Leading travel content-management and -distribution companies Leonardo and
ICE Portal advise on making the Internet your best marketing tool in 2006
|By David Elton and Henry Woodman, January 2006
According to industry indices, worldwide electronic hotel revenue from the global-distribution systems and key internet sites continues to climb. Electronic room nights, average daily rates and length of stays are higher month over month in 2005 compared to 2004. Thereís no indication that the trend will shift and that e-distribution and online bookings will do nothing but climb steadily in 2006.
If you are a hotel marketer who is stuck doing the same things year after year, the time is NOW to make a change Ė and in a BIG way. It no longer benefits you to spend money on display advertising, co-op ad programs with tour operators or extensive printed pamphlets or brochures that have a limited shelf life. Weíve entered the age of electronic marketing, and thereís no turning back.
The best way to be truly competitive in 2006 is to embrace the Internet as your best marketing tool. To do that, you may need to make the following New Years Resolutions:
Because the Internet should be my best marketing tool, in 2006 I resolve to:
1 Audit all Web site hotel images and ensure that they accurately represent my facility and its features.
Take the time to look at the images of your hotel that are currently on your Web site --- are they up-to-date or are they five or more years old? Then view your hotel from the eyes of your customers. The images of your hotel when seen in a Web environment, rather than a brochure environment, probably are not adequate.
A still shot of a nice vase on the guestroom table with the bedroom blurred in the background wonít turn a looker into a booker in todayís online marketplace. However, hotels displaying image galleries that are well presented, instead of one to three thumbnail images, have 100 percent more pick up that hotels that donít. In fact, research shows that hotels using image galleries vs. those using thumbnails see an increase in online bookings by up to 70 percent.
So, as you build your preventive maintenance program for 2006 to be sure your furnishings, fixtures and equipment are kept in good condition, begin building a ďpreventive marketingĒ program as well to ensure your Web content and images are fresh and on target.
2 Consider hiring a professional firm to take new images and generate rich media.
Now that you are looking at your Web site in a different light Ė and from a different perspective Ė determine whether or not you have consumer-friendly, rich media.
As a traveler, would you book a room at your hotel based on the images you see or would a 360-degree perspective be more inclusive and informative? Have your visual content needs outgrown your personal or property skill set when it comes to Web site design?
Professional, affordable Internet content design firms are available to help you as much--or as little--as needed, from consulting and designing to hosing and managing the content. It doesnít have to cost a lot of money to have a visually effective Web presence. There are ways of taking your existing still images or print brochures and make them come alive online. An e-brochure costs less to produce and can reach the masses in an instant.
The bottom line is that visuals motivate consumers to make a buy decision. If youíre going to sell yourself, be sure that you are putting your best foot forward and presenting your hotels with the best marketing tools available.
If you need help, just ask.
3 Add destination photography to my Web site to enrich it.
Making sure your Web site is sticky as long as possible is the key to online marketing success. Consumers are becoming savvier every day and are astutely aware of the range of marketing and depth of detail that shopping online can take them.
For example, just promoting your guestrooms, meeting facilities, recreational activities and food-and-beverage outlets isnít enough. Youíve got to raise bar in terms of exceeding looker expectations.
Selling your hotel alone (the physical properties) is no longer enough Ė youíve got to sell the experience Ė and more importantly, the DESTINATION. Showing synergy between the destination and its location shows that you are providing answers to the questions that are in the consumers mind before they even have a chance to ask.
Marketing savvy is vital to brand and property differentiation. Make the difference through destination marketing.
4 Ensure all images include descriptive search-engine optimized captions.
If youíre not familiar with Search Engine Optimization, youíre probably missing the boat when it comes to online marketing. If your captions are not correct, relevant and basically reflective of the SEO criteria, you can miss an opportunity. Itís that simple.
Consumers wonít see the images and the content that you have worked so hard to present because they simply arenít reaching your information. Research shows that more consumers prefer to do research on the Internet than thru any other medium. If a traveler is not booking online, he or she is at least researching the destination and looking for accommodations online.
More importantly, you canít sell travel without visuals -- period. As a hotel marketer, your objective is to get your BEST visuals and marketing materials on as many distribution channels as possible. People visit many different sites before making an online buying decision. Whether they find you through Google or on a third-party distribution site such as Expedia or Orbitz or directly on your own site, itís the visuals that will motivate them to book.
To increase the stickiness of your online promotions, itís imperative
that you tweak your captions and descriptions to ensure that you are more
competent at optimizing search engines. This will immediately get you more
hits. In order to get traction, you need to be creative.
5 Know and control which distribution channels my images are appearing on and ensure consistency through using a single point-of-entry provider.
If you did an audit today of where your property content appears online, you may find that at least 20 different sites are hosting your information. Some of those sites may be displaying out-of-date rates and information. Others may have the content correct, but the images are of such poor quality that your hotel is actually conveying a poor quality image.
Itís imperative that as you update your rates and content information throughout the distribution channels that your images are also updated Ė including legal copy write information. The images you supply to the channels should be a minimum of 300 pixels to maximize the position on the Websites. Images of a smaller size do not resize well, and sometimes reflect a poor representation of the hotel.
You also need to make certain that no one can get your images without
acquiring them from the right source. Minimizing piracy of your imagery
is crucial. You must know every place that your hotel is being represented
on the Web. Itís easy to do, as long as your images are coming from one
single source. And, if you update that source, it will guarantee that the
same images are being displayed on every site.
Sure, resolutions can easily be broken. But if you would sincerely like to adopt these five practices, perhaps now is the time to ring in the New Year with a new online content-management and single point-of-entry marketing partner.
Make 2006 the year you implemented intelligent Web marketing. Once you do, you will be able to track where your property is being showcased online, who is looking at your online marketing materials and how many times itís been viewed. More importantly, you can ensure that all content is up-to-date all the time.
Your marketing success is just a click away. If you still have doubts,
just pick up the phone and call Leonardo or ICE Portal today.
About David Elton and Henry Woodman
Barb Worcester, Principal
|Also See:||Cultuzz Chooses ICE Portal to Deliver Media Content for eBay Auctions / December 2005|
|New Strategic Alliance for ICE Portal / Prelude to Global E-marketing Network / November 2005|
|Starwood Selects ICE Portal To Deliver Internet Content / November 2005|
|Major Travel Industry Alliance ÖNew Leonardo/ICE Portal Partnership Manages Rich Media Content for Over 25,000 Hotels with Distribution to 20,000+ Travel Channels! / October 2005|