Tourism Industry News

Hotel Web Sites: Your Site Is Your Brand

08/10/2008 23:58

The Internet has revolutionized hospitality as much as it has revolutionized any industry.


Yet even as the Web gains importance as a sales channel for business like hotels and restaurants, it’s changing fundamentally in terms of what consumers expect from it.


In 2008, up to 40% of all hotel bookings in North America will be generated from the Internet. Another 25-30% of hotel bookings will be directly influenced by online research, but booked offline. By 2010 the Internet will contribute over 45% of all hotel bookings in North America.*


Meanwhile, the GDS-backed early leaders in the online travel space are losing ground to direct sales and now account for less than 20% of online bookings. Translation: people are increasingly going direct to the brand source for in-depth information, not to online “travel agents”.


Perhaps most importantly, the general level of consumer Internet-savvy, bandwidth, and technology are all reaching levels that stretch consumer expectations of how a hotel site should look, feel, and function. It’s not enough to just offer the ability to check rates and availability anymore.


What this all means is that attaching legacy concepts about hotel sales, marketing and distribution channels to a website is a big mistake. Is a website an ad, a booking engine, a customer service vehicle, a property tour, a trusted source of local information, a direct mail piece, a loyalty club, a salesperson? Of course, the answer is all of the above.


The functional tools now available to support websites as distribution channels are extensive and well-established enough to use acronyms: SEO, CRM, CMSs, TPIs. But these tools all need to be evaluated and incorporated within the context of the bigger picture: your website is your brand. Done right, it will be built and operated from the perspective of the consumer experience first, and all of the attending support mechanisms second.


Full story at Hospitality.Net


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