How to Scare Off Online Prospects... Without Really Trying

By John Federman CEO, eStara | January 27, 2012

Hotel operators have been, for the most part, aggressive and smart in offering potential customers information about their properties online. In fact, the Web and e-commerce play such a central role in attracting customers, we often don't think about how a Website might actually turn off prospective clients.

I'm a frequent traveler - hundreds of flights, countless hotel rooms and entirely too much time spent with unhelpful online booking services. The frustration has driven me to be disloyal to many well-known brands. My profile makes me the exact target customer that all of you are trying to reach. I travel all over the country several days a week. So I have a few helpful tips that might help you create stronger, more loyal relationships with frequent business travelers like me.

Hotels in the U.S. generated more than $105.3 billion in revenue last year. That number is expected to grow according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. That said, here are five Website missteps that that are sure to turn off your customers, before you've even spoken with them.

1) DRIVING THE PROCESS DOWN A SINGLE PATH

Many hotel websites make the mistake of assuming to understand every possible objection customers may have and refuting them. How so? By making the customer proceed down one path without offering any options as to when or where they can book or contact you for information.

According to Jupiter Research, cost reduction strategies for hotels include encouraging direct online bookings, yet consumers making bookings still prefer online travel agencies (OTAs) and hotel phone reservation systems to hotel websites. Why is that? Because they're more flexible when it comes to working with the booker's needs.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.