Static Hotel Websites are a marketing nightmare
A doomed business marketing tool

Spurred on by the “Act Now and Get Two for One” article I was going to write a comment. I like commenting because I’m not a great blogger with a lot of journalistic talent, but commenting gives me the opportunity to be part of a story. Commenting provides a great way of participating view points often overlooked or not sufficient clarified in the article.

Of course that is a personal opinion and not everyone feels up to actively participate in a story which I find a contradiction to the behavior of not sharing your viewpoints on news sites or even hotel and resort sites.

Most people today have a Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or other internet medium account(s) to communicate with peers, colleagues and friends about trends and hot news, yet hesitate to comment on News, or experiences encountered in their travels. Be it business or leisure travel, both are for many people exciting highlights in their daily lives.

The Professional Traveler

I hear the groaning of those that travel for business that they don’t like it and wish they could stay home and conduct their business from home, but very shallow as I observe the business and leisure travelers in the airports, most LOVE to talk about their outings, the hotels and resorts they stay in.

Yessss, most business travelers complain when you strike up a conversation while waiting for your connecting flight in the airports, but when you listen closely it is mostly the part of the getting from point A to Point B they complain about.

No, it is a complete different story the moment these professional travelers start talking about the hotels and resorts they have stayed in during their travels, the scenery they have taken in, the services they have received, the people they have met in their “put their head down and sleep” places. When you listen carefully, you would actually think they stayed months rather then a day or two at these “second homes”.

Their elaborations go on for minutes or even larger segments of an hour and these true Experts for Hotel Ratings can give you the finer details about what they liked about breakfast, the pool service, the fitness room, the masseur, the bellhop, the receptionists, the activities desk staff, the Golf Caddies to even the maids.

Oops, did I mess up. did Maids get another name? I’m not sure. Maybe “Interior Suite Attendants”. If so, I apologize.

Yet I never hear them talk about The CEO, The Hotel Manager, The Marketing Manager or even The Event or Activity Coordinator. In my 30 or so years of listening to travel experiences hardly ever a word about the hotel management is spoken.

My Beef with Resort Websites

And here is where my beef starts with hotel and resort websites. Exceptions duly noted, hardly any Hotel or Resort website features the people that count for any traveler, business of leisure. These websites feature the CEO, The Marketing Manager and Activities Coordinator, yet completely neglect any mention at all about “The Staff” beyond some generalities about friendliness and some other meaningless copy catted page fillers.

But my beef doesn’t end there. All these professional and leisure traveling people have excellent opinions, good and bad, yet to date I have to see Resort and Hotel websites that invite them to comment. Strangely enough in almost every hotel room there is a comment form that invites you to comment and rate from the soap that is used in the bathrooms to the freshness of the bagels for breakfast and everything in between, yet NOT ONE form has ever encouraged the guest, which most of them travel with a laptop these days, to log-on to hotel website and WRITE comments or even ratings.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re a value shopper and not a bargain hunter for the cheapest hotel room in town. Sure price is an important factor but price for value is much more the ultimate deciding factor.

Do I trust the Hotel website’s passive “Claim to Fame Self Indulgent Brochure Type Written Content”? I don’t think so and neither does 90+% of the rest of the traveling populations around the world. We rather listen to a complete stranger’s recommendations on facebook, tripadvisor, and other social media then dream and getting convinced by the website copy that our choice of where we are “putting our head down” is the right value for our money.

Living in a Tourism Driven Economy

The last 20 years I’ve been living in a tourism driven economy in the Caribbean as a marketeer and for the most part a webmaster and only once I have been able to convince a “putting your head down service” not to create a Website Brochure but an actual blog site with commenting and rating system. A mid sized Boutique Hotel. Within 3 months of their operation with their new website which they seriously maintained, upgraded and wrote daily stories on, their overall occupancy increased by 91% compared to the previous period a year earlier with a standard, static brochure type website.

Did I have anything to do with their success? I like to think so but know better. I merely gave the hotel an interactive tool to communicate with past and potential guests. The family run boutique hotel did the lion share by writing about the weather, the upcoming events and activities, the beaches, the traffic, the expansion plans, new additions to the hotel such as a spa, and they wrote about personal experiences relayed from their staff, the guest that lost his or her room key or locked him or herself out of the room, the sun burned guest, the fishing stories from guests, the day trips and experiences on the dinner cruises, the restaurants their guest visited right down to the broken down toilet in room number 9.

Management encouraged guests to comment and even write a story or two about their visit to St. Maarten on their blog in stead of filling out a form. And the more they saw how people interacted they realized that true live and life stories, the good and the bad, only raised their occupancy numbers and “bad comments” where not deleted but it gave them a chance to rectify and satisfy a “disgruntled” guest through the same commenting system for everyone to read.

That’s what you and I as a traveler look for when weighing price for value. The personal touch, the recommendations and experiences of other guests rather then just look at the room rate. The moment you arrive at your hotel of choice you should know the receptionist by name, where the restrooms are and how to get to your room and the maid’s name that cleans your mess on a daily basis. That to me is more important then the faceless name of the CEO or the manager of the resort or hotel.

There’s a sad ending to the Family Run Boutique hotel. A sudden passing away of the Matriarch of the family, a very astute business women in her late 70’s, ignited a family feud that eventually let to the sale of the hotel and the new owners had other ideas about how to use their website as a marketing tool.

It’s too early to tell if they are right or wrong and the current economic downturn may not be a great measuring stick to compare the marketing value of a traditional website versus the prior blog site, but most certainly there is no updating going on and neither are comments prominent anymore since that feature was eradicated from the new website and now it looks like a nice online brochure again.

A shame in my personal opinion because I like reading comments and comment myself once and a while and so do 90%+ of those that search the internet for information. Be it for recommendations for a hotel or a gadget such as the launch of the Apple iPad today, the power has shifted from passive marketing messages to the voice of the people and that’s what counts.

Give us your opinion on how you seek and validate your choice of your next purchase or vacation.