Thanks to the wonderful invention of the world wide web, there are now so many different platforms in which to advertise and attract people to a hotel. The emergence of websites such as Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com etc have created a market where customers can compare and book hotels with ease. Unfortunately, this does make the market extremely competitive.
This is even more so for the independent hotels. They have to find more inventive ways when showcasing their unique selling points of their establishment in order to gain those all important bookings.
Every successful online business will know the benefits of utilising SEO, or ‘search engine optimisation’ for pulling in traffic for their website. For more information on how to improve your SEO and make your website effective in enticicing in your customers, please see this article.
But it doesn’t all end with SEO. We have listed below some other easy and simple ways in which hotels can show off their talents and attract those customers back again and again.
You may have heard of the saying that when it comes to food, we first taste with our eyes, and that is equally as true when it comes to judging whether we want to stay in a hotel or not. The importance of good quality photos that showcase off the best parts of the hotel cannot be underestimated.
Most people will decide in the first few seconds of seeing a hotel’s photos whether they want to stay there or not. Many hoteliers might be put off using a professional photographer’s service by the large cost involved, but the value to your business is well worth the investment. Equally, the professional photographer market is saturated with people looking for work which means you can now get high quality photographs at a very reasonable price.
It is important to show photos that honestly represent your hotel. There is no point showing a picture of a 5* luxury pool when in reality it looks more like a bath tub. The customer should still be pleasantly surprised when they arrive at your hotel and see your amenities in person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak your photos to show it looking polished and at its best.
You Could Take the Photos Yourself
If hiring a professional photographer isn’t for you, you can always take a photography course and take the photos yourself. There are so many tips and hints on the internet in how to take a professional looking photo, and apps that mean you amend the colour and style or add a filter to the photo.
You could have the most luxurious hotel in the world, but if your pictures do not do it justice then you will never get those customers that it deserves. When someone sees a beautiful picture of a beautiful hotel, they immediately will start imagining themselves being there. If you can make them picture themselves eating your mouthwatering food in your restaurant, or lounging on your comfy looking bed, then you’ve made a sale. You have worked hard on your hotel, so do not fall down at the last hurdle with bad photos that do not show off your hotel in its best light.
2. User Friendly site design
You’ve done the hard work and taken those beautiful photos for your website, and now the customer wants to book. A user friendly website is key to ensuring that happens, and that you make that all important sale. If the website is hard to navigate with flashy animations that give no directions of where to click, pretty soon they will take their booking elsewhere.
Your site UX and design should guide a visitor from introduction through to your hotel’s location, facilities, special offers, cost, contact information and booking system. At no point should you leave a user with nowhere to go and please, please resist the temptation to have pop-ups. A clear, simple, professional looking website that works when someone tries to book will create revenue and profit.
3. Be Competitive
A huge majority of online bookings are made using comparison sites such as booking.com, expedia and Agoda. Being on these sites will drive your revenue stream and attract customers from around the world.
However, this does mean that your rate will have to remain competitive in the area your hotel is located. If your price is higher than similar hotels in the area, you will need to justify this by promoting your unique selling points. It is important to do continuous research in what your rival hotels are offering and what their rates are to ensure you remain value for money. After all, the birth of the comparison website means that the customer can be very savvy in getting the best deals on hotel rooms.
The comparison websites mentioned above are extremely popular and have become household names. This in itself reassures the customer and they feel safer booking with a trusted and known source. These websites will only get your customers to view your hotel, it is your professional photographs and easy to use website that will ensure you close the deal with a sale.
4. Reward Loyalty
The hospitality world is flooded with loyalty cards, point schemes and membership bonuses. Finding a good hotel is key to a successful vacation or business trip, so once someone has found one, you want to encourage them to come back again and again. Building links with companies and individuals can lead to long and profitable relationships. Don’t forget to tell people about your loyalty offers on your site and an absolute must is to share these across your social network sites.
If you are able to, join forces with larger rewards programmes such as the IHG rewards club can offer guests the potential to gain greater and wider ranging rewards. They also don’t necessarily impact your profit margins in the same way. For example, they may earn points from staying at your hotel. However, they can also use these points to stay in a location where you don’t have a hotel therefore you haven’t lost out on any income.
“Discover All the Ways You Can Win”
“Let’s go to places together. Earning is effortless. Redeeming points is simple.”
Additionally, being part of a rewards club means you can be included in their marketing structure. You could be featured in their newsletters, or on their website as a similar alternative to the current hotel a visitor is viewing. Yet another advertising stream that could bring in customers you previously would not have had access to.
5. Social Networks
It would not be an understatement to say that emergence of social networks has significantly changed the advertising market and how it works. At the same time, social networks are updated with new services and features at a super fast rate that is increasingly hard to stay up to date with. But the potential for advertising and engaging an audience is almost un-limitless and every single business should be on at least one social media platform, if not all of them.
Whole books are being written on the increasing relevance of social media advertising and if you want to know more there are many available resources on the internet. For example an interesting read here about how restaurants can apply social media advertising to boost revenue.
When choosing which social networks to be part of crucially only choose those which you will remain regularly active. It’s extremely off putting to see an unattended Twitter or Facebook account it sends a message of real lack of effort. Also, I’m more interested in seeing recent images before booking a stay somewhere. The professional images on your website may be stunning but they may be several years old and back when the walls were hole free and the swimming pool water wasn’t brown. If you want a great example of a hotel nailing their social marketing with regular posting and huge engagement take a look at Yotel New York Facebook page. By the way it’s an awesome hotel if you get the chance to stay there.
6. Online Booking System
Once someone has booked on your website that should be the beginning not the end of the client guest relationship. Keep your booking system as simple as you can while allowing the visitors to add any special requests prior to their arrival. Do your research into great examples of booking systems. If your budget allows and you have multiple hotels in your group, let the user create an account to save them the time of re-entering all his/her information every time.
Equally, security is a key factor when processing online payments and make sure you are using secure systems Symantec, Paypal, verified by visa and MasterCard SecureCode. I actually worked at a company only two years ago where online orders where printed off and kept in a folder on a shop counter. DO NOT do that. It’s disrespectful of people’s details and runs a high risk of someone stealing their details. This would leave you in the legal firing line for not looking after them properly.
“After booking all I got was a smaller bank balance”
Booking confirmations are the first humanised contact for guests who have volunteered their payment and email details. Making it a positive introduction gives them reassurance that their booking matters. Give them little extras tell them details about attractions nearby, transport links, directions, maps. You own the hotel it’s really no effort for you to share the local information which you probably already know. My ultimate email confirmation would give me a QR Code for late night check-ins or even access to the hotel front door. If someones doing that already I’d love to know about it.
7. Linking to quality and relevant resources.
Everyone who looks for a hotel is usually choosing a destination first and a hotel second. Potential guests are picking that destination because it’s relevant to either a specific location, experience, activity, event, attraction or to visit someone. I’ve already stressed how important an online presence is, but that isn’t to say that hard copy advertising in the real world is not effective. For example being listed in a directory is another massively effective tool. Don’t pick just any directory but look at the other companies and hotels on the list to see if you feel your hotel sits well alongside them.
Equally do some research. Can you make any links with the local tourist information centre, or bus or train station where you could advertise?
“St Kilda Surfing Contest 2014”
Knowing your surroundings and in particular attractions or events going on near your hotel location are crucial. For example, if your hotel is located near a beach and they have an annual surfing competition that’s a huge potential booking fest for you. Bookings could literally be coming in waves. If it were my hotel, I would approach companies involved in the event sponsorship or surfing teams taking part, after all they need somewhere to stay. They are also likely to bring friends and family, you’ll be fully booked in no time! If you give them a pleasurable stay they in turn recommend your hotel to fellow surfers looking for a great hotel with nearby great surfing. Linking to surfing schools would be another great way to get bulk group bookings. If your hotel is near something exciting let people know you can place them near to these amazing places.
It’s called the world wide web for the obvious reason: it’s worldwide. Site visitors will be from all over the world so make their site experience as easy as possible by giving them the option to read it in their own language. Translating your website is for most a pretty straight forward process using most key languages. Also mention on your site the bilingual capabilities of your staff. It’s a huge selling point if you and your staff are able to communicate and advise your guests in their native language especially if any difficulties may arise during their stay. I can’t stress this enough if you are going to translate your site get someone to check it and don’t put blind faith in a plugin. The translation may completely miscommunicate the point you are trying to make, be grammatically incorrect or even worse be insulting.
What languages are spoken most in the world?
Well this recent study shows the most widely spoken languages as of January 2014 are English, German and French but this of course depends on your hotel location.
9. Free Wifi
This might sound pedantic and many may be going on holiday purely to get away from the trappings of modern technologies and communications. But that does not mean they want to be cut off from their facebook or email. As consumers we like to have choice, and want the option to be able to go online to let their loved ones to let them know they have arrived safely and maybe ask someone to double check they unplugged the iron.
Personally, I will not book a hotel if it doesn’t have wifi and am very unlikely to book if the wifi isn’t free. And I know that a significant portion of your customer base feels exactly the same.
10. Trip Advisor
The godfather of all hotel review sites. The good, the smelly and the tiny telly. Trip Advisor is the number one pre booking go to place for anyone looking for a hotel, restaurant and everything else in between. The reviews are often humorous and routinely critical. This is the most popular place for people to give their opinions on your hotel.
As a rule you should be replying or responding to every comment that someone leaves. This builds on that relationship for possible future bookings and shows you are attentive to your guests. For positive comments you can pretty much get away with a generic response, something along the lines of:
We’re so glad you enjoyed your stay with us. We look forward to welcoming you back.
Now we have the bad review.
“I recently stayed at your hotel in Paris and was electrocuted by an ill designed plug socket. Frazzled and yup you’ve guessed it feeling a little shocked I headed downstairs to reception to ask for an engineer to check the plug socket was safe. Also somewhat confessing to being semi responsible for the power outage on floor 8, Oops. More concerned with his text messaging the receptionist failed to ask if I felt ok. The engineer eventually arrived to inform me that this had happened before and some types of plug adapters would react this way with the metal surround to the sunken plug socket.”
I must confess I wrote this on trip advisor and guess what no response now this happened at a very large chain hotel. I am confident many people will have read this and chuckled at my misfortune. However this does give a poor reflection on their approach to guest wellbeing, suitable maintenance and guest relations.
As a hotel owner how should I react to bad reviews?
Well the main thing is that you do react, if the comment is downright slanderous ask trip advisor to remove it. If it’s regarding guest experience respond to them something along the lines of.
Dear Guest, We are sorry you felt let down by our level of service and also please be assured we have since your stay replaced the types of sockets used to avoid this type of incident happening again. Regards Sean Paul, Hotel Manager
While some may feel fobbed off by this. The outsider checking out recent reviews will see this as a sign that the hotel manager looks to accept responsibility for a bad experience and take action. Apart from a voucher the next time I stayed at one of the chains hotel I wasn’t really expecting much else.
Never underestimate the fact that your website gives you a much wider reaching platform for gaining bookings than any other method. Give your site visitors a pleasant experience from the moment they first look at your site through to the moment they wave you good-bye at checkout.
First, your potential guests have to find your site before they need worry about getting to your hotel in person. Search engine optimisation is a huge part of this, so check out our Top 10 SEO Tips for Hotels in Thailand or this article on using Google Plus for higher search rankings. Social Media in particular has the power to put your site publicly under the microscope. However, it is also a chance to show off your wonderful hotel and staff. You are the real person in control of what people can see so make it matter and enjoy a busier hotel.