do just that. You can set up an online database that you can access from anywhere, assuming internet access. Google calendar isn’t really designed to be used this way, but you could create a system that would make it work for you fine, as long as you don’t plan on letting the public see your calendar.
Google Docs will let you create, among other types of documents, both text and spreadsheets. Create a template that will work for you and let your guest database grow. You can access this anywhere you have an internet connection too, so you can be as remote from the inn as you want and still record reservations.
DropBox lets you drag any document you create into your DropBox space and access it from anywhere, using computers, tablets, and smartphones. Any change you make in the DropBox document will be reflected in all copies of that document after it’s synched.
Be sure to do at least daily backups of your “calendar” and guest database so you don’t lose any data should there be a computer or internet glitch. That’s an important step regardless of what approach you take to reservations, or any computer and internet activity.
This isn’t an elegant approach to your reservation calendar, but if you are looking for simple and inexpensive this is a clever solution. Your computer guru can set you up with a calendar that will synch with the Google calendar, if you can’t do it yourself. Make sure that entries synch across your system so you don’t drop an important link.