Hotel Online  Special Report

Independent Boutique Hotels Can Compete
With their Big Box Neighbors
By: Neil Salerno, Hotel Marketing Coach April 2005

For many years, small independent hotels suffered from a tilted marketing playing field dominated by their big budget neighbors. When the time came to promote their hotels during lower demand periods, independent hotels had to contend with larger franchised hotels possessing a larger sales talent-base, GDS exposure, and much larger advertising budgets.

The Internet is leveling the sales playing field. Itís the great equalizer because it is affordable for even the smallest of independent hotels. Independent boutique hotels with modest budgets can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their franchised neighbors and get equal exposure to a multitude of travelers through the Internet. 

The return-on-investment, for even a modest Internet sales program, is still high with some careful planning and execution. An investment in site design and promotion need not be financially out-of-reach, if one shops around. There are many savvy independent web site developers, with hotel marketing knowledge, who can build or modify your web site within a modest budget. 

Beware of pretenders offering to design a technically beautiful site, more for their own egos and income, and more web site than you need. The Internet is an advertising medium where content and ease-of-use counts much higher than its overall appearance. 

There is an abundance of beautiful big budget hotel sites which fail to function well because appearance meant more to them than its functionality. Donít judge a book by its cover. The true measure is what your web site produces in reservations.

Start with a plan. If you already have a site, have an expert review it to check its effectiveness and recommend changes to make it more productive. Often this can be done for a very modest one-time fee. This web site review will then be your road-map for improving room production from your web site. 

Resist the notion that a beautiful intricate web site necessarily out-produces a simple one. There are many sites that simply donít work well because some techie designer decided to make a work of art instead of a functional site. Egos aside, your site should be evaluated by the number of reservations it produces; plain and simple. 

Search engines judge and rank your site on its functionality, key words, popularity, navigation, copy, external links, links from other sites, and photography. No matter what some so-called experts may say, search engines still donít favor flash elements. 

There are many hotels out there which have spent $3,000 or more for a very pretty but totally ineffective web site. Frankly, if you have that kind of money to spend, it would be better directed towards the marketing of your site; not its design. 

Your web site is an interactive ad, not unlike a newspaper or magazine ad, and should be designed to showcase your location, facilities, and entertainment in your surrounding area. A web site needs a clear delineation of these elements. Distractions such as morphing pictures, virtual tours, unless they are really unique, and weather links and the like do little to enhance the functionality of your site. 

There are several indicators of poor site and content design. 

  • One has to guess where the hotel is located because the site lacks an address on the home page.
  • Location is still the most important aspect in hotel selection; yet we still see sites with just an address, your address is just part of your location; location involves much more.
  • Very sophisticated and complicated sites with no clear navigation theme. 
  • Sites designed with unnecessary flash elements because it looks pretty.
  • Sites with no reciprocal links; a free element, but extremely effective.
  • Sites which were obviously designed by committee; messages crammed into every square inch of web page.
  • Sites without a booking engine; the majority of Internet users want to make real-time reservations. The return on this investment is enormous. 
These are just a few telltale signs of poor design. There are many more; poorly chosen meta tags, no search engine submission, and others. 

For many hoteliers, there are still many misconceptions and mysteries surrounding the effective use of this miraculous tool. For that matter, there is much disagreement among those who work with it daily as well. As with any supplier, seek those who offer a full explanation for everything they propose. 

Find someone who has a genuine caring for the success of your web site and is willing to assume responsibility for room production from your site; not simply its design. 



Neil L. Salerno, CHME, CHA
The Hotel Marketing Coach

Also See: Who Are Your Most Important Guests? Weíve Come a Long Way, Baby! / Neil Salerno / March 2005
New Consumer Hotel Booking Preferences - They Love the InternetÖNow What? / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Who Would Have Thought - Today's Hotel Marketing Necessity Is Also its Best Value / March 2005
Time For a Hotel Web Site ďMake-OverĒ? Methods for Building a Successful Web Site Change / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Create Impact by Developing a Link Strategy For Your Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Steps to Develop Your Hotel's Presence on the Web / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Five Hotel Internet Marketing Myths - Busted!/ Neil Salerno / January 2005
How Does Your Hotel Web Site Measure-Up? 2005 Will Be the Internetís Most Productive Year so Far / Neil Salerno / January 2005
Are You Being Out-Hustled By Your Competition? How to Dominate Your Hotel's Market Set / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Why Are Some Hotel Companies Plagued By Management Turnover? Is This Systematic of Poor Performance? / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Basic Components of a Hotel Website: Current Weather, Flash Animation, and Virtual Tours?? Plain Talk About Internet Sales / Neil Salerno / February 2004
Donít Compromise Your Goals In 2004; Five New Yearís Resolutions You Will Want To Keep / Neil Salerno / January 2004
No More Whining About Third-Party Suppliers; You Control Your Own Fate On The Net / Neil Salerno / December 2003
Six 'Maxiís' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Itís Time To Take Back Control Of Rates & Rooms - But Is The Enemy...Us? / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What Youíre Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesnít Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? Itís Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... Youíll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelierís Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003

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