Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hotels with good web sites win

Hotels which fail to spend time and money on their websites face a drop in bookings and profitability, says Christina Eccles in the latest edition of Destination News UK.  According to a new study by researchers at the University of Portsmouth, customers expect a host of features on hotel websites, even when looking at small properties.

The researchers specifically studied hotels in Sri Lanka, which aim to attract western business travellers, but say their findings apply broadly across the sector. Dr Alice Good of the University said: “Hotels that rely upon web bookings are undoubtedly going to face a drop in bookings if they fail to keep pace with website design and the importance of it to customers.

“…poor web design impacts upon both usability and accessibility in relation to e-commerce websites, with numerous examples of companies going out of business because of poor website design. A website is the interface – the shop window – between businesses and their customers and a poor user experience will reduce the chance of a customer committing to a business transaction.

“A poorly designed website will also reduce the chances of a customer returning to the website and increase the chance that they will tell others – often through social media – very quickly about a poor experience.”

According to the study, the four key elements of good hotel website design are:
  • Website usability, including using ‘accessible’ typefaces, easy and intuitive navigation and key information (which) can be found within three clicks of the mouse.
  • Providing a good user experience  -  it should be visually pleasing and encourage users to return
  • Trustworthiness -  the website is safe and secure and ‘feels’ safe to customers
  • Ensuring that reservations can be made online and there is an email system to facilitate customer queries
Researcher Arunasalam Sambhanthan added: “Hotels, like any other business, should be prepared to spend a significant proportion of their budget on the security of their website. To far too many companies, security is an afterthought, but the issue of trustworthiness and customers’ perception of a safe site impact heavily upon e-commerce.

“People quickly form impressions of web security and a website that engenders a feeling of trust will inspire customers to be more confident about booking and paying online.”

So sound simple stuff that applies not only to hotels but anyone operating in the tourism and leisure sector, particularly with a web site that takes bookings or sells products and services.
Destination News UK is here

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