Industry Update
Opinion Article16 July 2021

Hotel Website Design - What it Says about your Business

By Joao Trindade, VP of Marketing & Product, Guestcentric Systems

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Your hotel website design tells guests how much you care about them and their experiences. Branding and images are the cornerstones of how you communicate your hotel to guests and inspire them to book, along with revenue and offers.

If your branding is from the 80s, or your hotel website is littered with unappealing images, your website will tell guests that your hotel couldn’t care less about delivering the best experiences to them.

What does your hotel website tell guests about what you have to offer? The best way to answer this question is to put yourself into the position of online visitors to your hotel website.

Is your Hotel Website Design Reaching your Guests?

Although online travel searchers typically use OTAs to browse and price-shop through accommodation options, research by Fuel & Flip shows that 87% will generally visit a hotel’s website before booking a hotel stay, and with good reason.

Compare a Booking.com listing with a Hotel Website. There is no doubt that the hotel website better portrays both the personality of the property and the experiences the destination has to offer. For the dreaming, yet discerning traveler (and we know most of them are), the hotel website will give visitors the first proper glimpse of your property, and be the final point of reference to make an informed buying decision.

Furthermore, now, more than ever, guests are reaching out to hotels directly, via the hotel website and other direct channels, following a series of catastrophic refund experiences with OTAs and intermediaries at the start of the Covid-19 crisis.

Consequently, hotel direct bookings have been the most resilient throughout the duration of the pandemic and recovering faster with the pent-up travel demand. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that the majority of Hoteliers surveyed in our Monthly Hotelier PULSE Report consistently rank the Hotel Website as the most important Sales & Marketing tool to bolster recovery and long-term business growth.

However, Google research also shows that an average of 18 websites via multiple devices before completing a hotel booking. Therefore, you must ensure your hotel website stands out from the competition and generates business. If online visitors are still abandoning your website or your website is generating low levels of direct bookings, you need to ask yourself:

“Is your Hotel Website designed to Attract Guests?”

Consider the 5 cornerstone website components below and what they say about your hotel:

1. Rich Media (Photos & Video)

The Fuel study shows that images are considered the number 1 decision-making factor for guests visiting a hotel website. In today’s busy online travel world, photos and video create a unique emotional connection with people that plain text simply cannot replicate. Look at the two images below with the eyes of a guest. Which one inspires you to book a hotel stay?

Exhibit 1 - Hmmm, not exactly a palace is it? 

Exhibit 2 - Dreamy...

2. Straightforward Navigation & Clean Design

The ultimate reason people visit your website is to find information about your hotel. If your hotel website is cluttered or messily designed that visitors are unable to get what they want quickly, the chances of them bouncing are very high. Are your hotel’s address, contact details, and other crucial information easy to access, or do you find yourself treasure-hunting?

3. Unique Value & Best Prices

A hotel website that showcases unique value helps travel shoppers understand why they should book. Do you want to highlight an amenity you provide to your guests? Are you located in an amazing destination with a story to tell? Do your prices, offers, or promotions incentivize guests to book directly on your website? If you answered yes to the above, then your website is the best place to show off this unique value – through both attention-grabbing visuals and clear

4. This brings us to our next point, Clear Content

You have to make sure your website provides the main information visitors are looking for. They are not looking for literature, but they do want to know about you. Most importantly, content should be up-to-date. Does your website clearly tell guests what is amazing about your property and why they should book?

5. Last but not least, Branding

In fact, branding might be one of the most underrated pieces of hotel communication. Your brand is far more than your name or logo. It encompasses everything from the personality and the values of your hotel to your customers’ perceptions, notions, and experience. It represents who you are, and can make or break consumer trust. Is your brand strongly represented on your hotel website? Would you trust your hotel brand if you were simply an online visitor considering booking a stay?

Exercise – Take a Look at the Two Logos Below:

Now, look at the two pictures below. We’re sure you can easily tell which hotel bedroom belongs to which hotel logo:

Exhibit 1 – Wow! Hello home away from home.

Exhibit 2 – Hmmm, a bed fit for…..no one!

That’s the power of good branding. Now ask yourself, in which property would you rather spend the night?

If you want to effectively lead visitors to your hotel website and convert them into bookings, your website needs to have the wow factor. It should be so appealing that when potential customers land on it they will get the best impression of your hotel and will want to share it, bookmark it for future trips, or best case scenario, book a stay immediately.

So, How do you Make Your Hotel Website Stand Out from the Competition?

Hotels that win more direct bookings tend to have websites that reflect the most enticing experience and values of the brand and property. To put it simply, your website should transport guests to your hotel, giving them the true look and feel of your property, which in turn, inspires them to book.

Because people are so busy these days, you only have a couple of seconds to attract someone’s attention and transmit your message. An outdated or messy website design can wipe out any chance of online business success for your property.

Hotel Website Design – 4 Must-Haves:

If you want to convert online visitors into guests, you need to make sure your hotel website clearly shows off why they should book a stay. Below are 4 Must-Haves for your Hotel Website Design:

1. Must Connect Emotionally with your Guests, Increasing their Desire to Book Directly on your Website

In the words of Jay Baer, author of the New York Times bestselling book Youtility, “Online business success is largely driven by pictures, not words.” This statement may seem obvious, but you would be amazed how many great hotels overlook the power of good quality visuals to showcase the best features of the hotel via the website.

According to a survey by HospitalityNet, the decision to book a hotel is 39% rational and 59% emotional. Visuals inspire an emotional reaction, which can move in the direction of a booking or abandonment.

Consider the two images of the same hotel below and how they make you feel on an emotional level:

Exhibit 1 – My Cholesterol is protesting already…

Exhibit 2 – Bonn Appétit!

Your visuals should not only sell your hotel(s) to customers but also your destination. Following the same exercise above, this time considering two images of the exact same summer holiday destination, which one makes you dream of an escape to the sea and sunshine?

Exhibit 1 – OMG! I want to dive in…right now!

Exhibit 2 – Seriously? A Zombie Invasion during my Downtime? No thank you!

2. Must Shout About Your Special Offers & Remind Guests Why They Should Book Direct

Research by Skift shows that 44% of global travelers consider special offers important to the booking process. If you want to win direct bookings over the likes of major OTAs that offer an array of attractive packages and competitive rates, it is absolutely crucial that you shout about your special offers across ALL areas of your website:

Does your property have the most famous restaurant in town? Offer a discount on dining, only for direct bookers. Is your hotel spa top-notch? Show it off on your website, and clearly let visitors know they will receive a complimentary wellness perk for booking directly on your website. Be sure to highlight your special offers across all areas of your hotel website: Home page scroll, special offers teasers, and descriptions, and booking engine loading area.

And of course, it goes without saying that price is an important factor in the decision-making process. So remember to highlight that your rates beat the competition, and are exclusive to visitors who book directly on your hotel website.

3. Must Have Simplified Navigation and Make Important Information Easy To Find

Research by Millennial Impact shows that 65% of millennials claim looking for missing or unavailable information is one of the biggest pet peeves when booking a journey. Your website is a place travel shoppers go to learn more about your hotel. Useful information, such as nightly rates or directions, should be easily accessible and found.

Information that you know is highly important and/or popular with your travel shoppers and guests should always be placed somewhere on the first page of your website.

4. Must Provide Detailed Content, Without Overdoing It

But before providing detailed content, it is crucial to know who your target guest is and what will inspire them to visit your hotel. Do you have a beach resort? Then talk about how close you are to the beach (walking distance, parking), your activities, kids park, etc. Are you a corporate business hotel? Talk about your conferences rooms, wifi policy, and other perks.

Research by Leonardo shows 92% of travelers are more likely to book accommodations that post detailed property descriptions and photos. It’s important to be detailed with your website content, so be sure to include detailed photos and descriptions of all of your property’s amenities and features.

However, don’t include too much information that your hotel website becomes cluttered, messy, and confusing. Although some things on your website should be text, such as address and contact info, online travel shoppers will not be satisfied with a website that is text-heavy and overloaded with too much information.

Overall, the better your website design teases guests with the dream getaway, the more likely it will be that online travel searchers book directly on your hotel website. Indeed, hotels that win more direct bookings have a solid strategy, which starts with the hotel website design.

In Closing, Never Overlook the Booking Process

According to our research of over 1,000 hotel websites within our portfolio, a whopping 97% of online visitors abandon a hotel website during the booking process. Although it’s crucial to ensure your website design allows visitors to visually experience your hotel before booking a stay, it will all be for nothing if the booking process is not optimized.

Before you go, take a look at your hotel’s online booking engine, and see if it ticks the boxes below:

1. Does it Stimulate Shopping Behaviour? Special offers, promotions, and alerts all create a sense of urgency and inspire visitors to book. Does your online booking engine include Shopping Activation/Recovery Widgets?

2. Does it provide Rates & Availability in Real-Time? In the age of abundant options, if your hotel website does not deliver an efficient booking process, most visitors will simply move to a competitor. Providing rates and availability in real-time (and on the same web page) is a really effective way to make the booking experience more efficient.

3. Does it reinforce why guests should book directly on your website? In addition to price, you should also showcase amenities or exclusive offers for guests who book directly on your hotel website.

Think of your hotel website’s homepage as your business card. A professional website design can provide that extra engagement needed to inspire visitors to book directly on your website. However, you also need to deliver a seamless booking experience to reduce abandonment rates at the transaction stage.

*Disclaimer:  The images used in this article are fictional demonstrations of good vs bad practice in terms of hotel website design. 

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Joao Trindade

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    About GuestCentric

    GuestCentric is a leading provider of cloud-based digital marketing software and services that help extraordinary hoteliers promote their brand, drive direct bookings and connect with customers on all digital platforms. GuestCentric's all-in-one platform provides hotels with the only unified solution for managing their guests' online journey: award-winning, high impact websites; an integrated, easy-to-use booking engine; social media marketing and publishing tools; a GDS chain code and a channel manager to offer rooms on Amadeus, Booking.com, Expedia, Galileo, Google, Sabre, TripAdvisor and hundreds of other channels. GuestCentric is a proud provider of solutions that maximize direct bookings to hotel groups and independent hotels from collections such as Design Hotels, Great Hotels of the World, Leading Hotels of the World, Relais & Chateaux, Small Luxury Hotels and Small Danish Hotels. GuestCentric is featured on Skift Travel Tech 250, a list of the top 250 travel tech companies shaping the modern-day travel experience.

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