Hotel Online Special Report

Surf's Up
Internet Marketing for Destination Properties
This article is from the Fall 2003 issue of Hospitality Upgrade magazine.To view more articles covering technology for the hospitality industry please visit the Hospitality Upgrade Web site or to request a free publication please call (678) 802-5303 or e-mail.
by Debra Kristopson

Does it seem as if everyone wants to book online reservations for you?

But is the Internet truly your friend?

For good or for bad, the Internet is here to stay and it’s growing. The number of online users grew an estimated 7 percent in the last six months.

The question then becomes, “How do I appeal/sell to these potential guests?” Well, if all you’re selling on the Web is rate then rate sensitivity is how people will respond.  However, we’ve all been down this path before and we know that we can’t survive by rate alone.  In the end rate wars hurt everyone in the market.
The burden then becomes to sell more than rate, to sell your full-featured property and your destination. You’ve done this for years in your printed materials and with your reservations functions; however, many destination properties have not taken this same initiative on the Web. Well it’s time. In fact, if you haven’t already created a stand-alone Web site for your property then you’re behind the Internet marketing curve.

Compare the Difference

Force yourself to take two hours and surf. Shut your door, forward your phone and research where and how your property is located on the Internet. Use more than one search engine: Google, AOL, Alta Vista, MSN, etc. Search by your property name, your destination city/area and local attractions.

What did you find?

If you’re a branded property, you’ll be located on your brand’s Web site with a paragraph of information and rates. On Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. you may have slightly more information; however the focus is again rate.

Now, compare these impressions to the following properties that have stand-alone Web sites:

  •  Arizona Biltmore –
  •  Crystal Mountain Resort –
  •  The Briars –
These sites vary tremendously in their look, feel and functionality, but each of them offers something which normally isn’t achieved via a brand Web site or a third-party reservations processor. By the time you walk through these sites they have given you a strong idea of what you can expect and enticed you to try their property. Reservations processing and rates (if present at all) are in the background. The primary message is that these properties are phenomenal places to stay. These Web sites first sell the property and then sell rate.

But What About the Branded  Property?

If you’re a branded property, you may encounter resistance from your brand if you decide to create a property Web site. Historically, many brands have discouraged their properties from stand-alone sites and attempted to solve the Internet marketing need with the brand site. But as you have seen, the wealth of information that you can offer about your property is not within the framework or objectives of most brand Web sites.

The balance between brand Web sites vs. destination property Web sites is changing. The important thing to realize is that the two sites can be complementary. Use the property site for marketing and property-specific functionality (tee-time or spa scheduling) then link to the brand site for reservations processing. Leverage both sites for what they can do best.

Getting Your Fair Share

You want a Web site but don’t know where to start?

You looked at one several years ago and it was too expensive?

Much has changed. Most importantly the costs for a stand-alone Web site have dropped tremendously.

A typical property Web site cost should be within these ranges:

  • Registration of Domain - $20 to $35 per year
  • Hosting of Web Site - $180 to $400 per year
  • Development of Initial Web Site - $150 to $500 per page
If needed, start with a small site and add pages as your budget permits. You can achieve a nice impression with a beginner Web site of five to six pages of information.

Plan on three to four weeks for your site to be developed.

Being a destination property, you’ll want to focus on your site’s look and feel. This will be achieved primarily through the use of photography and color. Your goal will be to use photography which will stimulate all the senses. If you have pictures of the ocean on a sunny day, is the photography bold enough that a part of your brain smells the salt air and feels the warmth of the sun on your skin?

When shopping for a Web site designer and host there are two major pitfalls to avoid. First, you may find a designer with a lower cost who will propose a template Web site – plug and play. Don’t go this route. Your Web site should be unique.  Secondly, there are lower cost hosting alternatives which involve adding banner advertising or pop up window advertising to your site. Again, don’t do it. It destroys your image and infuriates your potential guests.

Being Recognized on the Web

One of your goals needs to be optimum search engine ranking. Not all Web site designers understand or perform search engine optimization. When looking for a Web site designer, make sure that your designer knows how to perform search engine optimization and submission. For instance, splash pages, flash animation and inline frames are eye catching, but they work against you with the search engines; unfortunately designers love them.

Your designer needs to understand your requirement for search engine optimum ranking and avoid any “bells and whistles” which are not search engine friendly. Upfront, before you make a commitment to your designer, discuss search engine optimization.  If they can’t satisfy you with their approach find a different designer.

Once complete, your designer should submit your site to the search engines for ranking; it then may take six to eight weeks before your site is ranked by the search.

Achieving optimum search engine ranking is an iterative process. It may require Web site modifications and multiple search engine submissions. This is not a guaranteed outcome process.

The Internet can be either friend or foe for destination properties. You have the ability to take control and make the difference. With the projected growth of both Internet users and online reservations, make sure that your property is fully Internet marketed.

Debra Kristopson has over 25 years in hospitality and is a leading industry expert on the practical application of technology for the industry. She can be reached at

©Hospitality Upgrade, 2003. No reproduction or transmission without written permission.


Geneva Rinehart
Associate Editor
Hospitality Upgrade magazine 
and the Hospitality website

Also See: The Case for Self Service in Hospitality / Marvin Erdly and Amitava Chatterjee / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / October 2003
5 Questions to Ask Online Distributors / Michelle Peluso / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / October 2003
Wireless Changes Everything; So, do ya want a latte with that or what? / Jocelyn Valley / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / June 2003
Customer Awareness or Customer Beware? Data Security in a CRM-Obsessed Industry / Elizabeth Ivey / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / June 2003
Your Magnificent Selling Machine Would you Prefer Your Hotel to Get: the Web Hit or the Phone Call? / Robert Camastro / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / June 2003
Tradeshows & Economic Soldiers / Dan Phillips / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / April 2003
Hotel Telecommunications in the 21st Century / Geoff Griswold / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / March 2003
The ABCs of CRM  / Mark Haley & Bill Watson / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / March 2003
Getting the Most out of Your IT Investment / By: Clay B. Dickinson / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2002
The Role of Paper in a Digital World / By: Bill Fitzpatrick / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2002
The Rotten Pineapple (international symbol of hospitality) / By: Steve D'Erasmo / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall  2002
Focusing on Labor Can Improve More Than Just Cost / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2002
Attention Hotels - An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure / Elizabeth Lauer Ivey / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / May 2002 
HOSTEC - EURHOTEC 2002 - Room for Improvement / Christel Dietzsch / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Feb 2002 
Technology and the Human Touch / Dan Phillips / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2002
Wireless Technology:  Where We Have Been, Where Are we Going? / Geneva Rinehart / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2002
Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Implementations / John Schweisberger and Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2001 
What's Up With Call Accounting Systems (CAS) / Dan Phillips / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2001 
Technology Dilemmas: What have IT investments done for you lately? / Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2001
Full Circle from Centralized to ASP - The Resurrection of Old Themes and a Payment Solution / Gary Eng / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2001 
A High Roller in the Game of System Integration / Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001 
CAVEAT EMPTOR! Simple Steps to Selecting an E-procurement Solution / Mark Haley / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001 
Your Bartender is Jessie James and He Needs to Pay for College / Beverly McCay / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2000 
Choosing a Reservation Representation Company / John Burns / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001 
Understanding and Maximizing a Hotel’s Electronic Distribution Options / by John Burns / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2000 
The Future of Electronic Payments - From Paper to Plastic and Beyond / J. David Oder /  Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2000
Timeshare Technology Steps Up / by Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / July 2000 
Biometric Payment: The New Age of Currency / by Geneva Rinehart / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Mar 2000 

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