Google ads, email marketing, social media, OTAs—hotel marketing can feel overwhelming, especially for independent hoteliers. But boosting bookings for your hotel doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, uncomplicated is the name of the game, because it’s all about streamlining and removing barriers to make booking as frictionless as possible.
A few easy updates to your website—made even easier with the help of a web designer—can make a surprising impact on user experience, branding, and your bottom line. Curious? Read on for 6 simple website tips to boost hotel bookings.
1. High-quality Images and Video
The adage is true: a picture does say a thousand words! With attention spans stretched to the digital limit, words cannot compete with the instantaneous message a breathtaking photo conveys: you have to visit here.
No matter how hectic your day has been, the Twin Lakes Inn website gives visitors a taste of the serenity that awaits with a gorgeous waterscape as the main image. Well-placed images clear the pathway to booking by answering the question “what is it like there?” in an instant.
It pays to hire a professional photographer. But a word of warning: those high-resolution images and videos can eat up bandwidths and slow down your website speed (we will touch on that next!). If you’re unsure how to reduce image size without compromising quality, your web designer is here to help.
As long as images and video do not compromise load times, they can boost your bookings by allowing potential guests to imagine themselves at your hotel, which is an integral step in the customer journey.
2. Website Speed
The speed at which your website loads greatly impacts the user experience. It’s not simply that people are impatient, but rather a slow site gives the impression that your hotel is also not up-to-speed. Search engines constantly update their algorithms to rank websites they deem as offering a superb user experience, and site speed is one of their measuring sticks, meaning a slow site also impacts your SEO, and thus page rank.
This analogy from Cloudflare sums it up perfectly: “When a customer sits down to eat at a restaurant, slow service from the waiter often results in poor Yelp reviews and fewer future customers. Similarly, slow site speed can result in poor search engine rankings, lower overall site traffic, and negative user experiences.”
When a site takes longer than three seconds to load, you can lose up to 40% of your web visitors right off the bat. So it’s easy to see how a faster site speed will boost your bookings.
3. Responsive Design
Is your hotel website optimized for multiple platforms yet? According to Stratos, 80% of U.S. adults want to book their travel online and 70% do their travel research on a smartphone. Responsive web design is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. You may have the most beautiful website with compelling images and a strong information hierarchy on desktop, but if the format lapses and navigation doesn’t work as expected when accessed from mobile, you’ll very quickly lose the interest of a high percentage of your potential guests.
With iPads, smartphones, laptops, and desktop monitors, screen sizes come in a variety of sizes—you must meet your customers where they are at, and responsive design is how to do that. If you’re designing a website from a template, we highly recommend beginning with a theme that is already responsive, so your website looks great across devices.
With huge visuals telling their story, Lakeside Cabins at Gulf State Park looks great on a desktop or a phone, with images and booking buttons stacking on smaller devices so the design remains both beautiful and functional.
4. Social Proof
Did you know the majority of travelers read reviews as part of their decision-making process? According to a survey by Lodging Magazine, 78% of guests read reviews before booking, making this an integral part of the decision-making process. OTAs have reviews baked into their design. Instead of making your potential guests look for hotel reviews on OTAs like Expedia or TripAdvisor (where they may also book), keep them on your website.
At this stage of the purchasing journey, guests are seeking a reason to reinforce their decision to book, so highlight your favorite reviews or snippets. This may be from reviews you receive in-house or quotes from review sites. Or consider adding a review widget to your website that automatically pulls reviews from your preferred review website. There are several PMS integrations, too, which automate the process of requesting and publishing guest reviews.
The Denali Tri-Valley Cabins offers a very clean, scroll-friendly design that includes a link to testimonials. A large booking engine appears top-of-page and front-of-mind to capitalize on the final-nudge-to-book that testimonials provide.
5. Provide Bookable Experience Packages
While it’s often assumed that guests are looking for a bargain, it’s increasingly difficult for independent hotels to compete with larger chains in the price department. Over time, continuing to reduce rates comes at a cost—to services, standards, and staff—and ends up being a race to the bottom.
However, one post-pandemic travel trend sees guests opting for value-adds instead of discounts. As the world begins to open up after more than a year of restrictions and lock-downs, travelers are seeking experiences, not simply a room with four walls; give them what they want with vacation packages that offer additional amenities or activities.
“There has also been a shift towards experience-driven travel,” says Rebecca Masri, founder of Little Emperors, in a Euronews article on post-covid travel. “People have been in their homes for months so now they want to discover new places, cultures, cuisines, landscapes, activities and reconnect with nature.”
In terms of website design, make it possible for guests to book not only a room but packages as well. Partner with local restaurants for meal packages, tourism operators for private tours, or create bed-and-breakfast packages with room service, as some examples. Use a flexible property management system (PMS) like WebRezPro to build creative packages and/or offer add-ons.
6. Cloud Property Management System + Integrated Online Bookings
To achieve maximum direct bookings, hotel websites must provide online bookings through a hotel booking engine. While some guests prefer the phone, the vast majority of travelers expect to book through your website.
Going one step further, a cloud PMS really brings things into the 21st century as an all-in-one solution that not only maximizes your direct bookings but streamlines your hotel operations as well.
Centralizing reservations, a cloud PMS with an integrated website booking engine always shows live rates and availability to guests booking online. Flexible rate management features make it easy to control pricing and availability, and automated yield management functionality can help you maximize revenue in your sleep!
These are just a few examples of set-and-forget features that provide guests a better experience with little additional effort on your part. Look for a mobile-friendly website booking engine that offers a simple, streamlined look and booking process. The result will be a boost to your bookings, both new and repeat.
Your Website is Your Virtual Front Desk
We don’t need to convince you of the importance of putting your guests first. It’s the same when it comes to creating a frictionless website experience. Think of your website as your virtual front desk agent, complete with fast and courteous service within a welcoming and simple environment—where trust and loyalty are quickly earned…and holiday dreams become reality.