The look and design of a website is vitally important to the success of a tourism business. The end product should offer - a visually good looking site combined with simplicity of functionality.
A clean looking, easy to navigate, fast down loading, constantly updated website, instantly implies to the potential visitor, efficient, clean, well run accommodation.
You can offer the best accommodation in the world, spending thousands on fixtures and fittings, but if the website does not reflect that high standard, you will not get the bookings your accommodation deserves.
Home made tourism web sites range from excellent to awful, if the latter the result is not only a false economy but can also be economically damaging to a tourism business, because the potential visitor is always, only a click away from looking at another website. Building a home made site involves very personal input, even a best friend might hesitate before making a negative comment on.
If a website is any of the following, slow downloading, unattractive, difficult to navigate, shows out of date information, has poor pictures, cluttered text or hidden contact details, it can actually lose you trade. Without a doubt, professionally designed websites combined with individual input to reflect the establishment's unique character and warmth of welcome, really do work best.
Monitoring where your website traffic is coming from e.g. where visitors are finding your site is absolutely essential in order to target your advertising budget to best effect. Monitoring logs are the greatest piece of software ever invented for the tourism trade. It was impossible to establish exactly which paper guide referred the most enquiries; you will know exactly which online guide produces the best results with a log.
Contact Details: All your contact details, your name, location, address and email address should be very easily found. But your telephone number is top dog. They should be placed directly in the customer view as the home page downloads. It is a complete misconception because the customer finds your accommodation online, they only email you; most serious and last minute enquiries pick up the phone.
Potential guests often like to check you out before they book; wondering are you a welcoming host or a Basil Fawlty. And you, the host want to get an idea of what the potential guest might be like, you may not want to accommodate an "off the wall guest" or their pet rat. The phone is and always will be an unbeatable negotiating tool re quoting price for length of required stay and how many people in order to convert a tentative enquiry into a firm booking.
If using an e contact or e booking form, also put your email address near the form. This should catch the potential customer who is making a very tentative enquiry, in a hurry, or reluctant to submit a form with all their contact details, worrying you may hassle them to book or spam them with unwanted offers.
Website Name: Chose the simplest name for your accommodation, easy to say over the phone, ending in co.uk - meaning in the United Kingdom . At least one email address should be used in the same format - info@ enquires@ holidays@ bookings@ ending in .co.uk. Just like your address, the name of your accommodation used in a website belongs to you. Unless you signed a legal binding period with your hosting company, the website and name is yours to move to another hosting company. If you're hosting company refuse to hand over, they are cyber squatting, which is illegal.
Good pictures: Are absolutely essential; use any combination of pictures of inside rooms, outside, food, owners, staff, pets, facilities, location and outlook. Virtual internal and external tours work exceptionally well. The more the customer can see, the more confident they feel about booking.
Link to google maps so that the visitor can get a bird's eye view of your exact location. And can type in both postcodes to see or print out a suggested route.
It is essential to market your area's best selling points with your accommodation, add text and links to local visitor attractions, events, good food pub, etc. However be wary of putting other people's links in too prominent a place, on your home page.
Content Managed: Just like the low cost airlines, make full use of a flexible price structure with an updateable tariff and special offer page. The tourism businesses that communicate with content managed web site in order to constantly inform the visitor about late availability, cancellations and special offers, seem to stay full. Updating live information is not complicated, just a case of clicking a few times in the right order, a trained monkey could do it, so don't be afraid of learning to use your greatest marketing asset to full advantage. However, do not get tempted to constantly add or alter text everywhere on your web site after the initial design.
Hosting: is all important to keep your website live, but no longer a guarantee that your website will get found. You can find hosting companies by doing a Google search.
Buying a Tourism Business: We suggest, when purchasing an accommodation business, new owners, should make sure both the establishment's live website, email address, website name and details of the monitoring log with its login details are legally included in the sale. Also ask for the hosting providers name and get a list of all sites the establishment is currently advertising on, and advice on which sites produce the best results.
Terms and conditions: should be fully explained; the content of a website must conform to the trade's description act, informing the visitor accurately about the accommodation.
Finally: No matter how good a website is, it must get found on the World Wide Web in order to work, therefore it must be marketed. Suggested advice is contained in another document entitled, Marketing a Tourism Website.
The information contained in this document is meant to be helpful to the trade, gleaned from experience 10 years of marketing accommodation (both SC and serviced on the web) and 7 years of reading logs. We are in a constantly evolving hi tech marketing revolution. Everything suggested, is subject to innovation and change.
Written by a tourism consultant with 30+ years of successful hands on experience.