Budget Season Tips: How to Decide If Your Hotel Needs a New Website Next Year
By Nate Lane, Senior Director of Digital Platforms, Travel Tripper & Pegasus
It's budgeting season, which means your hotel is probably ready to start planning how, when, and where you'll be investing in 2020. As part of the "20/20 Strategy" series, we'll offer expert tips to help you budget for key areas that could define how successful you are next year— including your hotel website. This is part 4 of the series.
Investing in a new website can have a huge impact on your hotel's direct bookings and profit margins. But is now the time for your hotel to make that investment? To make a wise decision, one should rely on both concrete metrics and past experience.
For instance, if your hotel website has a conversion rate of less than 1.5 to 2%, and your direct contribution is lower than 20%, there's a good chance your website isn't optimized for conversion and usability. In this example, it's likely that the website isn't doing a great job of promoting the property and location.
In addition to relying on metrics to guide your decision, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
Does my website "transport" the user to the hotel and the location?
By featuring quality photos and effective hotel copywriting that uses sensory-rich language, you'll bring your hotel's star features and location highlights to life. This will help create a vivid mental picture that instantly inspires travelers and keeps them on your site for longer.
Is my hotel website best in class among the local competition?
Check out the websites of competing hotels in your local area. If their websites are doing a better job of showcasing the destination or their own amenities, your own website probably needs an overhaul.
Does my hotel website sell the property better than OTAs or crowd-sourced content?
In the fight for direct bookings, your hotel website needs to be the best representation of your property online. Compare your OTA listing with your own website, and look at crowd-sourced content on social sites, such as Facebook and Instagram. Be honest and consider if your website really does a better job of selling your hotel to potential guests.
Does my hotel website use all of the e-commerce tools available?
Beyond having a great design, your hotel website also needs to be built with solid e-commerce principles in mind. Here's our guide to avoid common UX mistakes. Displaying live rates, booking calendars, and utilizing OTA-style urgency messages are all key tools that can turn lookers into bookers.
How does my website booking experience compare with the competition?
The majority of travelers prefer booking with OTAs because their websites are easy to use. To create a hotel website with an equally impressive user experience, make sure it's easy to navigate and has a simplified checkout procedure. Also, split room options up from additional room rates and extras to reduce decision overwhelm. Find out more in our post on the must-have features to drive conversions on your hotel website.
Does my website work well on mobile and other devices?
The modern travel journey is defined by an omni-channel traveler who routinely switches between desktop, tablet, and mobile to plan and book trips. This makes having a responsive design an absolute must to give users an optimal experience on all devices. Check out our dedicated post to learn about responsive design and optimizing your website for mobile.
Am I highlighting the unique value propositions on my website?
With fleeting online attention spans and a fiercely competitive marketplace, your website quickly needs to establish why people should book with you rather than the hotel across town. Make sure your key selling points are compelling, prominent, and clearly defined to inspire users and encourage them to book direct.
It's also important to avoid a mistake made by a lot of hotel stakeholders—just because your website was built or updated recently, doesn't mean it's performing at its optimum.
Above all, you need to identify the right service provider that not only showcases your property in a beautiful way, but also has leading expertise in usability, conversion optimization, and technological innovation.
Is my website ADA compliant?
There's been a record number of lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in recent years. Your hotel doesn't legally require an ADA-compliant website, but if your website doesn't meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, you run the risk of a compliance lawsuit.
Aside from the legal implications, an ADA-compliant website is highly recommended because it's beneficial to your guests, and your own profitability. If you're looking for expert help in this area, Travel Tripper and Pegasus can work with you to ensure your hotel website conforms to ADA compliance standards.
Setting a website budget
The cost of a new website is only a drop in the bucket if it results in increased direct bookings, so it's important to view this as an investment, not just an expense.
How much should I allocate?
As a guide, it's appropriate to allocate anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 for a website project, depending on the scale and complexity of your needs. The figure you settle on will largely depend on your hotel's gross revenue and budget, as well as factors specific to your property (e.g. the number of rooms, the ADR, and occupancy rates).
Weighing up your payment options
For larger website projects, many web agencies allow hotels to mitigate design and development costs by splitting them into monthly payments. Other companies also offer a hotel website as a service—instead of building a custom design from scratch, you can customize existing layouts to create a simple website. This option involves paying a small monthly fee for as long as you utilize the site.
Return on investment
While it's often tempting to pick the cheapest solution, don't let savings get in the way of performance. Think long-term about the potential return on investment.
What percentage increase in direct bookings do you want to see? How much of a shift do you want to see from high-commission third-party bookings (i.e. OTA bookings) to direct website bookings? Be sure to run the numbers and calculate your expected return for any investment.
If you build it, will they come?
The mantra "if you build it they will come" is simply incorrect when it comes to hotel websites. Once you've invested in your website, you need to optimize it with different tools and techniques to drive more direct bookings.
Don't worry — we've got you covered. We created a holistic guide to help hoteliers do just that.
In this ebook, you'll learn the smart ways to capture travelers' attention by using an array of tactics, including e-commerce principles, behavioral psychology, and the very latest website technology.
Nate Lane is a senior global director of business development, product development, and agency operations with 10+ years of experience driving growth and innovation as an "intrapreneur". He's an avid mountain biker, a coffee and craft beer enthusiast, and a proud family man.More from Nate Lane
The new Pegasus is a game-changer for hotels, combining innovative technology with five-star support to give hoteliers more control over their revenue and distribution strategy than ever before. Following a recent merger with Travel Tripper, Pegasus now enables hoteliers to better connect with their guests through an innovative and flexible platform of Reservations, E-commerce, Global Sales, and Business Intelligence solutions that help hotels drive demand and increase revenue and profitability.
With more than 30 years of experience in global distribution, Pegasus serves hotels across 120 countries from eight offices worldwide in New York, Scottsdale, Las Vegas, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Hyderabad. For more information, visit pegs.com or follow them on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.