Antonis Anastasiades is a member of the Glion Online faculty. He also runs a successful e-commerce business and works with independent hotels worldwide.
Not so many years ago, booking for your flights and accommodation, required the consumer to visit their local travel agent whereby they would be presented with a couple of options to choose from and they would then be supplied with the traditional thin-paper flight ticket and a hotel voucher. That was the time where tour operators were controlling the market, either through independent travel agents, or perhaps through their own ones.
Times have now changed. The Internet is regarded as a basic commodity in several countries, meaning that just like you would expect to have electricity and water in your house or apartment, Internet connectivity is also considered to have a similar weight of importance. Consumers now expect to be presented with a large number of options to choose from and this includes hotel accommodation.
The Internet hosts various channels which allow someone to shop around for their next hotel visit, whether these are called online travel agents, travel review websites or even corporate websites such as the hotel websites. Through these channels, the consumer is liberated from the shortlist of their local travel agent and can now access virtually the same database that their travel agent was accessing through all those, read several reviews for each hotel and most importantly, be presented with various daily rates, which may vary from channel to channel.
So now we ask ourselves? Where do hotel websites stand? Can they make a difference to the decision making process of the consumer? Can they compete with all those online travel agents such as Expedia and Booking.com? The answer to those questions is very simple: Hotel websites should be considered as the number one online channel of any hotel.
The reasoning behind that answer is also quite simple. All those channels that we have talked about, such as the online travel agents and travel review websites are not exclusive to a unique hotel. Those channels will usually host thousands of hotels into their databases and this means only one thing: they will only present a very limited amount of information about your hotel to the consumer. The hotel website however, is unique and exclusive to your hotel and would usually present very detailed information about the hotel but also about the surroundings of the hotel.
Another common question is: “If my hotel is present on all those alternative channels, how do I know that the consumer is going to visit my hotel website”? Luckily when someone is considering to book for a specific hotel, they will usually visit around 2-3 alternative channels (including the official website of the hotel), before deciding whether or not they would like to book for that specific hotel. This means that the hotel must ensure that there is sufficient and updated information on their hotel website in order to be more attractive towards the consumer and potential customer.
Furthermore, what many hotels fail to understand is that selling through their online booking engine hosted on their website will not be subject to the high commissions that many online travel agents charge for selling through their website. If a hotel manages to increase their website traffic and to convert their hotel website as the most productive online reservations channel, then the revenue generated from online reservations will be significantly higher.
In order for a hotel to have an attractive website that acts as the main online reservations channel, there are some important criteria that need to be met, such as: investing on their website and on its marketing, spending enough time to update its contents and media files, having an efficient online booking engine and advertising attractive rates and offers. Once these criteria are met, then the results should speak on their own.