Five Common Booking Engine Mistakes to Avoid
By Rob Kall President, Bookt LLC | January 15, 2012
Almost everyone in this environment is looking for ways to maximize revenue; from large hotel chains to independent boutique properties, hoteliers across the world are looking for ways to boost their sales. So it's not surprising that in my conversations with operators, I am constantly being asked "What is the secret to success on the web?" I always respond with a question of my own: "How much attention do you pay to your property's website booking engine?" More often than not, those looking for ways to increase their online sales have booking engine problems that can be fixed, without completing overhauling the property's website.
Most hotel operators acknowledge that the company's website is an important revenue generator, but rather than using it as the cost-effective and dynamic tool that it is, they lose focus and turn it into the equivalent of an online brochure. While brochures have their place in the marketing mix, they are not directly responsible for a hotel's profits, whereas your website can be. By optimizing the booking engine, hoteliers can maximize bookings and revenues through this important portal. First, though, hotel websites must avoid some of the pitfalls I see all too often that prevent a website's booking engine from contributing positively to the property's bottom line:
1. The Shy Little (Booking) Engine
When designing websites, I always try to present the website visitor with a one-two punch: first, the emotional reaction - "Oh, I want to go there!" - accomplished by beautiful images, often as a subtle slideshow. Right next to it, a very clear call-to-action: the quick availability and rate search. When these two aspects- which are the most effective at encouraging bookings- are the centerpieces of a successful web strategy, the property's online revenues increase dramatically. An unobtrusive text link that says "Reservations" hidden in a corner will not make the grade; your home page is not the place for subtlety. Remember, people make up their mind in seconds whether a website has the information they are looking for or not. Make it easy for them to find (and use) it. If they don't see your call-to-action right away, their next click will be on the back button.
2. Popups be Damned
This is my biggest pet peeve. Next to email spam, popups are the most reported internet annoyance for consumers shopping for a hotel online. Just as you don't want your most important online revenue generator to go unnoticed, you don't want your booking engine to be scaring consumers away. The reasons for using popups vary and although there are ways to avoid being caught by a popup blocker, why take any chance that your booking engine will either annoy your customer or be blocked altogether?