Hotel Online  Special Report

The Web Site Conundrum…Are You Winning
the Electronic Marketing Game? 


By: Neil Salerno – August 2005

For some time now, I have urged hotels, especially the Independent variety, to play hard at the electronic marketing game.  There are big rewards for those who play well. The Internet revolutionized travel marketing and gave us the ability to market hotels on a global rates everyone can afford. To win, there are three primary elements which need your attention; The Global Distribution System (GDS), third-party aggregators, and, of course, your own web site. 

The GDS is only a minor concern for franchised properties because most franchises require connection through the franchise reservation system. But, if your property does not carry a franchise flag, it would be fool-hardy not to have a GDS connection. 

For those not familiar with the GDS, this is what gives travel agents and airlines the ability to book real-time reservations at your hotel. There are companies like GenaRes in Texas, Pegasus, and others which will connect your property to the GDS for a very reasonable fee. There are re-sellers of GDS services, but why pay a third-party fee when you can deal directly with the carrier? Check them out thoroughly.

In spite of all the controversy created by the major hotel franchises, third-party aggregators like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, the three largest, have the clout to produce a volume contribution to your top-line. You can also get listed with these power-house third-party sites through your GDS listing. 

Last, but not least, how healthy is your web site? The most common statement that I hear these days is “I have a web site that looks great, yet I am still not getting many reservations from it.” The general answer is that it probably was not designed to produce reservations. 

There are many hotel sites that look great but lack many of the fundamentals necessary to generate reservations. It’s kind of like hiring a good-looking talented sales person who doesn’t talk to or meet with clients. 

This scenario is very frustrating to many hotel owners who expect great booking results just because they like how their site looks; and why shouldn’t they? Unfortunately, they don’t realize that a web site’s ultimate performance depends on elements which are not readily visible to the uninitiated. 

There are factors like well thought-out Meta Tags which compliment the site’s text, proper placement of text elements such as: the hotel’s location, facilities, and things-to-do in the area, and an understanding that a hotel web site should be designed to produce reservations, not become an online brochure. These factors affect a site’s search ability, and marketing ability to sell rooms. 

Site content is king; yet, many site designers spend more time on photography and flash elements than they spend on creating good selling text. Remember, search spiders and site visitors read text. Sometimes one gets the impression that the text was created just to fill space around the photography. 

Many of the web site designs that I review remind me of the three blind men trying to describe an elephant. “It’s a long and thin like a snake”, says the first man as he feels the elephants tail; “No, it’s fat like a hippo”, says the second man as he pats the elephants belly”; “It‘s like a thick snake without fangs” says the third man as he feels the elephants trunk. Everyone sees their own web site differently.  Few people view their web site as a visitor sees and uses it

If you hire someone to design a web site for your hotel, provide input on how you would like it to look, in general, but, understand that it needs to be designed to “sell” your location and rooms; not to be a work of art. 

Explore the sites of online sales experts like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. These people have the perfect online formula for selling rooms; nothing fancy, few flash elements, the necessary information to sell rooms, but not too much or unnecessary information. And, they rule the roost when it comes to search ability and hotel bookings. 

The fact is that there are many elements which need to be incorporated into a web site for it to perform well; to produce business. The most common problem is that many hotels feel that they must include every element they can think of at the time, which usually results in a web site that is too difficult to navigate, does not follow search engine rules, and only serves to confuse the user. Too much information, too many pages, and unnecessary information can kill reservation production. 

I have a client and friend who is now on his fourth web site design. One of these designs was created by a very large web design company and it didn’t work at all. It produced only a handful of reservations and, after six months, produced not one search engine referral. His next site worked well, producing more than 30% of his total reservations, but it didn’t look the way he liked, so he scraped that one. His current site, designed by a well known hotel web design company looks great, but was not optimized for search ability and produces very little. Get the point?

Here’s the conundrum again, folks, if your site is producing mediocre results, it needs fixing. But, before you decide to totally scrap your current site, get help to make changes. There are many good hotel marketing consultants, who will give you an honest, unbiased appraisal of your site and provide the suggested changes you need to make to make it function properly. Many of them will work with your web master to make the improvements as well. 


Neil Salerno, C.H.M.E., C.H.A.
The Hotel Marketing Coach

Also See: Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My; The Hotel Yellow Brick Road is Less Scary than It Used to Be / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Running Dry on Good Hotel Ideas? It’s not What You Know - It’s Who You Know / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Revenue Grabbing Tips for Independent Hotels; Start Thinking Like the Chains / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Web Basics That Really Work…Content is King / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Supplier Sites versus Online Travel Agents; The War Chronicles / Neil Salerno / June 2005
New Hotel Technology Surround Us; Yet Face-to-face Selling is Still Most Productive / Neil Salerno / June 2005
The Internet…The Great Equalizer For Independent Hotels / Neil Salerno / June 2005
Third-Party Booking Sites Still Dominate Internet Sales;  Why Do So Many Consider this Bad? / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Now That Online Hotel Booking Is Here to Stay, New Challenges Emerge / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Independent Boutique Hotels Can Compete With their Big Box Neighbors / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Who Are Your Most Important Guests? We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! / Neil Salerno / March 2005
New Consumer Hotel Booking Preferences - They Love the Internet…Now 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 “Make-Over”? 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 Internet’s 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
Don’t Compromise Your Goals In 2004; Five New Year’s 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 'Maxi’s' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003
It’s 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 You’re 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 Doesn’t 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' ? It’s 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.... You’ll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelier’s 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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