Web-based platform enables pre-arrival amenity booking

A trip to Aruba and the search for a “palapa”—an umbrella structure with leaves on top—led to the creation of RealTime Reservation, a web-based platform that allows guests to book amenities such as spa treatments, cabana beds, food and beverage services, poolside seating and more. For hoteliers, this means more ancillary revenue in their pockets.

According to Shawn Tarter, founder/CEO, the idea came about when, after making a reservation for a palapa, “I’m getting a piece of paper with a reservation on it. I’m in a bathing suit. My room is a mile away. I don’t know how to go swimming with a reservation on a paper.”

In order to make the reservation process more efficient, he brought a few friends down to the island, worked with the hotels and created Ipalapa Corporation, which is now RealTime Reservation.

“Today, we have a fully integrated pre-arrival guest hub where the hotels are able to offer guests, at the time of room booking, everything from cabanas to amenities to activities to parking,” he noted.

The platform allows hotels to offer amenities once a hotel is booked, and guests can book them right on the property’s website through a reservation system set up by RealTime Reservation.

“The room was booked and you know the guest exists,” he said. “Now, you’re able to send a welcome email. ‘We look forward to having you at the property. Do you want to reserve a cabana? Do you want to reserve the fitness center or have a candlelight dinner?'”

All reservations are paid via credit card, and since the platform integrates with the POS software, hotels can track the payment.

“When the guest arrives, the check automatically opens up to us and could close automatically or the guests can add more items to the check,” said Tarter. “By having that check open and close, the revenue teams are able to see where that revenue came from.”

The platform is also hyperfocused on data analytics, reporting and forecasting. “If an owner knows that a level-one cabana in a Phoenix property is at a certain price point, [he/she] can figure out what to charge at his other properties,” said Tarter. “So we have a lot of yield management aspects to this. Perhaps the fourth or fifth cabana increases by $25 as you have more occupancy, or the available cabanas decrease at [a certain time] by 50%.”

A dashboard allows hotels to see what reservations are made by each guest via the RealTime Reservation-powered hub, allowing the property to offer other amenities to that guest rather than having them look elsewhere and pay that vendor.

“We book right to the folio, so now the guest is actually getting loyalty points as opposed to going to a third-party vendor,” he said.

The guest hub, while powered by RealTime Reservation, will have the hotel’s logo. “We go right into the website, so you would not really recognize we exist on their platform,” said Tarter.

There, guests can click on links to find what they want to reserve. “A lot of times, properties create new categories just because they want to make sure that they’re capitalizing on every unique opportunity,” he said.

Once they place an order, the next screen is the payment screen, and the payment is processed through the hotel’s POS software, and it comes up as an e-commerce transaction.

While guests can also book to their folio, Tarter noted, “We are strongly recommending as a best practice now is that when the guest actually books, we want that credit card transaction to happen. When they get to the property, we want to recognize the revenue in the point of sale and that feeds over to the folio.”

The platform also integrates waivers into the guest hub. “We wanted to create a system where the activity that includes a waiver is right on the activity reservation page, especially with all the lawsuits happening in our hotels,” said Tarter. “If you bring your pet into the hotel, you sign a waiver in case you have an accident there at the hotel with your animal, or if you book a flowrider or a bicycle rental, so that the hotel is not liable if there is an accident.”