Hotel Online  Special Report
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 Stars & Diamonds…Do They Really Matter Any More? 
They Seem to Have Lost Their Luster
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By: Neil Salerno January 30, 2007

In the years before the Internet, it was financially impossible for many hotels to create an identity in the eyes of the public at large. Most hotels had to rely upon AAA and Mobile to define their quality and establish their public image. Consumers relied upon these rankings to short-cut the hotel evaluation process; the alternative was to phone hotels to ask a dozen questions, a real chore.

Certainly most consumers know that a three star rating is better than two stars, however, very few know what the specific rankings mean in terms of service and facilities; I might add that’s also true for most hoteliers. Hotels which ranked poorly suffer a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace; they could be passed-over simply based on their ranking.

The Internet is changing all that. Through the Internet, consumers now have the ability to see and read everything necessary to choose their favorite hotels. They no longer have to rely upon stars and diamonds to rank their hotels. The Internet is a critical boost in consumer buying power. Now consumers have the ability to create their own hotel selection criteria and compare hotels with little effort.

There is no doubt that the power and influence, which once came from diamond and star ratings, are fading into the past. The Internet is the perfect hotel shopping tool; it’s quick and easy.

For independent hotels, a public image or brand identity, so to speak, is critical to establishing a value relationship between rates and hotel stay experience. Prior to the Internet that was nearly impossible. 

Positioning Your Hotel on the Internet

Your hotel’s web site defines your hotel; its location, facilities, amenities, and style; its persona. Your web site should properly position your hotel in the marketplace. Positioning your hotel on your web site is not just a matter of what your site says, but also how it says it. 

Obviously, the most important element your web site needs is the ability to be found by search engines; using many different key word/phrases. Experts claim that more than 80% of all hotel searches are generic as opposed to direct searches by brand. If your hotel is near an attraction, will your hotel be found by a search for that attraction; including golf, weddings, key corporations, meetings, and conventions?

Ironically, a searchable web site begins with its design. No, not the way it looks, but other factors such as its navigation friendliness and, most importantly, its search element and key word content in addition to the strength of its sales message.  

Proper positioning takes some measure of work and a good deal of research. Although there are basic must-have components of every web site, there are many additional text elements to satisfy search requirements and “sell” consumers on the benefits of staying at your hotel. 

Web Site Competition Analyses

The first step in positioning your hotel on the Internet is to do a comprehensive web site competition analysis. What is your competition saying on their web sites; do you have a better location, facilities, and/or services that you can highlight? In what order do they list amenities and services; how do they compare with yours? Do you have something that is unique to your hotel? Lastly, how do your rates compare with the competition?

One cannot create a position for your hotel by rate alone; although many hotels try. They falsely believe that they will get more business if they have the lowest rates in the market. In fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Consumers who are not familiar with your hotel’s value (its facilities/services compared to rate experience), will first judge the true value of your hotel by its rates. Low rates get a poor score in perceived value.

Your web site should not simply be an online brochure listing all your hotels attributes and rates, it should be strategically designed to conform to search engine requirements and its content should position your hotel within your specific competition set. A simple S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats) analysis will reveal the differences your site needs to highlight. 

You no longer need to rely upon stars and diamonds to define your hotel. 

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Contact:

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
Web Site: www.hotelmarketingcoach.com
Email: NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com

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Also See: Gobble-Up Your Hotel's Competition: Start with the Basics, Add A Pinch of Research, And a Dash of Common-Sense / July 2006
The Wide Diversity of Hotel Brands Opens New Marketing Opportunities for Independent Hotels / Neil Salerno / August 2006
Nine Tips to Create a Dominant Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / May 2006
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