The digital transformation of the hotel and travel industries is over. Sales, marketing, and hotel distribution have moved online. Today, the hospitality sector has mature and tested online solutions for most sales and marketing functions, used by hotel marketing teams worldwide to manage digital marketing with little to no technical skills.
Hotel brand websites are cornerstones of any hotel digital marketing setup. In many cases, the brand website of a hotel is where future guests visit for information, to see photos, or to make reservations.
Why having a great hotel website is important?
To understand the real importance of a hotel brand website, we need to look beyond direct bookings. Even if your guests book through travel agencies, tour operators, Booking.com, or any other channels, they will likely visit your hotel website before making their booking decision.
Why do people visit if they don’t book – you might ask? The answer is simple: they want to see more photos, find more information, and get a better idea about the experience they can expect from choosing and staying in your hotel.
Guests know that travel agents are often “overselling” so they take their claims with a pinch of salt. OTA guests know that online hotel booking websites only enable limited information for each hotel listing, so they will also go and check out what else is on the brand website. The same applies to any other sales channel.
Having a good hotel website is super important – anyone else telling otherwise should get his head right.
What makes a good hotel website?
There are various philosophies about the purpose of a hotel website. Some hotel management teams prefer a brochure-like website filled with static information. Online-first hotels streamline their brand websites to generate direct bookings, while there are hotel brands that use their brand website to share insider updates with their loyal followers and future guests.
Regardless of how a hotel website is meant to be used, it needs to provide an excellent brand and user experience. Regretfully, many hotel websites offer the exact opposite – a rather frustrating user experience.
The short process of creating a successful hotel website
Recently we saw an opinion video from a hotel digital marketing consultant telling us that creating a hotel website is simple, and anyone can do it just by following a few steps. That is total rubbish. While it is certainly true that everyone can build a template-based hotel website, install Google Analytics and add a booking engine link, such a basic approach is a recipe for failure.
Non-specialized website developers customizing $50 WordPress hotel websites – or trying to reinvent the perfect design from scratch? What could go wrong? A lot.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into conceptualizing a hotel website, even before discussing technical questions like which content management platform it should be built on.
The hotel website planning, in a few points, is the following:
- Defining who will be visiting the hotel website (current and future target audience mix)
- Defining the commercial purpose of the website (supporting other sales channels, direct bookings, lead generation, etc)
- Defining the marketing communication purpose of the new hotel website
- Defining brand and marketing communication guidelines
- Defining photo and video aesthetics based on the brand guidelines
- Crafting user experience scenarios
- Developing the brand and discovery experience
- Defining core content based on brand and user experience guidelines
- Planning dynamic content, including posts, updates, and videos
- Assessing technical requirements and finding the right platform
- Budgeting, project management plan, etc
These are just the key steps of planning a hotel website, you can imagine the precision and work required to craft something that will drive commercial success and brand growth.
Hotel website mistakes that make a hotel brand ridiculous
Finally, we got to the point to see some laughable hotel website mistakes. Although we are going to share screenshots for demonstration purposes, this article was not meant to name and shame hotels. Purely educational.
In a later article, we might publish a list of the worst hotel websites – you should subscribe for that – but in one, we will be discussing typical hotel website mistakes.
1. Unattractive and unprofessional hotel photography
Gorgeous photos should be a no-brainer, but still, many hotels fail to realize that the photos they use are not helping their business.
The screen-grab below is the opening photo of a 5-star beach resort on Kos, a beautiful island in Greece. Not the best photo to promise a great island-resort experience.
2. Fabricated and inauthentic content
Have you ever visited a hotel website where the content felt very unnatural? It is very common in countries and regions where English is not the first language, and the only linguistic tool to express the greatness of their hotel is to use big words and bold statements.
Such as “luxurious, award-winning design” and other exaggerations that should not be demonstrated visually with photos and videography.
The below example of poorly written website content is from a beachfront hotel in the beautiful Nha Trang of Vietnam.
3. Irrelevant information
Gibberish and irrelevant content is surprisingly common on websites of independent hotel brands. Have you ever ended up on a hotel website where the reading experience was so painful that you gave up and looked for another hotel?
Based on our hotel brand audits, guests see over 70% of hotel websites are as poorly written, and expressed that this is a significant turn-off.
There example below is from a group of hotels based in Malta. Generalization at its best.
4. Confusing brand values and differentiation
Continuing with content, less than 8% of independent hotel brand websites are capable to demonstrate some sort of differentiation. The remaining 92% of hotel websites are not capable to get or keep the attention of readers.
We asked over 1000 travelers, both holiday-goers and business people to share what they are looking for when visiting a hotel website. The responses were quite common sense:
- Product presentation
- Unique features
- Anything interesting to stay there for
Regardless, according to traveler feedback, 92% of independent hotel brand websites fail to impress.
The below example is from another hotel in Nha Trang, Vietnam. The property itself is quite decent, but the value proposition they put forward on the website is quite strange.
5. Confusing website navigation
If your hotel website has a high bounce rate, then you are not alone. In most cases, independent hotels choose the most cost-efficient ways to develop their brand website, which will hardly ever get a great result. The problem might be your navigation.
People who are looking for a hotel do not want to waste their time, and especially do not want to get confused with weird website navigations. They want to be impressed, they want to make a good choice that fits their expectations – then they will make a booking.
This is why hotel website experiences must be crafted carefully. For a potential guest on your hotel website, brand experience, information and the booking experience must feel seamless and effortless.
The following example of a poor hotel website navigation is from a hotel in Malta. Take a look on the left navigation, as well as the cluttered and hardly visible menu items on the top navigation bar. The colors and typography worth another discussion.
6. Annoying hotel booking pop-ups
Starting from 2014, various companies appeared to provide overpriced hotel website pop-up solutions. Some notable mentions are HotelsNetwork, TripTease, and UserGuest.
These pop-ups are meant to increase website conversion rates by showing exit-intent messages and personalized offers. This is a very nice concept and works well when done carefully, however in an overwhelming number of independent hotel websites it is done wrong.
The below example of weird pop-ups is once again from the Nha Trang sea front hotel in Vietnam. Loading slowly, duplicated and does not add anything to the booking experience.
7. Frustrating booking engine
If the website booking engine of your hotel looks like this, then you need to re-evaluate your online business management practices.
8. Lackluster website design
When you think about the Maldives, you imagine luxury and blissful perfectness. Then after a short time spent browsing around online, you find this:
Let’s sum it all up with a gallery. I give up, no comment.