In this day and age, where Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) dominate organic first page search results, is there still a need for hotels to have an independent hotel website?
That’s a question you might be pondering. After all, why invest additional resources into developing and managing an independent hotel website when you can get bookings via OTAs? Why do you need a website when you can use Facebook and Instagram for free?
The short answer is that, when done right, you get a lot more value from a hotel website than when you depend solely on OTAs and social media platforms to promote your hotel. That’s because a hotel website multitasks—among others, it serves as your virtual front desk and information counter.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your hotel needs a website.
Potential guests need to be able to find you
You might feel that OTAs are all you need for an international presence. After all, OTA’s give users from all over the world detailed filter options that lands your hotel directly in front of your ideal audience – the ones looking for the features that you have to offer.
And since a 2018 study found that, out of the Americans surveyed, 84% are more likely to book their travel arrangements through bundling sites rather than book direct, who could blame you for thinking that way? (Source: Humley via Hotel Business)
Nevertheless, search is an important factor in the travel booking industry. Year to year, its significance continues growing.
Accommodation searches that started on search engines increased to 31% in 2018 compared to just 23% in the previous year. Perhaps more importantly, research found that “travel-shopping journeys that began with search led to purchases more quickly than those that began on the sites of suppliers and intermediaries.” (Source: McKinsey & Company)
This is just one reason why a hotel website is a vital component of any hotelier’s marketing arsenal.
Your website provides essential information
The process of finding and booking accommodation is a lengthy and multifaceted one. A study has shown that the average search for a hotel room lasts 36 days, spread out over search engines as well as intermediaries’ and suppliers’ websites, and encountering 45 points of contact or interaction. (Source: McKinsey & Company)
Because it is a “high-anxiety” purchase (once it’s booked, it’s booked), travelers tend to research their options. (Source: McKinsey & Company) And at some point during a traveler’s research phase, he will take a look at your website.
Your website is where potential guests go to find crucial information ranging from the details of your location and what’s around you to what time you serve breakfast. Whether they choose to book with you or go elsewhere is a decision they’ll make after reading reviews and reviewing your website.
Create a great first impression
A guest’s first impression of you isn’t formed once they’ve checked in. It’s formed well before they’ve even arrived by what they see and read about you online. It’s part of the booking journey.
Rather than third-party platforms, let your website be their first encounter with you.
On your website, you control what you communicate and how you communicate it. You have the freedom to create a seamless experience catered to your target market’s needs—and that is a prelude of what to expect in reality.
It’s where you shine the spotlight on your distinctive selling points; where you highlight what makes you uniquely you and not just another hotel that meets certain filter criteria. It’s where you share your brand story.
Your website is also where you break down the barriers of indecision. You can reassure travellers about booking with you through content that builds up excitement—details that make the traveller confident about his choice.
Unlike on OTAs, where every hotel is displayed identically, your website allows you to present yourself the way you want to. In other words, a hotel website is an essential communication tool and a reflection of your brand.
Your website facilitates direct bookings
The most significant benefit of having your own website is the potential to increase revenue.
When your hotel has its own website, you can encourage and receive direct reservations. That means less commission, which can range from 10 to 30% per booking, paid out to booking platforms. And at the end of the day what matters most is your bottom line.
- Supplement your website with a presence on social media. Use those platforms as a means to inspire with stunning photos of your property and to interact with Millenials.
- Help your international audience gain awareness of your existence by listing with OTAs. But don’t miss out on direct bookings and the revenue that comes with it by relying solely on them.
- Don’t leave it up to the OTAs and their descriptions to craft your identity and tell your story. Take control of how you present your brand.
- Use your website as a stepping stone to building a relationship—and fostering loyalty—with your guests.
Having said all that, keep in mind that designing a beautiful website isn’t enough. While professional photos and an attractive site are a must, photos alone don’t sell. Images and copy work together to create an experience that captures your potential guest and gets them booking.
Part 2 of this series explores why your hotel website needs effective copy to achieve your marketing goals.