How hotels can make the most of their website

Written by Nicole Kohler on January 6, 2016 Blog, eCommerce inspiration.

If you own a hotel, inn, lodge, or any other type of physical location designed to accommodate guests, it should go without saying that you need a website. What better way is there for your business to attract potential customers?

Having a basic website may not be enough to turn that passing interest into a booking, however. Visitors have plenty of choices when it comes to finding a place to stay, and if your site doesn’t convince them that you’re the best option, they’re happy to go elsewhere.

With that goal in mind, there are a few things you should do to set your hotel’s website apart from others, as well as increase bookings from guests. From implementing a mobile-friendly design to allowing guests to easily book online, these tips will help you stand out in a big way.

Here are some ways you can use your site to attract more guests from both near and far.

Rely on mobile-friendly design for guests on-the-go

The best-case scenario for a guest booking a room in your hotel is that they’ll do so from their laptop or desktop computer, and well in advance of their desired check-in date. But reality is often nothing like this.

Many of your guests are likely to look for a hotel room from their smartphone, which means it’s crucial for your site to be as mobile-friendly as possible. Responsive design isn’t just critical for your Google rankings — it’s also critical for your user experience.

Your site should be mobile-friendly
Your site should be mobile-friendly to accommodate potential guests looking up options while staying in the area, traveling, or looking for a last-minute room due to emergencies.

If a potential guest is traveling, looking up a last-minute accommodation, or even experiencing an emergency, they’ll undoubtedly browse for a place to stay from their phone. If they have to scroll or zoom just to see your reservation page, forget it — they’ll leave for the next site ASAP.

Fortunately, being mobile-friendly isn’t as difficult as it once was. If you’re using WooCommerce, all of its themes (including the free Storefront) are responsive and ready for screens both big and small. On another platform? Simply switch to a responsive theme and you’ll be ready to go.

It might be tempting to settle for a site that looks “okay” or “close enough” in a mobile browser, but with so many of your guests likely to be browsing and booking from a smartphone, responsiveness is really the only way to go.

Show what sets you apart — in great detail

If your hotel sits squarely in the middle of New York City, the sprawling urban landscape and towering skyscrapers might not look impressive to you, since you see it every day. But imagine how it might look to a guest from Kansas visiting the city for the first time. (Or, if you dare, think back to how you felt, seeing your location for the first time.)

Then there’s what lies inside your hotel. The warm fireplace burning in the lobby, the pancakes cooked to order by your chef for breakfast, the ultra plush headboards on each king-sized bed… You have quite a few things that you’re proud of, we’re sure.

These “perks” can help you convince guests to book with you instead of your competition. But unless you show them off on your website, your visitors might not ever realize they exist.

Surely you’ve heard the saying “show, not tell”? The same applies here.

Getting the best photos possible might require hiring a professional photographer.
Getting the best photos possible might require hiring a professional photographer.

Fill your website with photos of what sets you apart. Perhaps it’s the stunning view of the mountains and trees that diners can see from your pubs (like the photo above). Maybe it’s the incredible dishes your cook serves in your restaurant. Or could it be the super-soft beds snuggled into your cozy seaside rooms?

Don’t stop at just a few photos, either. Sure, you could put up one or two of each room. But potential guests are looking for cleanliness, comfort, and scenery (among other things)… so photos that show off the finer details are highly recommended.

For this process, you should absolutely hire a professional photographer. Quality photos will tell the story much better than cell phone snaps. And because the photos on your site are likely to be picked up by external ones (think Expedia, TripAdvisor…), you want customers coming in from elsewhere to have accurate views, too.

Allow rooms to be booked right from your site

We’ve all come to expect convenience from our online experiences. We expect single-click payments, super-fast shipping, and instant answers to our questions. Slow or complicated experiences aren’t ones we put up with.

By this same logic, your potential guests are looking for a hotel that is going to allow them to do everything quickly, easily, and preferably without the hassle of a phone call or email. At the center of this desire? Completely automated bookings of their rooms.

Even if you run a five room bed and breakfast or a tiny ski-season-only lodge, potential customers can and will abandon your site on the basis of not being able to book rooms themselves. Making a phone call or sending an email to check availability is inconvenient, and it can also delay what is sometimes urgent planning.

The solution? Get a system that will allow your guests to check room availability and book rooms themselves. The free Accommodation Bookings add-on for the WooCommerce Bookings extension is one such solution, offering visitors the ability to book overnight stays as long or as short as they like.

The add-on in action.
The add-on in action.

With this combination, guests can see what you have available and book it in an instant. Meanwhile, you’ll have full control over your rates, plus your location’s check-in and check-out times.

It’s a win-win — your guests get simple online, overnight booking, and you get the ability to manage it all from the familiar WooCommerce interface.

You’re going to have reviews elsewhere — own up to them

For those of you in the hospitality business, you’re likely already familiar with sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Oyster. These websites are well-known for hosting honest reviews from travelers, some of which might have stayed at your hotel.

It’s natural to want to collect these reviews for your own website (social proof is indeed a powerful thing), instead of allowing these other platforms to keep them. It’s also natural to fear what you can’t control — that is, the honest opinions of your guests.

But the best strategy here is to own up to these external reviews. And by that, we mean linking to them from your own website.

It's natural for guests to chat about their stay. If you've done everything right, you shouldn't be afraid to highlight these reviews.
It’s natural for guests to chat about their stay. If you’ve done everything right, you shouldn’t be afraid to highlight these reviews.

If you’re serious about making your hotel or inn a wonderful spot for travelers or business folks — and we’re sure you are — then you have nothing to worry about. Even if a customer does complain, external review websites almost always allow you to respond. TripAdvisor even outright recommends adding “Management Responses,” saying:

Responding to positive and negative reviews clearly demonstrates – to both former and prospective guests – that you are interested in feedback, and that you take customer service seriously.

They also cited a study stating that approximately 60% of potential guests are more likely to book with a hotel if they see managers responding to comments or complaints.

If you own up to the reviews submitted about your hotel on other websites, and make them easy to find, you might see an increase in bookings. Potential guests won’t have to go searching every which way for reviews, because they’ll be right there — as will be the evidence that you care about their experience.

Make it easy for guests to get in touch (whether they’re inside the hotel or not)

Earlier, we mentioned your guests’ desire for convenience with regards to booking a room. That desire extends to contacting you with general questions or concerns, too.

It likely seems easy for you to pick up the phone and call someone (chances are, you do it all the time). But someone who’s considering booking with you, traveling to your area, or even already in your hotel might not want to — or be able to — make a phone call. So it’s best to provide easy alternatives to reach you, and thus avoid losing a booking or upsetting a guest.

These alternatives might take the form of:

  • A contact form on your website (preferably a dedicated “get in touch” page)
  • Social media, like Twitter or Facebook
  • Live chat — perhaps someone at your front desk can staff this?

You could even experiment with text messaging, if you like, for guests already staying at your location.

Don’t be afraid to try out multiple contact options. Limiting yourself to just one form of communication could shut out those who don’t have access to a certain account, or would prefer not to interact in some way.

Finally, your site should make it very clear how you can be reached. A separate “contact us” page is always reliable, but don’t hesitate to place links or info in your header or footer, either.

Impress potential guests with your website and you’ll be one step closer to a booking

It’s one thing to have a website for your hotel, inn, bed & breakfast, or other hospitality establishment. It’s another thing entirely to have a website that convinces guests to book with you just as quickly as they can find their credit card.

By following the tips above, you’ll be able to impress potential visitors, whether they’re browsing around for a quick stay from their phone or booking a week-long vacation. It might take a bit more time and effort to create a great website for your hotel, but trust us — the results will be worth it.

Have any questions about making the most of your hospitality website? Or any ideas of your own to contribute, based on your experiences? Chime in below, we’d be thrilled to hear from you.

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6 Responses

  1. huelabs
    January 7, 2016 at 12:08 am #

    PROBLEM

    Woo, even with your new “Accommodation Bookings” product type, you still don’t understand one thing about hotels, motels and vacation rentals: Standard vs Peak weekend rates can have different pricing. There are 4 scenarios:

    Standard rate ($80)
    Peak rate ($90)
    Standard rate weekends ($100)
    Peak rate weekends ($115) {NOT POSSIBLE}

    You can see that the Accommodation and Booking product types can’t fulfill this need with your current product. You can only do 3 out of the 4 scenarios.

    ANSWER

    Much like the “Time Ranges” sub-options, you need a cost range options for the following:

    1. Date range with range of days
    2. Range of months with range of days

    Thus, I can select a range of peak months, then select the weekend days and modify the block cost.

    • huelabs
      January 7, 2016 at 12:20 am #

      I cannot find your peak pricing option. It’s not in your documents, changelog, or feature list.

    • Nicole Kohler
      January 15, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

      Hey there — apologies for the delay here! We are working to incorporate this into the next release of Accommodations. Keep an eye out 🙂

  2. delizard
    January 13, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    Hi! Great article and i am total agree with it. I’d like to add one tip: specify exactly where the hotel is located (NAP, GPS, How to arrive) and use blog post to tell the surrounding area.
    bye!

    • Nicole Kohler
      January 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

      Delizard, thank you for the great tip! We appreciate your chiming in 🙂

  3. Adrian
    January 20, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    Hi Nicole, I use Bookings and Follow Ups, which has access to booked orders. But in case I use Accommodations, which is in product page another kind of product not a booking, Follow Ups has no access to it. The same did I find yesterday on a new site with latest extensions and WC 2.5: I was not able to create a booking in backend manual. Wouldn’t it be better to leave producttype as booking and use for Accommodations options some checkboxes?

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