In our recent blog post about finding a happy balance between direct bookings and OTA reservations, we offered some suggestions for increasing direct bookings. One of those suggestions was to make sure your property’s website looks great, is mobile friendly, and features a mobile-optimized online booking engine. With 80% of travelers turning to the Internet to plan their trips (according to Google’s recent report, The 2013 Traveler), an effective website is particularly relevant to the success of your business.
A hotel’s website is almost always the first point of contact with the guest — and first impressions count. Even when a guest does not book direct, they are very likely to visit your website before deciding to stay. If your site is done right it will not only give a great first impression of your property but will encourage prospective guests to book direct, too. In this increasingly Internet-driven industry, a dreary online presence can lead to a significant loss of potential sales.
Here’s our recipe for a winning website optimized for success:
- User-friendly layout – While an attractive website goes a long way in making a good impression, make sure you don’t sacrifice ease of use for artistry. Information about rooms, amenities and location should never be more than a single click away, and users should never have to hunt or scroll to find your online booking engine. A simple layout for intuitive navigation and quick-n-easy online reservations is key to turning lookers into bookers.
- Nice images – Show your property in its best light to give prospective guests a visual experience of your hotel. In addition to showing off your guestrooms (including bathrooms), include photos of your hotel’s exterior as well as amenities like the fitness room, breakfast bar, and sparkling pool. Images should be high-quality and high-resolution. Consider updating pictures seasonally; does the outdoor hot tub look especially inviting steaming seductively in the snow?
- Solid content – If you write about what prospective guests want to know, travelers will pay attention and search engines will, too. Make sure your amenity lists are complete, describe any special amenities and services, highlight deals and packages, and include information about unique local spots.
- Optimized for mobile devices – Because 40% of online travel research is conducted on smartphones and tablets and, therefore, search engines rank mobile-compatible sites higher, a mobile-friendly website (and booking engine) really is a must. If you haven’t updated your website in a while, we strongly suggest responsive Web design for your site’s next makeover. A responsive website will automatically detect and respond to the device accessing it (desktop computer or smartphone or tablet), adjusting content to the screen size and platform for optimal user experience. With just one responsive website, you have all devices covered.
- Mobile-friendly booking engine – We mentioned it in the point above, and we’re mentioning it again because it’s just that important. A mobile-optimized booking engine features a simple booking interface for optimal display and ease of use on small screens, is touch-screen compatible, and takes users through the booking process in as few taps as possible.
- Speed – If your website doesn’t load fast enough, travelers will quickly move on to the next one. Who has time to wait?
- Monitor online bookings – It’s easy with cloud-based software like WebRezPro. If you’re doing things right on your website, the number of direct bookings should reflect this. If the numbers are disappointing, or show that many users are not making it all the way through the online booking process, you need to assess why – what can you improve?
With the right content and the right technology, your property’s website has the power to increase direct bookings and revenue.