The advent of online travel agencies such as Expedia and Booking.com have been highly beneficial to the hospitality industry, but that benefit has come at a growing cost to hoteliers. The fees charged by the OTAs have risen as the booking choices available to the traveling public have shrunk. This makes it imperative all the more, for particularly
independent and small chain hotels, but large as well, to enhance their hotel websites to garner as much direct bookings as attainable. This will result in reduced fees and greater revenue earned, while additionally, increasing customer loyalty and building up the brand’s image. Here are a number of common features found on highly successful hotel booking websites.
Visitors to a hotel’s website should be greeted by a homepage that is the epitome of simplicity. Uncluttered and only featuring what is necessary to draw the potential guest into the booking process. The reservation box, the page’s call to action, needs to be prominently displayed where the potential guest's attention will be naturally drawn, so they can be converted into a booking customer. Other items on the home page should include a large image and possibly a brief introduction that highlights the hotel in an attractive way. A phone number should also be provided to funnel those potential guests that would prefer to speak with someone to book their travel.
Every hotel has unique features to be displayed in the focus viewing area. Whatever makes the hotel stand out from the crowd of its hospitality competitors and encourages direct bookings should be displayed where it will catch the potential guest’s eye. High quality images can make a profoundly persuasive statement and influence the purchasing decision.
The “make a reservation” box, once clicked, should take the user to a page that compliments
the hotel’s facilities, accommodations, and amenities. The traveling public wants to see what they will get for their money and get some sense of what it will look like once they arrive. Also, it is critical for the website to provide extra encouragement for the potential guest to book now and not wait. Text in the booking pages should include remaining inventory and the number of rooms booked, to create a sense of urgency to the potential guest.
It’s absolutely essential to instill a sense of trust and credibility in the eyes of the user, before they will book on the hotel’s website. Travelers have come to trust the large online travel agencies and the hotels they represent. If the same trust can be established, the goal is to shift the booking to the direct hotel website. In addition, the payment process must be as secure as possible with all the necessary security measures in place. Never ask for more information than is absolutely essential to complete the reservation.
Encumbering the potential guest with long online forms does not lead to a pleasant online experience and will most likely result in booking abandonment. Requiring many unnecessary personal details of the user may be good for marketing purposes, but is ultimately interferes with the goal of booking the traveler.
Hospitality is a highly competitive industry, especially in light of the plethora of online booking channels available to the traveling public. The user experience at your booking site needs to be pleasant.
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