Tips for an irresistible hotel website
January 2021 - The 2021 Hotel Website of the Year election is over. During a festive, online ceremony on 14 January, the winner was announced: Max Brown Hotels has the honour of holding the title for one year. A fantastic achievement. What can we learn from the winning website and the other finalists? What are the best practices that make a hotel website irresistible? We list them for you.Back to Industry Insights
Hotel Website of the Year
The election consisted of a public round, where the general public could vote for their favorite hotel website. More than 1,700 votes were received, after which seven hotels went through to the final. Under the guidance of an expert jury, the finalists were then judged on ten different criteria. These ranged from visual appeal and content to the functionality and user-friendliness of the website. In addition, the finalists were asked to submit a number of business cases.
Business cases: how well does the website perform?
These business cases formed an important part of the assessment, and revolved around the performance of the website in particular. The average percentage of direct bookings, for example, was looked at under normal market conditions. With an average result of 37%, the finalists scored very well - usually a percentage of 30% is already a very good score. However, there are differences between city and out-of-town hotels, and between hotel chains versus individual hotels. In general, the percentage of direct bookings at individual hotels outside the urban areas is considerably higher. This is because city and chain hotels are more frequently visited by international and business travellers, who use Online Travel Agents (OTAs) such as Booking.com to book a hotel. Moreover, unlike hotels in a more rural area, where guests often return, this is less the case for hotels in urban areas.
Another business case was about the conversion rate of the website: the number of visitors who actually make a direct booking with the hotel. Here, the finalists scored 2% on average, again an excellent score. Their clear, user-friendly booking systems contributed to this.
How to increase conversion on your hotel website
Higher conversion through a user-friendly booking process. Is that obvious? Yes, but there are many providers in the market who score low on conversion, simply because the process does not work well or is unclear to the visitor. It is therefore important to make a well-considered choice (ask your supplier about conversion percentages!). A booking module that seems advantageous at first glance in terms of monthly costs may turn out to be a huge expense when it comes to lower conversion rates. Further:
Use calendars, promotional codes and direct links to the various room types and packages. Also make sure that the visitor immediately sees the advantages of making a direct booking. Work with bullet points or icons with short texts.
Of course, it is important to inspire visitors by means of storytelling, fun tips and beautiful images. After all, if your website is set up purely to sell, it can scare people away. The average visitor decides in about 7 seconds whether the website is relevant for what he or she is looking for. So make it easy for them, so they don't get lost or confused. So make sure you have a clear call-to-action (CTA). A striking colour of the CTA button helps.
Use flexible cancellation conditions (especially now).
Offer various payment methods.
Mobile friendliness scores high
The question whether the website offered a pleasant experience on smartphone, tablet and laptop/desktop was an important factor during the election. Prior to the judging, jury member Tom van Gessel, who works at Google, urged the other jury members to look at this carefully. The average score on this point was 79%. So, the mobile friendliness of the finalists' hotel websites is quite good. A good responsive website is a must nowadays. Just look at the visitor numbers of hotels using the booking module of Hoteliers.com:
53% of the visitors view the website from a desktop
39% of visitors view the website on a mobile device
8% of visitors view the website on a tablet
Tip: invest in a responsive website NOW
It may seem obvious, but many hotels do not have this in place yet. And that's a shame!
It not only contributes to your conversion rate, but also to your branding. Research shows that 61% of the public is more positive about a brand when the website is responsive. Also make sure the content of the website is well adapted to mobile usage. For example, make sure that photos and videos are displayed properly on mobile devices.
Special promotions and actions
During the judging, the jury also looked at special promotions and actions undertaken by the finalists. With an average score of 69%, this lagged somewhat behind. This can of course be explained by the fact that in the current market there was unfortunately little to promote: this will undoubtedly pick up again next year, once the situation has normalised somewhat.
Tip: mention your COVID measures on the website
One point where there is room for improvement is in describing the current safety measures in place in connection with Corona. Not all finalists mention this, even though (potential) guests absolutely need it. It doesn't have to be hectic text; bullet points work fine.
The deciding factor
What was the deciding factor for the jury to choose Max Brown Hotels as the winner? The jury members agreed unanimously: although the visual aspect of websites is very important nowadays, and it sometimes seems as if visitors hardly read texts anymore, the message communicated is crucial. About Max Brown Hotels we read in the jury report: "The language is fluent, dynamic and 'young', without trying to be too hip. This makes the communication authentic, attractive and credible. The city guides and the blog contribute to the high score: it's not just about staying in a hotel, but about a complete experience.
Asterisk Hotel from Amsterdam, which finished in second place, also scored high with their communication style. This hotel clearly did not throw in the towel during the crisis and used the time to work on their website in a completely unique and original way. The website shares personal stories of the team, inspiring blogs and original video content. On the blog, visitors can read what it's like to experience the hotel as a hotelier, from the other side of the counter. Funny detail: the video that shows how you can easily get to the hotel from Schiphol Airport.
Tip: storytelling makes you curious
We can learn from these two high-scoring hotel websites that it is incredibly important to tell the hotel's story, and to do so in the most authentic way possible. This way, you create sympathy and visitors will be more inclined to take your hotel into their hearts. In addition, it is an absolute must to inspire your visitors by means of blogs, city guides and tips about the surroundings. So take a critical look at your communication message and see where you can improve it. Storytelling will certainly translate into extra direct bookings, simply via your own hotel website. Communication, communication, communication.
Tips for using images
The eye wants something too. The visual aspect is certainly very relevant to the first impression. Hotel America, which came in third, understood this very well: fantastic photography, which matches the fresh use of colour on the site.
Some tips from the jury reports:
"Always post photos of the outside view. The absence of these always makes me a bit suspicious," said one of the judges.
"Make sure the quality of the photos is good and consistent. If there is 'an inferior' photo on the website, it stands out even more. So get rid of it."
"The use of pictograms in the room information both on the website and in the booking module is highly appreciated. With pictograms, the facilities of a room become clear at a glance."
A number of finalists offered a virtual tour of the hotel or its surroundings and scored extra points with this.
Pay a lot of attention to what can actually be seen in photos. Some hotel websites use beautiful images, which unfortunately are missing because a content block has been placed over them or because the alignment is not right. Avoid photos with empty chairs or empty spaces, but create a lively and warm atmosphere. Website visitors' eyes are drawn remarkably often to photos that show people.
Don't do this
Finally, there are a number of things that the jury members say you should avoid.
It is logical that you want to share as much information as possible, but less is more. Too much text, images and content blocks make a website cluttered, so visitors will drop out.
The devil is in the details! Small spelling mistakes, links that don't work, a phone number or e-mail address that is not clickable, low resolution images: none of this contributes to the user experience of the visitor. Make sure, for example, that your room rates are rounded off to a rounded amount.
On to the next edition!
At the end of this year, registration starts for a new edition of the Hotel Website of the Year election. If you implement the above tips properly on your hotel website, you have a chance of winning this competition. More importantly, we hope that this advice can contribute to better hotel websites and therefore less dependence on OTA's like Booking.com. Especially in a recovering market in the coming year, every direct booking that does not require high commissions is worth its weight in gold.
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