From room descriptions to rates and everything in between, a hotel website covers a lot of content. But when choosing a hotel online, travelers move on quickly if they don’t see what they’re looking for. So, how do you keep things simple so that all customers can find the information that matters most to them, fast? The key lies in content organization, site navigation, and knowing your audience.
Travel consumers often use third-party distribution sites (OTAs) during the browsing stage to narrow down their choices. By the time they arrive at your website, they’re looking for something more than price and location (though you still need to have those!). Here are the features of your hotel website most important to prospective guests.
Images play a critical role throughout the hotel selection. People process images a full 60,000 times quicker than text, so property images help consumers get to know your hotel fast.
Photos provide information about property condition, size, layout, personality, and even fellow guests. If you show a picture of parents with their smiling, sticky-faced kids, site visitors will learn that a) your property is family-friendly and b) there’s ice cream nearby. They’ll begin to picture themselves there and build an emotional connection.
Use images throughout your site and feature slideshow photo galleries that portray interior (guest rooms, bathrooms, common areas, amenities, meeting spaces) and exterior shots as well as photogenic details (like a close-up of your curly-cue waterslide) that show off your property’s personality. Consider your unique selling proposition. In what ways are you different from the other hotels around?
Include photos of each room type alongside the descriptions on your “rooms” page and in your online booking engine. Quality photography is key; you’ll need more than a selfie-stick to make your property shine.
Video is on the rise and ready to engage with 91 percent of consumers who want brands to offer more of it online in 2023. Property overviews, virtual tours, customer testimonials, staff interviews, and local highlights all draw viewers in and invite them to linger on your site.
When filming virtual tours, show your property at its best without setting up unrealistic expectations (you can’t just film the one deluxe suite) and choose a time of day with lots of natural light. Patch up the little things beforehand. Fluff up the pillows, straighten wrinkles out of linens, and perhaps even apply a fresh coat of paint…
However enticing your video, visitors won’t linger forever. Short-form videos engage 2.5 times better than long-form, so steer in that direction. No one will watch your 10-minute piece de resistance unless you’re Hilton (or have Hilton’s marketing budget for influencers).
Just because text isn’t as cute, fast, or trendy as images or video doesn’t mean you can throw up your hands and omit it all together.
Put time and effort into crafting descriptions that convey the stay experience, highlight selling points, and portray your property’s personality. AI can only do so much. You need a compelling story that invites guests to picture themselves within it, like a choose your own adventure, only this adventure has a spa instead of a quicksand lake. Accompany descriptions with relevant calls to action that lead visitors through your website.
In addition to a homepage property introduction, include clear descriptions for each room type as well as event and business services and spa and restaurant facilities. Make sure amenity lists are prominent and complete.
Intersperse your text and images with plenty of white space and make your site easy to navigate by using familiar menus and calls to action (you don’t need to reinvent the wheel here). Those fun family pictures at your pool won’t spark joy if guests can’t find that “amenities” page in the first place. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and work from there.
Choose a visual design and color palette that reflects your brand image. For instance, our client, Cusheon Lake Resort, uses a natural color palette that reflects the property’s forested surroundings and logo. This simple, modern design conveys a relaxing time in the outdoors, letting guests know what to expect from the get-go.
Your guests won’t spend their vacation in their room with the curtains drawn. They’re looking for an experience, both inside and outside your hotel. Your location makes you unique, and it’s an intrinsic part of the stay experience.
You can mention location highlights in the main property description, but you should also have a dedicated “location” or “contact” page with a map that pinpoints the hotel and descriptions of nearby points of interest (an “activities” page may be in order too). Your blog (see above) is another good way to show off your local knowledge.
Price and Offers
Be transparent with rates and don’t surprise would-be bookers with hidden fees during the reservation process. You know how airlines like to snag people with lots of “extras”? You know how much everyone hates airlines? Nuff said.
Declare booking and cancellation policies upfront as well. Don’t make customers hunt for them.
Make sure potential guests know about any special deals by highlighting offers and packages via pop-ups or your “packages and specials” page, and in your online booking engine.
Do you check reviews before booking a hotel? Everyone else does too. Include glowing reviews on your hotel website so customers can have the social proof they desire without having to look elsewhere.
You can add handpicked reviews manually or use widgets to display a live feed from review sites like Tripadvisor or Yelp. Tripadvisor badges and rating widgets also build trust.
Most travelers prefer to book their hotel online. It takes less time, and they can do it whenever and wherever they choose. To encourage customers to book direct rather than through an OTA (or to prevent them from booking another hotel), make sure you offer secure, user-friendly online bookings on your property’s own website.
Speed and Accessibility
Most travelers hop from one screen to another as they research, so it’s crucial for hotels to have a responsive website that provides an optimal user experience on all devices. Whether viewed on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone, if your website is difficult to navigate or slow to load, you’ll lose most visitors within a few seconds.
Your site also needs to be accessible for viewers with disabilities as mandated by the ADA. Take care that anyone with vision, hearing, or motor control impairments can understand and use your site. An accessibility widget comes in useful here with display adaptations, including larger text, wider text spacing, and even dyslexia-friendly font. Alt text and closed captioning are key as well.
Putting extra effort into the content and features most important to your prospective guests can dramatically increase conversions. Your website is your one online asset that you’re in complete control of, so take advantage of it.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published February 2016 and last updated July 2023.