Every hotel today must have its own website; without a strong online presence it is difficult to advertise your existence to potential customers, very difficult to communicate with guests, and almost impossible to attract direct bookings. It follows that an inadequate website will result in an underperforming business, so it is vital to get this particular element right. Here’s a quick checklist of five things you most definitely need to think about if you want better results from your website.
Images are perhaps the single biggest factor in determining whether or not a guest wants to stay at your hotel, and gallery sections rank very highly among the most visited website pages. For this reason you need lots and lots of photos, carefully taken by professional photographers to ensure that you show off your property in the best possible light.
How many times have you visited a hotel website, been persuaded that you want to book a room, and then given up on the idea because it’s just too hard? Your website has to make it absolutely clear how to book, and the process should be as simple as humanly possible. Look at the OTAs for inspiration, since these sites specialize in converting website visits to website bookings. Do you present a “Book Now!” option? Where is it located? Does it take the user directly to a clear and straightforward process? One disadvantage hotels face when compared to OTAs is the need to collect personal/financial data from customers. The OTAs save this the first time a customer books so there is no need to re-enter everything on subsequent visits. This makes the OTA booking process less painful for customers, so hoteliers should be aware that this aspect of the booking page should be made as user-friendly as possible. Payment options are another key issue to look at, since customers won’t book if you don’t offer a convenient payment option, or if they feel the security of the payment option may be compromised.
Reviews and guest content
If everything on your website is written by yourself, potential customers are far less likely to trust that everything they read is true. They’ll wonder what you have to hide. Before making a booking decision they like to hear a second opinion, and that opinion should come from their fellow customers. Including a review section is therefore a good idea, although there remains the danger that visitors to the site may think that you’re only publishing the positive reviews. To avoid this you might want to consider linking directly to reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor so customers can see that you’re not being selective about which reviews are displayed.
Links to social media
Your website cannot communicate effectively with guests as a stand-alone entity. Instead it must provide connections to a range of social media platforms which can then be used to build relationships. You can use this approach to provide fresh content relating to your latest promotions or upcoming events, or to allow guests to share what they like best about your property. If these guests can’t find you on social media you’ll be missing out on a big opportunity, so make sure through your website that you’re easily linked to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest. Remember also that the destination itself can sell your hotel, so make sure to include content promoting the local area. People who like what they learn about your city or local attractions and events will be more likely to use your services for accommodation.
If your website is not independent then you’ll have a hard time implementing any of the other ideas that can make your site stand out. That is, if your hotel is part of a chain and thus appears only as a part of a branded website, you won’t be able to make instant updates or customize the site to present your latest innovations in a way that lets you better connect with your guests. Instead, you’ll be relying upon permission from Head Office, and may end up with a website that falls some way short of supporting your individual property’s full potential. The more independence you have, the better your chances of controlling your own success.
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