Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective?
By Neil L. Salerno
Monday, 20th February 2006
There are almost as many opinions on this subject as there are Web Sites. Of course the true answer to this question is that a Web Site can be creative and effective.

Just a few short years ago, many hoteliers had Web Sites built because everyone seemed to be doing it. Now, awareness of the marketing and selling capabilities of the net, is beginning to peak. Obviously, more and more consumers are losing their reluctance to use their credit cards to make real-time reservations on the net. Their numbers are growing exponentially. Secondly, as hoteliers, we are always seeking new and cost-effective ways to capture occupancy.

For several years, there were few Web Masters who were hotel savvy and, therefore, there are still many hotels and hotel company sites that are very attractive but not very effective. Sites, which take forever to download, even a minute is a long time online; pretty but confusing design; and those which complicate the reservation process; these are just a few obstacles to getting a greater share of online reservations. It has always amused me how deliberate hoteliers can be when selecting an ad agency; yet do little to seek experienced hotel marketers to help design their Web Site.

There are many ways to make your Internet Marketing effective. Okay, here is a good basic place to start.

Internet Strategy

Create your overall Internet strategy. Create a vision of your message. Your Web Site should reflect your property type; resort versus airport versus downtown hotel. List the topics, which need to be covered to sell your hotel and don't minimize the reservations section. Each page should tell a complete story. Fewer clicks mean happier visitors.

By all means, establish a budget specifically for electronic marketing. Measure your return-on-investment; it validates your expenditures.

If your web master is not from the hotel business or marketing field, consult an experienced hotel marketer for eMarketing advice.


Digital photography isn't nearly as expensive or as time-consuming as it was to produce print photography. Use current photography. Use low-density pictures so photos on your site download quickly. Remember, many people still don't have high-speed Internet. The real slick sites even give people a choice of high-speed or modem right on their home page. Clever idea.

I am not a strong proponent of virtual tours, unless they are designed to show something very unique. In my humble opinion, they have become overused.

Body Copy

Fancy fonts look nice, but totally fail if they are faint, small, and difficult to read. Fancy, but not very effective. Get your message across in fewer words. Two and one half minutes is the average time spent to view a page.

Booking Engine

Use a good, quick booking engine. The booking engine is obviously the heart of your Web Site. People prefer real-time reservations availability. The booking engine you select should give you the ability to capture email addresses of visitors who enter your site, as well as those who make reservations. It is also important to have the ability to maintain your database in a simple usable format.

Have the ability to also post packages and track third party travel agent reservations on your site through your booking engine. If you have a corporate hotel, it's a good idea to have your booking engine give you the flexibility to issue passwords to clients to enter priority sections of your reservations site.

Search Engine Placement Strategy

Your site cannot be very effective unless you have the ability to drive visitors to your site. Many hotels use Meta tag codes, pay-per-click sites, and promotions to drive visitors. They all enhance your ability to capture new visitors.

Web Marketing Data

There are several good and inexpensive web attachments to help you manage the effectiveness of your site. Some may give you more information than you need, but you will be able to extract enough good solid information to direct improvements to your site and track important visitor information.

I have only listed the basic needs for your site. There are many additional enhancements available, which only require a little creativity and marketing direction to make your Web Site more productive. Your Web Site can be an effective tool to capture a larger share of your market. It should be a work-in-progress to tweak and constantly update and improve. The Internet is not the wave of the future; it is here now.


Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA, Hotel Marketing Coach www.hotelmarketingcoach.com

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