When it comes to creating a stunning website for your hotel, your biggest competitors are third party websites that allow you to book a room and online travel agencies.
Yes, a third-party website on the surface seems like a more affordable option compared to a hotel’s website, but you’ll end up paying for that discount even after the promotion ends.
Third-party websites and online travel agencies are dangerous to your hotel’s bottom line. They are taking money away from your pocket while using your brand to get more customers. This relationship doesn’t benefit hotels or guests. It only benefits the middle man.
A third-party website or online travel agency is the middle man between you and a hotel.
Third party websites engage in unscrupulous practices like:
- Advertising fake discounts
- Search result listings that are distorted by commercial factors rather than the best deal for a customer
- Hidden commission arrangements that affect a hotel’s ranking in a search engine result page
- Hotels are told the more commission they pay, the higher they will appear in a third party website’s search engine results page. This is considered a conversion ratio (i.e. the ratio of views to sales).
- Third party websites and online travel agencies force a rate parity or most-favored nation clause, which means the online travel agencies with the same price for a room as they would to a customer booking directly with them through their website or calling the property directly.
- High commissions mean that marketing activity has to be curtailed by hotels
- Third party websites routinely threaten hotel websites if they attempt to offer the consumer a lower price through their direct channels.
Do Third-Party Websites Rob You Of A Proper Guest Service Experience?
Third party websites and online travel agencies offer an affordable rate now but you’ll end up regretting it later in the long run. If you’re a frequent traveler who plans on staying at the same hotel again booking through a third-party website will cost you to lose out on perks.
Here’s a scenario.
You love staying at the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale for its luxury appeal. You decide to book a reservation through a third-party website that gives you a steal of a deal—$50 per night, which leads you to booking your room for one week.
Your stay is seamless—you’re room service is excellent, your view is astounding and you’ve never felt more relaxed at the hotel. Your stay goes so well that you plan on booking another room a few months down the line presumably through the third-party website.
However, herein lies the problem—you missed out on amenities and the ability to participate in current events and future events held at the hotel that were available to you had you booked through the hotel’s website.
The W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale offers benefits for its guests who book through them in the form of Starwood Preferred Guest services. Starwood Preferred Guest services lets you earn rewards for your bookings all in one easy account. When you book directly through the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, you get hotel and resort features, promotions and specials.
But when you book through a third-party website you miss out opportunities such as above.
A third-party website’s scope of power is far less than the actual hotel’s management team. Because of that, booking a room through a third-party website can result in poor customer service.
For example, if you’re a frequent traveler and decide to use a third party website to book a hotel room, if you have any issues with the promotion the website provided, you cannot complain to the hotel’s management.
Once you book a reservation through a third party website, you must deal directly with the site’s customer service department, which isn’t located in the actual hotel you’re staying in.
Unlike the staff at a hotel, if you have a problem, management can and will go out of their way to resolve it—even offering you complimentary services for the inconvenience you’ve experienced.
Management within a hotel have the authority to do this because they explicitly represent the hotel and its brand. They can practice discretion without incurring a loss or permission. Again, a third-party website or online travel agency does not have this authority.
As a hotelier, you must reclaim your hotel and brand from the grips of third-party websites and online travel agencies.
This article will explain how your website, through the art of web design, can turn your competitors on their heels. This guide shows you how you can createna website that gives your potential guests exactly what they want—an excellent user experience that mimics a stay at your hotel.
Every visitor that goes to your hotel’s website is a potential guest. Thus, a hotel website has 2.6 seconds to captivate a potential guest’s attention and convince her to buy a service or book a room.
The best way to convince a potential guest to use your services is to offer a seamless user experience. User experience takes into account your hotel’s business goals.
Think about it. Is your hotel offering a promotional package this month? Is your hotel holding an exclusive live show for its favorite guests or members? If so, it should be visible on the frontpage of your website. Your homepage must show the most important information about your hotel front and center.
“Provide a simple message on your sites, telling your customers you prefer they book direct,” says Charlie Osmond, one of the founder’s of Triptease. “Don’t steal Hilton’s ad campaign but put the same message front and center. Consumers intrinsically know they want a direct relationship and they want to cut out the middle man — you just need to be clear to show them the best deal is direct.”
The core of UX is to ensure that a visitor to your website finds value in the services and information your website provides. Peter Morville lists the main elements of a positive user experience in his User Experience Honeycomb.
According to Morville the elements are:
- Useful: Your content should be original and fulfill a need.
- Desirable: Image, identity, brand and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation.
- Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them.
- Findable: Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite.
- Usable: Site must be easy to use.
- Valuable: Our site must deliver value to our sponsor.
A web designer must follow the basic premises of web design when creating a hotel website.
According to Usability.gov, user experience focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities and also their limitations.
If you’re online searching for a hotel room or one of the many other services a hotel offers such as spa accommodations, you’re likely to spend money.
You may not be ready to make a purchase at that very moment but you’ll likely make a purchase before the end of the week.
Hotels must reclaim their customers from third party websites and online travel agencies. The only way hotels will be able to do this if they focus on creating a user experience that rivals their competitors—i.e., third party websites and online travel agencies.
Again, a web designer who creates a website must always focus on the following elements:
A web designer must address the five planes of user experience when creating a website. The five planes are:
The Surface Plane: Refers to visual aspect of your website including Web pages, images and content.
The Skeleton Plane: Refers to items used to optimize the arrangement of your website such as buttons, tabs, photos and blocks of text.
The Structure Plane: Refers to the concrete expression of the more abstract structure of the site.
The Scope Plane: Refers to the structure or scope in which the various features and functions of the site fit together.
The Strategy Plane: Refers to what the people running the site want to get out of it but what the users want to get out of the site, as well.
The five planes of user experience will help you create an easy-to-use, engaging journey through your website for potential customers.
“Hotels really need to help travelers find properties and rates using their interests to lead the shopping experience,” says travel industry consultant Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group. “Allow travelers’ budgets to lead the shopping process for the hotel — show me the hotels in my price range. Let me know savings apply to other rate types.”
A web designer must tailor a hotel’s user experience based on a potential customer’s actual needs.
Below are key issues that must be corrected so you can reclaim your brand and potential customers from third-party websites and online digital agencies.
Does Your Website Have A Blog?
A blog will attract your targeted audience to your hotel website with content that’s related to booking a hotel. The foundation of your blog will be quality content that’s focused on SEO keywords. The SEO keywords are the popular sub-topics related to your hotel and the services it provides.
For example, the following types of content should appear in the blog of your hotel website, in an effort to attract targeted potential consumers:
- 3 Facials You Need To Try At Bliss Spa
- 5 Manicure Trends For 2017
- How To: Get Rid Of Calloused Skin On Your Feet
- 5 Luxury Skincare Treatments You Can Only Get At Bliss Spa
- What Is The Legendary Brownie Buffet?
- 3 Places You Must Visit This Weekend
- 5 Spa Services Your Dog Needs Right Now
- How To: Staycation In 5 Easy Steps
- The Top 10 Drinks To Try At Steak 954
- 5 Deals For August That Are Under $75
- 5 Perks You Enjoy When You Become A Starwood Preferred Guest
Notice that all of the topics above relate to the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Each article addresses a consumer’s wants and provides a solution in the form of a service offered by the W Hotel. When creating content for your hotel website, your blog acts as a secondary tool that highlights your services, amenities and events.
Does Your Website Have Curb Appeal?
Curb appeal isn’t just limited to the restaurant industry or a restaurant website. Curb appeal also applies to your hotel. When a potential guest visits your website, you must grab her attention with beautiful images of the inside and outside of your hotel.
That includes but is not limited to:
- The pool area
- The bar
- The restaurant
- Spa services
- The gym
- The rooftop
The more stunning your photos, the more your website will convey a message of luxury to potential guests. A potential guest is willing to spend more money if he feels like its for a luxury, top-tier product or service.
Is Your Content Rich In SEO Keywords?
You must know which SEO strategy to use with your content marketing strategy for your blog on the hotel website. An SEO strategy that focuses on localized long-tail keywords is a great recommendation for your hotel. You can’t create an SEO strategy until you complete an SEO keyword research and outline the type of content you will write. Your outline will be your content strategy.
Is Your Meta Data Populated With Localized Long-Tail Keywords?
It’s imperative that the meta data on your hotel website is populated with localized long-tail keywords. Why? When you search for a hotel or any-related services offered by a hotel you tend to do so by location. For example, the list below shows how a typical person would search for a query in Google’s search bar:
- Hotel in Fort Lauderdale
- Hotel room in Fort Lauderdale
- Affordable hotel room in Fort Lauderdale
- Affordable luxury hotel room in Fort Lauderdale
- W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale
- Bliss spa in Fort Lauderdale
- Luxury spa services in Fort Lauderdale
- Luxury hotel deals in Fort Lauderdale
- Luxury hotel perks in Fort Lauderdale
- Hotel room under $100 in Fort Lauderdale
- Luxury hotel room under $150 in Fort Lauderdale
- The best luxury hotel in Fort Lauderdale
It’s imperative that you’re localized long-tail keywords are rich in SEO keywords and explicit. This will help your website’s ranking in Google’s search engine results page.
Does Your Website Offer An Excellent Guest Experience?
One area where hotels have a major advantage over third-party websites is controlling your actual guest experience during your stay.
“The hotel is the best expert on their own property,” says Osmond. “You can never find anyone at the OTA who has knowledge of that property to the degree that the hotel does, and having live chat on your site gives guests access to your knowledge and ability to serve them and engage them in the sales conversation.”
Earlier, I discussed how third-party websites robs you of an authentic guest experience.
Your guest experience is the most effective way to get loyalty from your guests.
Offering services to guests that make their travels easier build loyalty.
Knowing how to surprise and delight guests is a way to build a direct relationship with guests.
And even if a guest doesn’t book direct, giving them a memorable experience might just be enough to convince them to book direct the next time.
Does Your Website Offer An E-Commerce Experience?
Your hotel website must create an air tight sales funnel similar to third-party websites. A sales funnel refers to the buying process that companies lead customers through when buying a product. A sales funnel is divided into several steps, which differ depending on the particular sales model.
The idea behind a sales funnel is simple—turn a lead into a prospect, then a prospect into a customer, who finally becomes a repeat customer buying over and over again.
Third-party websites are great at making you to take a call-to-action.
One of the best ways to create a sales funnel is through the help of an SEO specialist, web designer and content strategist.
How Can Perks Benefit Your Hotel Website?
There’s plenty to be said about the benefits of discounted member rates.
But its not just about a perk.
Hotels need to make their potential guests an offer they can’t refuse. Consumers are willing to pay more for a service if they feel that its worth it.
“What really needs to happen for this to be successful is to get people who typically book on OTAs to convert to becoming rewards members and booking direct,” said Baird’s Bellisario.
Hotels need to offer ancillary services or rewards to incite potential guests to book directly to their website.
Perks such as free Wi-Fi or attendance to fashion, entertainment or music events held at the hotel will encourage potential guests to not use a third-party website.
Other attractive perks include that are sure to entice a potential guest to spend more:
- Complimentary foot massage
- Free scuba lessons
- A glass of champagne upon arrival
- A three hour session in the in-house spa that includes a full body massage
“Those additional services, in addition to the different rates, make it that much more enticing for guests to want to book direct,” he said. Perks effect your conversion rate because they turn lookers into bookers.
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