February 11, 2010 - Mumbai.
If you walk into a clothing store and see clothes lying on the floor instead neatly hung on hangers, would you still pay big buck to buy them?
If you are anything like the typical customer, who wants his money worth, then your answer is a resounding ‘NO’!
Your potential guests are just like you. When they book with your hotel, they want quality accommodation, that is worth their money. But, unlike a clothing store, where you can look and examine the clothes before you buy, travelers making a reservation with a hotel don’t have that transparency. So, how do they decide between hotels?
10 years ago, travelers depended on honest and sincere travel agents to direct them to good hotels. Today, majority of travelers base their decision on research done online. So, make sure that your online sales agent ‘your hotel website’ is on par. Don’t let lack of attention to detail on your hotel website cost you guests like those clothes lying on the floor collecting dust cost the store sales.
What Elements Do Visitors Use to Judge your Hotel Website aka What Turns Off Visitors
There are number of elements on your website that can create a negative impression of your hotel website (turn visitors off). Visitors on your hotel website use these elements to evaluate your website and in turn, your hotel.
Design: We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world where many are reluctant to buy last season clothes. In such a world, do you real believe that a website that was designed in 1990 will be taken seriously? It won’t be because most visitors will consider an outdated website as a sign of an outdated hotel without modern amenities.
Navigation: Locating your hotel rates and making a reservation should not require a degree in programming. If your website is not simple and easy to navigate, be prepared to say goodbye to your visitors and receive a bouquet saying ‘Thanking You’ from your competitor. Additionally, if the visitor encounters dead links, this will also create a negative and lackluster impression of both your website and your hotel.
Rates: If the visitor is looking to book a room for this summer and the last time you updated your room rates were in December 2006, you will lose the booking because visitors to your website will assume – one, your hotel has shut down or two, you have been completely booked since 2006 and are not interested in paying guests.
Content: Visitors pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. Content if worded wrongly can send a visitor fleeing instead of seeking your hotel. So write carefully and be sure to support your content with factual data and appropriate visuals. For example, instead of just saying your hotel is in walking distance to Baga Beach, you can reassure that your hotel is actually close to the beach by providing them with factual data – kilometers from hotel to beach and walking time - ‘Baga Beach is a 5-minute walk from the hotel’. This will help substantiate your proximity claim.
Photos: Despite saying the right things, visitors often need a final push before they make a reservation. Photographs of your hotel – interiors and exteriors can be that final push. Photographs can help draw a picture in the visitors mind. You can use photographs to indicate ambience and typical guests. For example, if you are running a business hotel in addition to photographs your rooms, you can also display photographs of your conference room to emphasis that your hotel can support conferences with the latest business equipment. Similarly, if you are running a family resort, you can display photographs of your swimming pool and game room full of families having a gala of a time.
Telltales: In addition to the elements listed above, visitors keep an eye out for ‘Telltales’. A telltale is an indicator that the hotel may be not up to mark. These telltales range from no photographs of the hotel on the website to content using words like 'close to airport' without clearly stating the actual distance. Some visitors may call up to verify these concerns but most will not, so make sure that your website claims are accurate and sincere.Third Party Traveler Reviews: Once a visitor locates a hotel that could possibly meet his requirements, he validates his opinions by checking out what fellow travels say about your hotel. Traveler reviews tend to be brutally honest and are in no way under your control. There are only two ways to control traveler reviews – one, by making sure you offer quality service and two, by addressing previously guest grievances i.e. replying to negative reviews with information of how you have rectified the problem. Positive reviews reassure visitors of their choice in hotels and encourage them to complete the reservation process.