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If the online traveler looks for accommodations in your destination, they should be able to find your hotel website through the search engines, your website affiliates, destination portals and travel websites.

In hospitality your Internet approach is a two-step process:

  • Hotel website marketing: turning your hotel website into a 24/7 sales force: booking engine, website optimization, website functionality, customer e-mail capture, eCRM features.
  • Search engine strategy: search engine optimization of your website, making your website visible to the search engines, improving its positioning on the search engines, listing it with the major search engine worldwide, domain name strategy, etc.

This direct-to-consumer model should become the foundation, the centerpiece of your hotel's online distribution strategy. Why?

  • It is the cheapest way to distribute your inventory: the cost of a booking via your website could be as low as $4 - $5 while a reservation via your call center would cost a minimum of $10 - $15. Or as an owner how much is your time worth?
  • It provides you with long-term competitive advantages.
  • It lessens your dependence on intermediaries, discounters or traditional channels that are about to become obsolete.

Hotel Website Marketing

The hotel website is not an online brochure, it is your 24/7 sales and marketing tool. It should be simple, nice, informative, useful and efficient. That is why many major brands and lodging companies have streamlined and simplified their websites. 

Do you have a real-time booking engine? The booking engine should be prominently displayed on the Home Page and become the "heart" of the hotel website. All web pages within the website should prominently feature the "Online Reservations" or "Book Now" button.

Numerous studies show that savvy Internet users, most likely a substantial portion of your most valuable customers, will not book a hotel/motel.B7B/Condo, etc., that does not offer a real-time booking on its website. And if you have a booking engine is it capable of booking in real-time transient, corporate rates, preferred rates, special accounts and promotional rates, hotel packages and group reservations? Do you offer a full array of bookable hotel packages, family packages, and weekend specials on your website? Do you offer online real-time booking for group and convention housing inventory?

Search Engine Strategy

85% of Internet users rely on search engines to locate relevant information on the Web (e.g. Yahoo, AltaVista, etc). Independent lodging companies that are not part of a major brand and do not have the marketing budget and name recognition of a major brand must rely even more on search engine referrals.

Therefore positioning your hotel website on the Web is an extremely important component of your overall Internet marketing strategy. When people search for "Your Hotel" does your hotel appear as listing # 130 on search result page # 7? Or does it appear at all? Internet users rarely go beyond the second or third results page.

How can your hotel improve its ranking on the top search engines? This is a two-step process.

  • First, your website should be optimized for the outside cyber-world. Website optimization deals with the target keywords (the visible hotel and location specific keywords), page titles, description tags and meta-tags (invisible keywords), page size and download speeds, etc.
  • Second, once the site is ready, comes the search engine strategy. It includes domain name strategy (registering of alternative domain names and sub-domains), master submissions to the major search engines worldwide, automated monthly submission services, express registrations with the top search engines, etc.

If your hotel does not currently generate at least 8%-10% of your bookings from the Web, you should be concerned. Why? This year over 7% of all revenues in hospitality will be Internet-generated. If you do not fare better than the national averages, you are already behind your pro-active competitors.

Online distribution is here to stay. Travel suppliers, including hoteliers, are beginning to realize that online distribution is changing the "classic" distribution spectrum. Airlines and car rental companies are well ahead of hoteliers in aggressively adopting online distribution.

This year the airlines will record 18% (28% by 2004) and car rental companies 20% (25% by 2004) of all their revenues from online bookings. Three years from the Internet will contribute 18% of revenues in hospitality (PhoCusWright) and online bookings will surpass GDS bookings.

Hoteliers are beginning to like what they see: online distribution cuts costs, attracts affluent customers and lessens the dependency on more traditional and expensive channels.


Over 192 million North Americans are active Internet users (Nielsen) and 37 million of them have already purchased travel online. 

The Internet offers vast, interactive, rich media and most importantly, growing distribution market. All major brands have figured this out. Some hotels already generate 20%-30% of their bookings from the Internet.

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