HotelEngine Review: Create a Hotel Website with the HotelEngine WordPress Theme
HotelEngine is the latest theme from EngineThemes, a team who have so far released a great selection of feature-rich app-themes for WordPress. This theme has been designed to create a great looking hotel website, with the functionality required to handle bookings.
HotelEngine is actually available in two variations which are separate themes: Classy and Comfy. This gives you two different options for showcasing your hotel online, while still using the features of HotelEngine. There are also a few required plugins for this theme and they are all included with the package.
The new BookingEngine booking plugin from EngineThemes can also be used with this theme and is used to provide extra functionality to manage hotel bookings. While the HotelEngine themes do provide some functionality for dealing with reservations, the BookingEngine plugin includes more features to enable you to offer a better online service for your guests.
In this review we will be taking a look at the HotelEngine themes and the BookingEngine plugin from EngineThemes.
Hotel Engine Features
HotelEngine comes in two variations which function as separate themes and are available separately or as part of a larger package. The themes make use of a few premium plugins which are integrated with themes. The required plugins are easily installed via a required plugins list which is displayed once the theme is activated. These plugins add a slider and a drag and drop page builder to your WordPress site, via the premium Revolution Slider and Visual Composer plugins.
HotelEngine can be used with the BookingEngine plugin also from EngineThemes. The plugin provides some of the more advanced behind the scenes functionality which is required for running a hotel website. Both versions of the theme are responsive for use on a range of devices and include homepage widget areas for dragging and dropping various sidebar widgets onto your homepage.
Hotel Engine Installation and Setup
As mentioned previously, HotelEngine comes in a few pricing configurations. All options include the required plugins, and either one of the themes (Comfy or Classy) or both of them. The required plugins are the premium Revolution Slider and the WPBakery Visual Composer Plugin both of which are incorporated into the theme and can be installed directly from your admin dashboard once one of the HotelEngine themes are activated.
Depending on your chosen pricing plan you may also get access to the BookingEngine plugin. This plugin must be installed like a regular premium plugin and uploaded via your admin dashboard (Plugins > Add New > Upload) or via FTP.
Like the other themes from EngineThemes, you can access to a setup wizard with HotelEngine which guides you through the setup process, ensuring you can get started as quickly as possible.
Defining the Rooms
The theme uses WordPress custom post types to manage the different room options, so these are created using the familiar WordPress post editor, rather than through the EngineThemes control panel.
When defining the rooms, you can set the price, the number of rooms of that type, and the maximum number of occupants. You can also add any services to the room, such as Wi-Fi or breakfast. The services can all be created separately, again using custom post types, allowing you to give them a name and set a price for them. They can then be made available to each of the room types.
Rooms can also make use of a custom taxonomy that is delivered via the theme. This is a category-style taxonomy which is entitled ‘Services’ in the backend, and ‘Amenities’ on the frontend. It can be used to add and list amenities or features for the room. When a room is viewed by a potential guest, the list of amenities or services which have been applied to the room-type is displayed, as well as those which haven’t been applied. These are slightly different to the previously mentioned Services in that they don’t have prices and aren’t optional extras for the guest to choose, but are instead added to the room type upon creation and are more suited to permanent features of a room like a balcony, sea view, or minibar, rather than an upgrade such as a Wi-Fi or breakfast.
The naming is a bit confusing as the term Services is also used to create the options for a room, but they are separate entities.
Bookings can be made via the backend of the site, by those with the required level of access. They can also be made via the frontend by guests booking a reservation at the hotel.
The frontend booking forms look good and feature an easy to use, attractive date picker which all make it very easy for your guest to make a reservation.
When creating a booking through the frontend forms there wasn’t a way for guests to add the optional extra services (not amenities) to their booking. While they weren’t listed on the frontend form, they were listed on the backend forms, where they could be added by an admin user, although they weren’t displayed on the order page until the booking was published or set live.
Once a booking has been made, either by a guest or by an admin user, it can then be managed from the bookings management page by the admin users.
Both the site owner and the guest making the booking can be sent an email notification once the booking has been submitted.
Other Theme Settings
Other theme settings include setting up the Revolution Slider which is used to display content at the top of your homepage by default. This could be used to display photos showcasing your hotel and its surrounding area. The theme comes with some sample data for the sliders, allowing you to easily setup this part of your side and get to grips with the Revolution Slider.
As the theme uses homepage widgets, you can easily add the slider to the homepage of your side, by adding the revolution slider widget to the corresponding widget area.
With the Visual Composer plugin included with this theme, creating a feature-rich homepage for your site is very easy. Simply create a new WordPress page and then use Visual Composer to add all the required elements to it. Once your page is ready, you can then edit the WordPress settings to display that page as your site’s homepage, instead of your latest blog posts. As the amount of page elements that can be inserted with Visual Composer is unrivalled by any other drag and drop page builder plugin, it gives you plenty of options for building your homepage without editing any code.
From the theme settings control panel you can also configure the site logo, breadcrumb-area background image, and upload a mobile icon, as well as entering any links to your social profiles.
Frontend User Experience
The setup process for the theme is pretty straightforward and doesn’t take long to walkthrough. When it comes to navigating your website and making a reservation through the frontend of the site, as a guest would do, the theme is easy to use.
Booking Engine: the Booking Plugin
BookingEngine, the booking plugin that is an optional extra for the HotelEngine theme, allows your WordPress site to take reservations and accept payments from your guests. Although the plugin has been designed to work closely with the themes from EngineThemes, it is available as a standalone plugin for use with themes from other developers.
While a great looking theme is essential for building a hotel website, without the ability to take bookings online, you are definitely missing an opportunity to provide a service your guests will be expecting. Thankfully this hotel booking plugin allows you to add this feature to your site with relative ease.
Features of Booking Engine
As BookingEngine has been designed to service hospitality businesses offering their services online, it contains all the steps found in a booking and reservation workflow.
- Add your own rooms and services options to suit your hotel
- Booking forms can be inserted into your site wherever you feel it’s appropriate by using widgets and shortcodes
- Guest can view available rooms in a date range
- Booking management via the WordPress admin panel, including adding, modifying and deleting bookings
- Create invoices, send them via email after a booking is made, and store them online for guests
- Accept payments using PayPal, 2Checkout and Auhtoized.net, or bank transfer
Setting up BookingEngine
Once the plugin is activated, it can be configured using the now familiar EngineThemes control panel.
The plugin makes use of a few template pages for displaying bookings and the payment and checkout process. These pages can all be edited should you want to insert any of your own content into them.
From the BookingEngine control panel you can view the reports, which use graphs to provide a summary of bookings and sales. In the next version there will also be a calendar which will allow you to view the bookings for each date.
The plugin settings also allow you to enable the supported payment gateways, as well as selecting a currency and setting a tax rate to be applied to bookings. You can then create email templates, using placeholders to personalise the message sent to those who have made a booking via your site.
The BookingEngine is still a work in progress, so some of the booking features are yet to come online.
There are a number of pricing options for this theme, due to the optional BookingEngine plugin and theme variations:
- Single HotelEngine theme (Comfy or Classy): $89
- BookingEngine plugin: $49
- Single HotelEngine theme (Comfy or Classy) + BookingEngine: $119
- Both HotelEngine themes (Comfy and Classy) + BookingEngine: $169
HotelEngine is a great looking theme and the decision to offer it in two formats (Comfy or Classy) is an interesting approach. Both options are well designed and make use of lots of modern website features such as sliders, responsive layouts, and fullscreen images.
The optional BookingEngine plugin, which can be used on its own, or with the HotelEngine themes, looks like a promising tool that will give you everything you need to accept and manage hotel bookings online via a WordPress website.
The features of the plugin, including the custom post types for defining the room types, and services available at the hotel work really well with the themes, which makes using BookingEngine and HotelEngine together the preferred option. At the moment though, some features of the plugin such as viewing the bookings via the backend calendar, and accepting payments are yet to be implemented.
If you are looking for a theme for your hotel website and don’t need the proposed advanced features of the BookingEngine plugin, or have enabled them for your site in another way, then the HotelEngine themes could be a good choice. The BookingEngine plugin does look promising and is definitely worth keeping an eye on as more features are added to it.