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Hotel website mistakes that may cost you bookings
By Scott Petoff
Your hotel website is the key to being found and the most profitable pathway for room bookings. So why do so many hospitality websites make the same mistakes and turn away booking leads? There are dozens of small issues that appear again and again, but for this article I will focus on these six issues. As with all my posts, the goal is maximizing your booking conversion rate.
Take action to avoid these easy to fix hotel website mistakes.
Frightening your website traffic away
I realize that many hoteliers invest a lot in professionally produced videos of their property and services. This is a sensible and effective way to promote your hotel and showcase its best features. So do not squander your investment by auto-playing videos on your hotel website.
You may think you are doing your visitors a favor by setting auto-play to on. After all they probably want to see your hotel and hear about your luxurious, award-winning, relaxing, active, ... amenities. However the reality is more complicated. Here are the reasons why your hotel web videos should default to paused.
For a hilarious take on why NOT to auto-play your hotel sales videos, you must read this Travergence auto-play music on websites blog post (which laughed about an earlier blog post on this subject). Here is a quote:
Glossing over your Wi-Fi capabilities
Free Wi-Fi has become the most requested hotel amenity (see TripAdvisor Hotel Amenities Travelers Can and Can't Do Without) with 89% of travelers surveyed wanting it. More and more hotels are offering it as part of the room rate, but many are not "going all the way". Not all free WiFi is truly free when it comes to meeting the expectations of your guests. Here's why...
Regardless of whether your Wi-Fi comes with limitations or not, you may be losing bookings if you don't document what is available. Is your Wi-Fi free in public areas only and not available in most rooms? Is it possible to request a room with a strong Wi-Fi signal? Does the internet connection limit the number of connected devices or the number of minutes per day? If there is a cost to in-room Wi-Fi, what is the price and what do you get in terms of speed and sharing with phones and tablets?
Those are the types of questions people are seeking answers about. They will likely be getting those answers from reviews of your hotel on TripAdvisor or Booking.com and those guests may not be telling a complimentary story. Just read the many easy to find reviews for hotels on TripAdvisor that talk about how their "free" Wi-Fi experience was slow, broken, or frustrating to connect. Every minute spent jumping through hoops to access your Wi-Fi network is a negative review in the making.
That is why you must list your Wi-Fi offering in complete detail. By being complete and upfront about your internet services (avoiding surprises), you will get more bookings from people who must stay connected for business or leisure.
Hiding behind your hotel brand
This mistake applies mostly to Bed and Breakfast properties, but is also applicable to small, boutique, and independent hotels as well as tour operators. When you run a small business, consumers are often curious about the owner and why they are passionate about what they do.
People stay at a B&B for reasons beyond just a place to sleep and a free breakfast. They want to know the place is run by a real person who cares about delivering a pleasant and memorable stay or travel experience. If something goes wrong, they want to know there is someone (and not an "I just work here" type of person) ready to help. When your travel business is independently owned, put your name and face on the brand.
Therefore it is a best practice to include the name(s) of the owner or property manager plus photo on the "About Us" page. Forgetting to include this information makes your property seem less authentic and could be perceived as possibly misleading. Travelers are seeking a personal experience when they choose to stay at an independent hotel. Welcome first time visitors to your hotel website with real photo of both owner and front desk staff.
Discouraging direct bookings
Your travel marketing goal is to get more bookings, but it is more profitable to get more direct bookings (yes, I know that is obvious but keep reading). That is why you created a professional and optimized hotel website, is it not? So don't stop there and hope that visitors will book direct without a tangible reason.
If people do not feel they are getting the best rate or something extra by booking direct, they will keep on looking. And when they are comparing places to stay on a meta-search hotel booking website (OTA), another hotel may catch their eye and you'll lose out a second time.
Optimizing your website for booking conversions means to convince people to complete a direct booking every time. So it pays to offer a good reason to "Book Now" direct, such as one of the following:
Failing to start a book later conversation
Now it is time to get a stark reminder about the effectiveness of the booking conversion funnel. As much as 97% of your website visitors will not make a booking on their first visit. Whether they are likely to return and book later is up to your proactive efforts.
At the same time, email is still the most effective medium on the Internet. Therefore the best way to convert lookers to bookers is to start a booking conversation. How? Ask them to sign up for your hotel email newsletter. Don't have one? Now is the perfect opportunity to publish a monthly newsletter about your hotel or tour business.
Steps to an Email Remarketing Conversion Engine
Telling the world you don't care how you look
This last mistake is probably the most common, so unfortunately travel marketers still require a regular reminder to spell-check their website. People planning a trip to a foreign country realize that English may not be your first language. In these situations, you will be forgiven for at least a few spelling mistakes. However if your operation is in an English-speaking country, there is no excuse for not fixing those visible spelling errors.
Your website is your public image and it is your choice to look sloppy and disheveled or to look neat and polished. Too many glaring errors on a hotel website can raise concerns about the attention to detail (or lack of) at your property. If a spelling mistake is easy to spot on your home page, what are people to believe about your ability to deliver quality hospitality services?
With all the automated spell-checking tools at your disposal (grammar too!), you can quickly resolve this problem right away.
There are many more mistakes that hotels make which are sure to appear in future posts on BookingCounts.com. In fact these same mistakes appear on all types of websites including tour operators and independent travel agents. While you may not have a website design budget like the big names in the travel industry, you can still look like a pro by avoiding all six of these common mistakes.
Written by Scott Petroff, President of BookingCounts
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