In the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult for hotels to bring their offers and content to the attention of potential guests. I’ve been a hotelier for 20 years and still remember the good old days when customers contacted us directly by telephone and, occasionally, by email and fax. Here and there we also received bookings from the usual travel agents and GDS system. Presenting my hotel’s offers and content was just as simple. Website structures were basic and travel agencies often took care of the hotels’ description within their catalogue. In the GDS system, I only had to update the room and rate descriptions.
Between 2000 and 2012 things became increasingly complex. More and more online booking platforms (OTAs) entered the market and wanted to sell rooms for us. Platforms had to be fed with prices and content, such as pictures and text. A real labyrinth opened up and had to be navigated by increasingly swamped/overburdened hoteliers. Yet, hoteliers were well equiped to cope with distributing their content in the most effective way.
Nevertheless, there were always platforms over which I had no control, but that still had outdated information about my hotel and offered my rooms at even cheaper prices than I did. Over the years, with price comparison providers such as Trivago and TripAdvisor, displaying these prices in the “”shop window of the internet””, things got worse. As hoteliers, we slowly but surely lost control over our own product. Suddenly, we were faced with an almost unmanageable array of distribution platforms that became the reason of so much frustration.
At the same time, however, further challenges evolved: content no longer meant just text and image. Today, faster Internet and improved technology allows you to present your hotel with 360 degree tours, videos, and other virtual representations. Through social media, this content is also distributed, shared, and liked numerous times and spreads rapidly through a given network. So-called “user-generated content” (guest comments about the hotel) is multiplying all over the net, and the feeling of helplessness arises once again.
But why do we feel helpless? On the one hand, it’s because we’re no longer able to control customers and platforms. On the other hand, it’s because we can no longer keep up with technological developments (and perhaps we don’t want to). Every day we’re offered new possibilities by various service providers who contact us by email, fax, and telephone. So what should you do? Bury your head in the sand, hoping it just passes you by? Well – there are many reasons not to do so.
For years, the hotel industry has been losing bookings to online booking portals. One might say that it’s inevitable as providers, such as Booking.com and Expedia, are technologically superior and efficient compared to individual hotels. However, when I look at hotel websites and hotel content on such-and-such a platform, I have to say that we hoteliers are also passing on many opportunities by not respecting the most basic content marketing principles.
First of all, the presentation of my USP’s (unique selling points) with text, pictures, videos, as well as rate descriptions, certificates, logos, and lots of other subtle touches. When visiting hotel websites, I often don’t understand the main advantages of the hotel at a first glance.
“The legendary Hotel XXX Berlin is located in the heart of Berlin, right by the Brandenburg Gate, just steps away from the government district. Just after reopening in 1997, the XXX Hotel was quickly recognized as the most famous hotel in Berlin and is distinguished by its unique history, outstanding location and unsurpassed service.”
“You will experience the quintessence of luxury accommodation in the XXX, a legendary 5-star hotel in Berlin Mitte, right next to the Brandenburg Gate. The ultra-modern facilities include a restaurant with 2 Michelin stars and a shopping arcade.
From the centrally located Hotel XXX, you can easily visit the most important sights of Berlin. The Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and Pariser Platz are within a 10-minute walk.
The rooms have an extraordinary charm thanks to their antique décor with extravagant elements and a marble bathroom. All rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi and a modern media system and offer partial views of the Brandenburg Gate.”
Conclusion: Booking.com manages to provide the reader with the essential features of the hotel. Clear facts and language give the guest the information he or she needs to make a booking decision. Paired with an extensive picture gallery, guest reviews, and location information, guests will surely give priority to Booking.com when booking. And, if the price is not higher than on the hotel’s website, there is little reason to book directly.
Unfortunately, there are endless examples on the internet. Hotels have not managed to market themselves as attractively as portals have. Hotels often forget that it is more about giving the guest the information he is looking for, than about listing unimportant new amenities. Provide the guest with clear information, show him what your “product” is. Simple, direct, concrete.
Another frequent misconception hoteliers make is believing they have to manage their content on all platforms. The internet is endless. Still, as always in life, there is a 90:10 rule. 10% of the platforms produce 90% of your sales. So, focus on the essentials! But, what are the essentials? Certainly the big booking portals like Booking.com and Expedia; though don’t forget the platforms where your customers are looking. There are also endless search portals – in the end we are talking about only a few relevant providers – notably Google, Trivago, TripAdvisor and perhaps HolidayCheck and Kayak. Depending on your target group, you can include search platforms for wellness-, meeting- or golf hotels. Prioritize by range and size and ignore everything else.
But I also noticed that hotels often lose focus. While they manage their content on unimportant platforms, many hotels don’t even have their ‘Google My Business’ account or Trivago profile set up – although taking just a few hours to complete. And, that’s the problem! If I have outdated or bad content on portals that my customers are browsing, like Trivago, TripAdvisor and Google, they either won’t find me at all, or won’t book – neither on Booking.com, nor my own website.
Given the complexity of the topic, there’s only one simple tip to offer: focus on who you are and what you offer, then let the customer know through clear text and images on the right sales channels. Don’t overdo it. Your customer is still primarily interested in your location, how much you cost, and what he gets for it. Go to your own website tomorrow and check if he can find what he’s looking for. If not, it’s time to act.