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Advising the hotel industry how to increase their online revenue

How hotels improve their websites and service

A recently published article by Hotels Magazine looks at examples how hotels or rather hotel chains have improved their hotel online marketing. The argument is that 31% of the people who visit an online travel agency site, book directly with the supplier and therefore the supplier websites need to be providing a good service. I’ve made a similar argument in a recent blog entry: Why hotels need an individual website.

The Hotels Magazine article explains how hotel chains start optimising search results, make download times faster and provide more graphics on their websites.

For example, the Sonesta Collection has moved images and flash content from its server to a content delivery network which makes their website download twice as fast. A content delivery network employs servers strategically in multiple geographic locations, each of them containing a cached version of the website, so that delivery time is speed up dramatically.

Another good example they give is the new E-Wave feature on the Paradise by Marriot website.
Marriott has created an interactive kit for the leisure traveler or meeting organiser, including maps and video. They thereby significantly increased the time people spend on their website (+25%). Moreover, users can upload their own video, generate their own itinerary and send it to a friend or travel partner.

To read the full Hotels Magazine article, please click here.

e-conceptory creates responsive websites for hotels using the latest technologies: HTML5 and fluid web design for all screen sizes from mobile phone, to tablet, to desktop computer.

Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing, Hotel Websites, , , , , , ,

Should you use Flash as the basis of your hotel website?

The answer is a clear and distinct NO!

While most agency clients love animated websites because they are so stylish, economically an all-Flash website just doesn’t make sense. This is for the following reasons:

1. Search engines hate Flash and how can your website generate business if it doesn’t get found?

2. Loading screens are annoying most people. In the past website optimation was a lot about download time. Even though most people now have broadband, they still don’t want to sit and wait for an entire website taking minutes to download. And even worse if you have to download a splash page first, with an intro movie you don’t want to see, before getting to the next loading screen for the actual site.

3. Flash doesn’t work on most mobile devices and they are becoming more and more popular. Who wouldn’t want to be able to book a hotel room on their iPhone?

4. Animation, if used excessively can really distract and annoy the user to the point that he leaves the site. After all, they just want information about your hotel and look at some pretty pictures. They don’t usually care about singing and dancing hotel logos.

5. Accessibility is not possible with Flash. Do you really want to lose customers that cannot navigate a Flash site?

However, while your website should not be programmed entirely in Flash, to use Flash elements is totally legitimate: Flash photo tours, for example or replace a static mood shot at the top of your page with a Flash animated movie. Even functionality can be programmed in Flash if you don’t programm for mobile devices, for example a quick reservation booking form, a location map etc. Important is, that the elements download fast and that there is enough text on the page to make it legible by search engines.

Filed under: Hotel Online Marketing, Hotel Websites, , , , , , , ,

Why think twice before using audio on your hotel website

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Have you ever sat in the office surfing the web, when entering a site suddenly filled your otherwise quiet room with music blasting from your speakers – every single one of your colleagues looking at you with a knowing smile? I’m sure you have. And what did you do immediately – without even thinking? You’ve hit the ‘back’ button of your browser before even trying to figure out how to work the mostly well-hidden audio controls.

This is why a hotel should not use audio on their website, unless the sound is set to mute on entering and the user can switch it on if they choose to.

Audio on websites is intrusive. In a recent survey, 87% of web users said they found ads that play music or sound frustrating: The Harris Poll PDF. This, however, does not only apply to video ads – a recent annoying marketing trend (Publishers: don’t annoy users with audio).

Statistics show indisputably that people look for and book hotel rooms during the week. They do this from the office in between work, when no one looks at their screen. And they don’t want to be caught out by even the smoothest, atmospheric music that you may think is essential to selling your stylish hotel. Once they’ve hit the ‘back’ button, you’ve lost them forever.
Is the audio really worth risking that?

Filed under: Hotel Websites, , , , , , , ,

Why hotels need an individual website

Statistics show that travelers become ever more educated if it comes to their search behaviour.
According to a study by Ypartnership and Yankelovich, Inc. this is where travelers first go first when looking for a hotel or resort:

Web site of online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity 31%
Search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN 26%
Web site of specific hotel chain 21%
Web site of individual hotel/resort 10%
Meta search engine that compares rates 5%

(See: Travelers’ Online Search Behavior Evolves)

You may say that the figure for ‘website of individual hotel/resort’ at 10% is still quite low. However, what this statistic doesn’t cover is what people do after their first visit.
I argue, that a large number of people after doing some research on the top three – online travel agency sites, search engines and even specific hotel chain sites – will search for the individual hotel/resort website of a property they have preselected. The reason being, that all of the above, in most cases, only offer very limited information about a property and show small or bad quality photos. A traveler cannot be certain what exactly to expect at the hotel and usually, this is not enough to make a buying decision. At least not for a leisure traveler who is about to book a hotel room, mirroring their lifestyle, for a very precious few days of their life: holiday. After all, successful hotels these days don’t sell rooms, they sell an experience. 
Take a look at the following two examples rated, among others, favourite websites in an article of the Hotel Magazine and you see what I mean:

Neither of the top three places travelers initially search a hotel/resort on, could possibly cater for the experience an individual hotel website can and should create.

The second element to focus on is trust. As the above figures show, travelers have come to use online agency websites and do trust the big ones they know. Though they may not trust a site they have never used before, even if it sells rooms at a cheaper rate.
However, if they visit an individual hotel website which is professionally done, layed out well and maintained properly – i.e. they get the impression that the hotel staff is looking after it – they will probably trust this site more and prefer to cut out the intermediary. If the rate is higher on an online agency site because of booking fees or commission, the decision will be even easier.

This is exactly what I could see happening in my last position when analysing the website and booking statistics of our large network of chain, traffic and individual websites. The individual hotel websites brought in many more online bookings than for example the chain site or other sites with more than one hotel featured. Moreover, traffic very often came from the search engines where people were searching for a specific hotel name. It is unlikely that all those people would have known the hotel name from previous visits, offline marketing or friends and family. No, they have found the name on online agency, destination, review and hotel chain sites during the first step of their search and looked for a preselected property in the second step. 

This is the reason why your hotel/resort needs an individual website. Create an experience, establish trust and the bookings will flow in. – And they will also come you much cheaper than any online agency booking which will cost you around a quarter of the room revenue.

Filed under: Hotel Websites, Search Engine Optimisation - SEO, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Corinna Witt : e-commerce, hotel internet marketing expert for hotels and the travel industry

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