First, some facts and figures.....
Accommodation searches are a key role of destination websites but should your site include the ability to book accommodation online?
If you look simply at the market trends, the answer would probably have to be yes. For instance, figures from UKTS illustrate the rapid rise in internet bookings for domestic holidays and short breaks. The survey shows that use of the internet as a booking method has risen from 4% in 2000 to 34% in 2011. However, for destination websites, the issue of whether or not to provide online accommodation booking functionality is a little more complex for the following reasons:
- There are many commercial sites through which to book online. To what extent should public money be spent creating an online booking system when there are already many commercial players in the market?
- Not all destinations have large amounts of accommodation stock and therefore it doesn’t necessarily make sense to provide this functionality
- The main markets for some destinations are local residents and day trippers rather than those requiring overnight accommodation
- Hotels and other forms of accommodation may enjoy good levels of occupancy. If this is the case in your destination, this means that accommodation providers are therefore not necessarily looking for additional ways to market such as that offered by a destination website
Ultimately, only you will be able to decide whether or not your site should include online booking of accommodation.
Tips and hints
Some suggested actions to improve the effectiveness of accommodation-based content on your website:
- Include a link to accommodation from your homepage. Accommodation should form part of your main navigation. Use action words such as “Find accommodation”, “Find a Place to Stay” or “Book Accommodation”
- Don’t just provide list of accommodation as PDFs or Word documents. Although it can be useful to provide a downloadable list of accommodation, you should also provide web pages that contain accommodation information
- Include more than an address and phone number. Users on your site are looking for more than the sort of information they could find in a telephone or online directory such as Yell. Include a brief description of the accommodation and include photographs as well as a website and email address
- Communicate the benefits to users of choosing assessed only accommodation. One of the Unique Selling Points (USP’s) of official sites such as yours is the confidence it should instil that the bookable accommodation is quality assessed. It makes sense to sell the benefits of this policy to users
- If online booking is available, promote it strongly. Where on-line booking is not provided on your site consider flagging up where users can book online either directly through the accommodation provider or a third party
- Offer ways to sort and filter results. The ability to narrow results by filtering or sorting the accommodation database should be provided both for users searching and those that are browsing