How do I create a website for a hotel?

There are really only two ways to build a hotel website: DIY or hire a professional. I strongly recommend the latter. So before we get into the different features you need, let me quickly explain your options. There are all sorts of reasons you might want to DIY your hotel website — budget, I’m guessing, would be #1. Now… I don’t mean to discourage intrepid hoteliers from getting into the weeds and maybe learning a (valuable!) new skill… Today’s drag-and-drop website builders are powerful, but they have their limitations. As I walk you through the most important hotel website requirements, you’ll start to realize that the DIY route is not the best use of your valuable time or resources. Yes, it’s possible to put a good-looking site together yourself using a hotel website builder like Squarespace or Wix. But even the most capable, web-savvy hotel business owner can end up spending hours or even DAYS laboring every little detail, Googling HTML and trying to “hack” together the different features you need… Or… you know… don’t! Save yourself the headache and hire a professional. So, what features will you ask for? What should you make sure your developer is doing, right from the start? What are the must-haves and what’s just “nice to have”? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

What features are most important for a hotel website?

1. Responsive Design

Long gone are the days when hotels could get away with a website that wasn’t mobile-friendly. Research shows that more and more consumers are using multiple devices to research, plan, and book their travels. But what does it mean to have “responsive” design? Responsive design is an approach to web design that renders the site into the best format based on the screen size or device being used. Are you viewing this blog post on your phone? You’ll notice that my site’s navigation is condensed and hidden behind a simple menu folder up at the top. You also don’t have to pinch and zoom in on the text, because the font size has adjusted to fit the screen. How about on desktop? To see what I mean, use your cursor to hover over the left edge of the screen. You’ll see an arrow symbol (←→) appear. Click and drag the browser to the right and you’ll see that the page content automatically adjusts to fit the new screen size. Neat, eh? This, my friend, is responsive design. It’s an essential part of user experience — and your hotel website needs it.

2. Great Photography

High-quality images are an essential part of any hotel website design. It’s simple: customers want to know what it is they’re paying for. Hotel photography is often a major investment, I know. But it really is one of your most important assets, so if yours needs to be redone, add it to your hotel marketing budget ASAP. Your photography won’t just be living on your hotel website, by the way. If you need help getting the budget, remind the powers-that-be that you also need photos for sales collateral and social media strategy, as well as third-party listings and the GGS (that’s the Global Distribution System). Whether you’re opening a new hotel or just finished a renovation, it doesn’t hurt to revisit your images. Here’s a quick hotel photography shot list to reference: Front Exterior - aim for the most attractive angle(s), and get a mix of daytime, sunset/dusk, and night Hotel Lobby - with and without front desk colleagues Rooms - shoot every room category, if possible. Get a “hero” shot showing the full space, as well as details like the view, work area, and bedside. Don’t forget the bathrooms! Meetings - aim to showcase the flexibility of your meeting rooms by setting up different configurations Weddings & Events - if weddings and social events are part of your business strategy, you need a selection of supporting images. In this category, styled shots work best. You may want to hire models and dedicate time/budget for a separate photoshoot. Another option is to engage a past client (and their photographer), and ask if you can use the professional photos from a real wedding at your property. Dining - at minimum, aim for a few wide “hero” shots of your F&B outlets and some attractive shots of your standard menu offerings. You may want to also get an appealing photo of your in-room dining offering. Spa - if you have a spa, grab some “hero” shots and some detail photos of specific offerings like the massage area, beauty treatments, or sauna. Pool - resort amenities like a pool or beach access are particularly great to shoot from above with a drone! Other Amenities - this list could go on! The important thing is to capture what makes your property unique and attractive to potential guests. With hotel photography, more variety is better. Guests want to be able to picture themselves at your property! Make sure your hotel marketing budget covers photography. You need to have those “hero” shots at a minimum, but try to get more lifestyle images and detail shots if possible.

3. Speed

Speaking of high-quality images, they can really slow down your site if you let them. How often have you landed on a website that took ages to load? Modern attention spans are short. Don’t make them wait! The best hotel websites load in under 2-3 seconds. To help speed things up, try to limit the number of plugins and page redirects. (The what-now?) If your hotel website is built on WordPress — many of them are! — your web developer likely added a few “plugins” on the back end. Plugins are little add-ons that CAN help your site, such as Yoast for SEO or A kismet for stopping spam. It’s perfectly fine to have a few plugins, but don’t let your developer over-do it. Page redirects happen when you change the URL of a page, and then “redirect” the old one to the new one. Again, this is something that’s perfectly OK in small doses — but don’t have too many.

4. Direct Booking Engine

Friendly reminder: The purpose of a hotel website is to generate direct bookings! One of the most important hotel website features is a secure, PCI-compliant, integrated booking engine that syncs up with your hotel’s property management system (PMS). While a user explores your website, that “Book Now” button should remain visible — ideally, locked into position along the top or bottom of their screen. Contrary to popular lore, there’s no “magic” color to use for your call-to-action buttons. All that matters is that it stands out, so pick something that complements your brand color scheme. You also want to choose an online booking system that plays nicely with the rest of your website. Look for a hotel booking engine with a seamless, responsive design. The point is to keep visitors ON your website, not clicking your “Book Now” button and being taken onto a new web page to book. (Your friends in revenue management will thank you!)

5. Lead Capture

While direct bookings are the main goal of your hotel website, conversions aren’t limited to room reservations. You have other revenue streams and other goals to support, from meeting and event inquiries to restaurant reservations. Make sure your hotel website offers clear direction to meeting planners and prospective wedding bookers. How do they submit an RFP? To get more prospects in your inbox and site visits on the books, your contact information needs to be front and center. Your hotel should also collect leads (email addresses) in order to communicate directly with potential customers.

6. COVID-19 Info Page

Note: As of Spring 2022, COVID is still an ongoing global event and many destinations still have restrictions in place. To be honest, travel and hotel operations will likely remain impacted by COVID in the long-term. Right now many destinations still need a hotel COVID-19 info page.

Final Thoughts

I consider those first eleven features your “must-haves” or your main hotel website requirements. Again, I think adding a hotel blog and live chat can be super valuable in some cases, but they’re not always necessary! Did I miss anything else? What other features are important when you create a hotel website? Let me know what you think in the comments!tech And while you’re here, I created something for you that will make writing your hotel website way easier — and dare I say it, more fun

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