A new study has revealed a direct correlation between profitability and the quality of the hotel’s website. Under-developed and under-resourced websites can lead to lower occupancy levels and impact on the business’ bottom line.
Web booking has become a key expectation of potential guests, and the online presence of a hotel should meet the demands of the consumer: namely, efficiency, interactivity and access to information.
Digital consumer needs are diverse, and hoteliers are advised to protect the profitability of their business with online payment gateways, tourist and guest information, comments and forum pages, feedback forms and security certificates. In addition, hotels should have a security risk management plan to help ensure safety of online booking payments, staff and managers should be fully trained in how to update the website, and hotels should have a social media marketing strategy to enhance the electronic ‘word of mouth’ of the brand.
“Hotels that rely upon web bookings are undoubtedly going to face a drop in bookings if they fail to keep pace with website design and the importance of it to customers,” explained Dr Alice Good, one of the study’s authors at the University of Portsmouth. “There is extensive research in how poor web design impacts upon both usability and accessibility in relation to e-commerce websites, with numerous examples of companies going out of business because of poor website design.”
“A website is the interface – the shop window – between businesses and their customers and a poor user experience will reduce the chance of a customer committing to a business transaction.
“A poorly designed website will also reduce the chances of a customer returning to the website and increase the chance that they will tell others – often through social media – very quickly about a poor experience.”
Trustworthiness is perhaps the lynchpin behind e-commerce. Without trust, a potential guest will not commit their payment details. Therefore, it is essential that hoteliers are prepared to spend a significant part of their website’s budget on security. Consumers quickly form impressions of web security through the design and functionality of the site – valid security certificates also play a part to stop warning messages popping up in the customer’s browser during the booking process.
What Makes a Good Hotel Website
The study highlights four key elements in good website design for hoteliers:
- Promoting good website usability, including using ‘accessible’ typefaces, easy and intuitive navigation and key information can be found within three clicks of the mouse
- Providing a good user experience; should be visually pleasing and encourage users to return
- Promoting trustworthiness; the website is safe and secure and ‘feels’ safe to customers
- Ensuring that reservations can be made online and an email system to facilitate customer queries
The researchers are now concentrating on a better understanding of tourism websites and their effect on hotels’ profitability as well as looking at a list of critical success factors that can promote a better user experience.