The online travel world is such an exciting place to be and the potential opportunities for increasing revenues seem limitless. Narrowing down a list of suggestions to only 10 was a daunting task. What would be the absolute best use of a GMs time in this arena to prepare for the summer? According to the 7th Edition of PhoCusWright’s US Online Travel report, there are two primary “pillars of online travel purchasing: Seeking information (the core task of travel planning whether at the inspirational or practical stage) and looking for perspective, i.e., like-minded experience and judgments, and they are currently trumping the previously straightforward hunt for the best price.”
Based on these two priorities, we suggest the following action items for hoteliers this summer:
Pillar One – Seeking information
10 – Create inspirational content.
Your potential guests may be seeking information for practical reasons (see point 6) but most are looking to be inspired. Is there anything on your website to inspire? Who are your target summer guests? Is it the traditional Family? Couples? Have you created any unique summer packages that might inspire a family to pack up the car and drive to your destination? Paint a picture (or provide one) on your website of the perfect family vacation package. Don’t simply list the standard package fare, late checkout, free breakfast, and deluxe accommodations for four. Take some time and think about the experiences you want your guests to have with their families and build a sample vacation itinerary based on that.
9 – Color outside the lines.
Couples or families are not your only potential targets. Get creative in your packaging – how about mother and daughter getaways? Partner with a local spa for a day of pampering and shopping. Include theatre tickets. Father and Son? How about offering golf course options, fishing gear rentals, and hiking trails nearby. Grandparents and grandchildren? We suggest amusement parks, water slides, and movie theatres. Bringing pets along on a family vacation is becoming more and more important – if you are pet friendly, build some pet perks into the package. If you build it and promote it, they will come.
8 – Back up your brainstorming with keyword research.
There are a number of free keyword tools out there, like http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/. Once you have put some potential package ideas together, see if anyone is searching for them, and what keywords they are using. Once you get the results, be sure to use the most frequently searched keywords in your package page – in the title line, in the headlines of the paragraphs, and in the body content.
7 – Think about links.
Are there any great websites out there focusing on the niche package you have created? For example, if you build a pet friendly package, there are dozens of travel and pet friendly websites out there. Submit your package page to those websites to be linked. This serves two purposes; first you may be found on their website, and second, you are getting a credible link back to your site – which helps you with your organic search results.
6 – Ensure practical information is accurate.
Boring but necessary. When was the last time you reviewed your website for factual content? Do you list any nearby attractions and their hours of operation? Have you checked those hours lately to see if they are still correct? If you are linking to these attractions, do the links still work? Now is a good time to review your site from your customer’s perspective. Is there valuable information that will help them plan their long weekend or summer vacation? What else will they need to know to make their trip easy to plan? There are new e-maps available – take a look at all the practical information this hotel has provided to their visitors.
Pillar Two – Looking for Perspective
Let’s assume you have both inspired and given accurate practical information to your potential online purchasers. Now they are wondering, is this place really all that is says that it is? How can you reassure your potential guests that you really are the right spot for them?
5 – Take advantage of the free tools on the web to send you updates about your online reputation.
Google alerts is one of our favorites – every time your hotel is mentioned online, you will receive an email so you can see what is being said about you and where it is being said. We also like Trip Advisor Watch.
4 – Sign up with a book marking site, like Technorati, to get blog updates about your area.
It’s the easiest way to have blog topics of your choosing sent to your computer for you to read at your leisure. It is different from getting a constant flow of emails – you only look in your blog folder when you have time to scan the buzz about travel to your area. You open the folder, and Technorati has sent you postings and categorized them by the topics you decided were relevant.
3 – Create a guest incentive to bury those negative responses with positive responses.
Just like with search engine results, the vast majority of the searchers aren’t going beyond the first page of your reviews. So if you get a bad review, push it to the second or better yet third page by encouraging your guests to write positive reviews. One of our clients offered a $5 Starbucks coupon anytime a guest emailed the manager a link to a positive critique they had written about their visit on Trip Advisor.
2 – Consider adding guest comments to your own site.
You can get a feed from Trip Advisor which places their comments directly on your site. The second option is to get some user generated content software on your site that is moderated. The guest is able to fill out a comment about their stay, but before it goes live and is added to your site, you can review it and either allow it to be published or not.
1 – If you haven’t already done so, consider creating a blog.
A destination blog covers all of the above – the articles you write about your area can inspire ideas and give practical advice. The moderated comments your visitors make give others perspective, not only about what others think of your hotel, but what they thing of the area, the dining choices, the transportation. Here is a sample of a blog we just launched, http://www.travelguidebaltimore.com/, hopefully it will inspire you!
Contributed by: Holly Zoba, Milestone Internet Marketing