If your hotel or bed and breakfast didn’t have much of an online presence prior to the pandemic and you managed to scrape by, it’s become even more important for you to have one now. As most of the world went into lockdown, the travel industry went to a halt. No one was allowed to travel outside the home, let alone plan a vacation and book hotel rooms. While all of this was going on, though, everything became more digitalized than ever before – making the internet a necessary part of communication and business.
More travellers are moving online to research and book their stays. So, having a website allows your home away from home to be found by the majority of those booking rooms. It’s time to build a brand that can become something people recognize, trust, share with their networks, and choose over other options. If we can’t emphasize its importance enough, here are some more benefits to having a website as a bed and breakfast or small hotel.
A B&B Website Simplifies The Entire Booking Process
If you’ve been relying on phone bookings to manage your reservations, odds are that you’re also using a pencil and calendar to schedule and book rooms. Not only is this tedious work, but it keeps your front desk clerk completely held up from being able to talk with the people walking in – because she’s too busy answering the phone.
By building a website with an easy-to-navigate booking system, all of your rooms are booked and reserved automatically. All credit card and guest information are stored properly and there’s no opportunity for a booking to get lost. Plus, because everything is automatic – even the email confirmations sent to your guests – your front desk people can focus on the present guests and making their stay as comfortable as possible.
Most People Prefer to Book Online
Especially for the younger generation, no one wants to talk on the phone if they don’t have to. Going online to reserve is the preferred method. 700 million people will be booking their hotel rooms online by 2021 – that’s 83% of the population that prefers online bookings. In order to stand out from the big hotel names as any form of competition, you need to be where your guests are.
Honestly, other than word of mouth, which is great, we can’t think of any other reason why someone who frequently uses the internet for most of their tasks wouldn’t choose to book online. Having this booking as part of your website and not just a listing on a travel website gives your hotel or B&B authenticity and something for people to find to learn more about your destination.
It Solidifies The Trust Factor
Even if you’ve managed to list your hotel on a travel website, not having a brand website of your own can still sway potential guests away. People today want to trust the brands they interact with – and if they’re going to trust you to provide a home for them while on their travels, they’re going to no doubt attempt to learn more about you.
Having a website that outlines who you are, why you’re doing this, and what sets your hotel apart from the competition can be a huge motivator in itself to complete a booking. Not only that, but having gorgeous photos of the rooms, your amenities, and other parts of your B&B or small hotel is what travellers want to see. We’ll even look close at the beds in the photo to see if they look clean enough.
Build Your Reputation
Customer reviews are another huge part of what potential guests want to see before booking. Travellers want to know what your previous guests loved about your location and what they didn’t. They’ll want to find out if families with children enjoyed their stay or if it was a great spot for business travellers. How you respond to the less-than-perfect reviews on your website will also have an impact; keeping it positive and choosing to solve problems to make the guest happy is key.
Guest reviews are absolutely key to success as an independent hotel or B&B. The more positive reviews you have, the better reputation you will build which in turn attracts more visitors and more revenue to your hotel. Absolutely zero reviews are just as bad or worse than having too many negative reviews. Having a website that shares these reviews – and sending out emails requesting a review in exchange for a discount on their next stay – will build this reputation over time.
Increases Your Brand Recognition and SEO
Here’s the great thing about websites. They build SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which means that the more content you have and share on your website, the higher the chance you’ll be found when someone goes to Google to find a hotel room. It’s important to have the right keywords used within your website which are words that someone who would likely book with you would search on Google. For example, if you own a B&B in Aylesbury, you would use both “bed and breakfast” and “Aylesbury” multiple times within your website. Having strong SEO on your website improves the chances that you will fall near the top of Google’s search results.
The more content you share (having a blog hugely contributes to your SEO), other travel and related industry websites will backlink to you as a reputable thought leader in your industry, which will improve your overall brand recognition. This is where we’d love to get into how important social media is to brand recognition, but that’s an article for another day.
Attract Customers to Book Directly
Having a website will attract customers to book directly instead of through travel agencies and websites that take a cut for themselves. Most Millennials prefer to book with travel websites and agencies because it’s convenient to see all of the hotels available within a location and choose the one that matches a budget, distance preference, and more. This doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t choose to book directly if your website was optimized to do so. A growing number of people are aware of the cut that travel agencies take – and the stress that comes when issues arise (we’d much rather talk directly to you with a problem instead of having to wait on hold with a travel website).
They may search your website not only to vouch for your reputation but also to support small businesses. If your website proves your excellent customer service, has some form of rewards system or membership that makes guests feel privileged to book directly, it’s going to be an obvious choice.
Higher Return on ROI
How much money do you put into advertising each year? As a small hotel or B&B it may feel like you need to work twice as hard to stand out among the big hotel brands. Building a website has a relatively low investment cost. Other than paying for your website subscription, your domain, and for someone to design the overall look, it’s pretty much a low-budget marketing choice. If you’re tech-savvy or know someone who is, the overall cost will go down even further.
Because of the low investment, your potential for higher returns is huge. Every time someone visits your website leaves a review, or book directly, you’re measuring it as a return on your initial investment. Unlike some marketing techniques such as billboards and benches, it’s tough to know what worked and what didn’t. Digital marketing makes it easy to see what marketing efforts are increasing your revenue. Your website will have an analytics tool that will do all of the data gathering and analysis for you – so you don’t need to be a professional marketer.
One Final Note…
The world has evolved in a short amount of time due to the pandemic and the necessity of being online has become. Thanks to the website platforms and building tools, you don’t need to be a web developer to create a simple yet effective website that will promote your brand and ensure you keep your rooms full. Now that we’re opening up to travel, all of us who have been stuffed up in our homes for a year can’t wait to get out and experience the world again. Being ahead of the competition by building your online presence (via a website as your foundation), will ensure you can benefit from this renewed freedom.