Hotel websites and online travel agents. They sell the same product yet their websites look completely different. They are chalk and cheese, black and white, Tom and Jerry. What gives?
In very broad terms, OTAs tend to be cleaner and calmer while a couple of the hotel websites I visited were …. busy. Lot of movement with continually rotating promotions. In many cases the splash page shouted and screamed. Big photographs of people everywhere. Not rooms. Strange.
Primary colours and headlines fighting for attention. Look at me!
A good example of this approach is the new Rydges.com, pictured below:
There are 11 photographs in that screen grab. That's a lot. And just count the colours.
That photo montage rotates with a series of other promotions pushing various aspects of the Rydges offering.
It's certainly dynamic but for some perhaps a little distracting.
A similar approach – that is the dynamic promotions through the main display – has been adopted by Oaks Hotels & Resorts.
Mantra has opted something a little different using only photographs of brand ambassador Pat Rafter.
Not a single room or location shot.
In total there are five images of the former tennis star on the splash page, including two video stills.
It's kind of odd. I accept he's a good looking guy but he doesn't come with the room.
Now let's take a look at Australian OTA market leader Wotif.com.
A static site with no images, apart from the ski ad in the left column, just a booking engine and links down the right column.
There's very little difference between this page and another screen grab I took two years ago.
Why? Because it works.
This site sold 7 million room night in the 2011/12 financial year.
To conclude, here is a screen grab of Booking.com, the very successful and fast-growing international web site.
Yes, there are a few images but each one of them is a room with no people, or a destination shot.
The images are also attached to an offer and once again it is a static site.
Booking engine front and centre.
Many millions of rooms would be sold through this site each year.
So why the difference between the OTA and hotel sites?
I can't explain it but will say that one side could probably learn from the other.