Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday
With an ever increasing number of tourists using the internet to facilitate their travel search and booking functions, it is imperative for hotels to ensure that their own websites are equipped to cater to their guests’ travel investigation and online booking needs. According to a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey about 6 in 10 hotel guests in the USA who are making reservations in 2010 do so online.
With an estimated 60% of the market using the internet to source their desired accommodation and then to make a booking, can any hotelier afford not to invest in their digital marketing strategy?
Today I will take a brief look at some of the techniques that can be used to increase website reach and online hotel bookings.
Content is the primary source of organic search results and needs to be accurate and up-to-date. One important aspect that is often overlooked is that of seasonal demand, a website’s content strategy should incorporate an allowance for updates to be made relating to seasonal demand and always ensure that landing pages are optimized to convey the correct message.
Third party travel reviews play a large role in the decision making process of potential guests. Not only do reviews convey an opinion that is perceived to be honest as they are written by previous guests, they are also a large part of the reason that Online Travel Agents (OTA) often outrank the hotels that they are marketing bookings for. To counter this hotels should ensure that they include a section for reviews on their web site and that this section is populated with relevant and credible reviews.
Like the insurance industry, many potential guests are likely to be price savvy and thus hotels should always ensure that they have their best available rates on their own web site. If the OTA which is competing with you for search rankings and online bookings offers a better rate than if the guest were to book directly with the hotel then the hotel is going to lose out on many potential customers.
When using pay per click (ppc) campaigns to drive bookings, one should remember that the campaign needs to be targeted at your intended guests and not at the area in which your hotel is situated. If your primary market is European tourists then running a campaign that is trying to drive bookings from South African searches is going to have little effect. Hotels should also remember to bid on the keyword of their own name to alleviate competitive marketing from other online travel agents marketing bookings for the same hotel.
The setup of the booking process is our final and probably our most important aspect for today’s discussion. A flawed booking process will only result in frustration and resentment for the user being subjected to bad process flow. Key areas to bear in mind when designing a booking process are as follows:
Pre-booking registrations are bad, they make your potential guest feel like they are being asked for their life story before you have given anything in return and will often result in a lost booking. The registration requirement in the booking process should only occur once availability has been confirmed and the user has shown their intent to proceed with the booking.
The booking engine should facilitate the dissemination of both live rates and live availability information. A guest will not bother with an online booking process where he or she has no guarantee of actually obtaining accommodation at the hotel in question.
Lastly, users should be encouraged to interact with your web site in as many was as possible. Suggestions for this could include an application, either on your web site or on a social site such as facebook, for guests to interact and share their experiences. This way customer service becomes your best marketing tool and your content message will gain an element of credibility through the comments of your guests.