The importance of adopting a multi-channel sales and distribution strategy has gained a lot of popularity in the past years. Offline distribution channels consist of mainly of the hotel sales team working on getting corporate and negotiated deals, along with working with wholesalers and the travel agents. Online distribution channels combine WBE (Web Booking Engines), GDSs (Global Distribution Channels), OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), Consortia and CROs (Central Reservation Offices) among others. Today, online distribution channels encompass 50% of the hotel bookings in Europe and 30% in the MENA region.
Despite the growth of online distribution channels in tourism, many hotels still do not fully exploit their own websites as a tool for selling hotel rooms directly and gaining competitive advantage.
As many reservations are made on the Internet, being able to guide your customer through the whole experience of your hotel becomes key. In fact, hotel websites represent an important channel for hoteliers to attract customers and convert them into bookers as the commissions related to that channel are very low. However, if the choice of technology in the design of the hotel website is not appropriate, it will be hard for hoteliers to appeal to prospective customers.
Despite the fact that creating original and compelling website content can appear to be an overwhelming task, it represents an important and integral part of digital marketing for hoteliers – it helps them promote their brand and manage their sales channel efficiently. Therefore, the hotel website is a major driver in creating perceptions and influencing people’s decision to book with a hotel or not. Hence, it is imperitive for hotels to have a dynamic, constantly updated and easy to maintain website.
A web content management system (CMS) is a software system that supports the creation and modification of digital content using a common user interface and allows multiple users to easily manage all of a website’s content – i.e. pages, images, text, photos or videos – in a collaborative environment, with little or no technical skills.
As search engines give more credibility to websites with constantly updated, fresh and relevant content, ‘static’ websites have started to disappear. CMS incorporates the ability to update automatically, without minimal cost to the users.
Many hotels have been very quick to adopt CMS because of the power and flexibility the system offers, such as:
- Easy to deploy for chains
- Multiple website content management – Promotions are launched quicker by adding content to one, selected or all hotel websites, then scheduled to go-live by choosing specific dates or hours within a day.
- Responsive design – The CMS automatically scales and optimizes the website to fit tablets, mobile devices and smaller browser windows to deliver a consistent user experience for all customers.
- Quick and easy page management – Any approved user can quickly and easily publish online without complicated software or programming.
- Up-to-date at all times – CMS allows alerts to be set to notify the editor(s) when content needs to be reviewed, updated or removed. This will help prevent old data from being presented and misinforming users.
- Remote access from anywhere with an Internet connection.
- Search engine-friendly – The CMS helps to optimize the hotel website so that search engine users can easily find the hotel information.
- Customize content based on an IP address – For instance, a French customer accessing the website might see different content then a German or American customer.
- Region based promotions – i.e. a promotion for French customers can be different from a promotion targeting American customers.
The key to successfully deploying a direct booking strategy is increasing website personalization to ensure customers are gaining access to direct booking rewards when it means the most. With a good CMS, hotels can identify the customer’s location through his/her IP, and provide them with a more personal experience through packages and promotions targeted to that specific market. It is an advantage to offer an in-depth experience of the property and to provide more flexibility in terms of a room choice, reservation changes and price negotiations.
About the author
Serge Chamelian is the managing director of h-hotelier, a hospitality services firm that offers a holistic approach to business intelligence solutions, revenue management consultancy and training and development programs among many others.
For the past three years, h-hotelier has engaged in the development of hotel websites for its customers by adopting the CMS technology because h-hotelier believes that standing out in the crowded field of website design and content is challenging. The right content management system can help hoteliers cut through the clutter, attract customers’ curiosity and drive bookings to the hotel’s website.