There’s a project we’re working on at WIHP which I am quite excited about. It’s in beta, even though it produces quite well already, and we’re constantly adding features and correcting little things with it. It’s called www.explorotel.com.
The idea came about from a few different viewpoints, one a few of us had been booking hotels for vacations and found that existing OTAs are everything but user-friendly. If you don’t know what hotel you want to stay at and if you don’t know the city you are going then locating a hotel can be a drag. For example, you find a hotel in a city that is within your budget, the location seems OK, then you click on the hotel’s page to look at the photos and to your horror, the place looks like it was the set for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. When you click back your search criteria are gone and you can start all over again.
And this can go on for hours until you find the hotel you want. That was the user viewpoint.
Then came the programmer viewpoint, some of the engineers at WIHP are speed-freaks, and correctly so. They were tired of seeing sites that took forever to load the first page and wanted something well structured that could build into something large and remain fast on load. So they went to town as well.
And then was the hotelier viewpoint, the cost. They needed something that would give them a good return on investment. So we worked out two ways of subscribing to the system, one was a fixed price membership and for those that didn’t want to take the risk, the classical commission system.
We called it Explorotel because it’s sort of a new way to search and explore a hotel listing. The idea is that the user gets maximum control of the listing and can search with all the criteria he wants and in the end find what he is looking for.
For example some of us (me included) really want to see the room of the hotel before we book. Even more important than the location is the comfort of the hotel and will it be a proper comfort. We made a “photo search” tab where you put in your city, then price range and search for a hotel.
We also thought a fun and practical way to search for hotels is against the map of the city. But we wanted to do two things, one speed up map search – this is typically a tremendously long and complex loading procedure especially if you’re going to have prices showing immediately. And that was the challenge, to have dynamic pricing against the map of the city. While it isn’t yet perfect it’s pretty fast and works quite well.
Then we needed wanted help guests with reviews, real reviews from people that have stayed at the hotel and we figured that being able to sort the hotels by the type of guests or reviews would be helpful too. For example, if you’re looking for the best value hotel in a city, you can find it. If you’re looking for the cleanest hotel in the city you can find that too.
These are just some of the features, as you navigate through the site you’ll probably notice a whole bunch more. For example every page and search mode has a real url which means you can link to an exact search criteria and send it to a friend. You can also create an anonymous listing of selected hotels and share that with a friend. The list goes on, try it out and have fun. As a hotelier you can submit your hotel to the list by contacting us, however for the moment we’re only accepting hotels that have Synxis booking engine or Availpro.
We’ve taglined the project with “Rethink hotel search” and I think it’s quite appropriate since many of these are new ways to make hotels more visible on the internet and thus help both hoteliers and guests.
If you’ve got ideas you want to share feel free to comment on this article, we’re open to everything. It doesn’t mean we will implement them all but we’ll definitely look at them and get in touch with you.
Could iTunes becomes the new Paypal? In mobile shopping, it is quite hard to imagine someone pulling out their credit card in the metro and entering it on their mobile to complete the purchase of their hotel room. Not too many people would feel comfortable with that.
But what about all those people that have an iPhone who already have an iTunes account. All the booking engine would need to do is connect to iTunes, the user puts in his password and the purchase it done.
I can’t imagine that our Apple friends haven’t already started planning to change iTunes into “Apple Financial Services” or something like that and become a direct competitor to Paypal. If they do it would be that much easier for us to sell our hotel inventories to mobile users.
And all those potential guests that are wasting their time waiting for a bus or the metro could spend it searching for and booking their hotel rooms.
Maybe that’s all part of iTravel.
I noticed quite some hotels have not purchased the link to their website on their Tripadvisor page, which was understandable at first. I purchased the link for some hotels I was consulting to see the result.
Of course like everything new we thought this would be an avalanche of visits and bookings. After all we all know how important good or bad reviews are, so wouldn’t a link be great?
Well it didn’t really change things on the bookings to the websites we put it on so overall I can’t say it changed the range of direct bookings.
However looking into it more specifically here are some figures:
Hotel A, hotel located in the top 20 hotels in Paris, 6.3% of the direct bookings on their website over the last 2 month came from Tripadvisor. I’ll clarify here that Tripadvisor is the first contact those guests had with the hotel.
However Hotel B, which is also located in the tip 20 hotels in Paris only had 2.4% of their direct bookings come from Tripadvisor.
Hotels located much lower than that in the Tripadvisor ranking had much less impact.
Now that is when looking for Tripadvisor as the first referrer. This means no prior contact with the hotel.
But the value of the link goes further than that. It’s not about using it to bring brand new customers, but rather to increase your hotel’s chance in getting direct bookings…
The booking process currently goes something like this (and part of this is estimated):
Search Engine -> OTA -> Tripadvisor -> OTA or Hotel Website
If you want to increase your chance of getting taking a larger market share towards your website, then do everything you can to add your website link on the Tripadvisor page.
But that strategy (to pull in as much traffic as possible towards your site) isn’t just done on Tripadvisor, it’s an overall strategy you need to adopt in all your online marketing.
Your Booking Engine is more important than you think. In fact upward of 60% of the navigation by the customers happens on the booking engine.
If you booking engine can show the rooms, show them well, show the rates, have a streamlined check-out process you will increase conversions.
Complicated navigation, small or bad images, overwhelming check-out process hurt the booking process so much you are loosing sales.
You’ll be astonished how “facts and figures” the current bookers are. They don’t want the bling bling websites, they want the straight dope and an easy choice system.
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