If you are a hotel professional then you probably know the importance of online marketing, in regards to achieving sales goals and high online conversion rates. There are many pieces to this complex puzzle, but the purpose of this article is to focus on one important piece that is often overlooked by hotel general managers, management companies, and sales managers alike. That piece of the puzzle is online rich media, specifically hotel virtual tours and high-quality photography.
Online rich media can mean many different things to hoteliers and to potential guests. Rich media can be a 360 degree interactive virtual tour. It can be a web-based streaming video that is able to be shared with others. It can be an interactive Flash presentation or application. It can also be an interactive photo slideshow. Rich media can be downloaded to a user’s computer, presented on a CD or DVD, and/or distributed and viewed via the Internet. The main point here is that rich media engages people and puts them in control of the content that they are viewing.
In the hotel industry, rich media allows potential guests to immerse themselves in a property prior to actually booking a reservation. It allows people to educate themselves and make informed decisions before actually pulling out their credit cards to book a stay at a hotel or resort. Needless to say, the rich media that is produced for a property must accurately reflect what the property actually has to offer. How many times have you gone online to book a hotel room and were presented with outdated photos and virtual tours that paint a horrible picture of the property, only to find out later that the property has recently been fully remodeled with new bedding, flat screen televisions, landscaping and other amenities? That property is cutting themselves short and losing business. Or even worse, have you ever been presented with generalized media that does not accurately reflect the actual property that you are booking a room with. You arrive for check-in and are astonished by the poor condition of the hotel and the room you are about to stay in. You tell the front desk staff or the manager, “This isn’t the same place I saw online!” The importance of rich media in a hotel’s overall marketing plan cannot be stressed enough. Keeping this media current is very important.
According to recent industry statistics, over half of all Internet users have taken virtual tours and the numbers are increasing daily. Millions of people view hotel virtual tours, online hotel videos, hotel photo slideshows, and hotel photos online each and every single day! At the end of 2007, approximately 300 million people were surfing the Internet over a broadband connection, opening up an extremely large audience that can experience rich media without waiting a long time for content to download. Hoteliers must realize the value of rich media content and the influence it has on its potential guests’ decision making. Hoteliers need to provide high quality content to the ever-increasing population of broadband Internet users in order to compete in the current marketplace.
Inflation, war, high fuel costs, and airlines that nickel-and-dime their passengers are all working against the hospitality industry. According to the Travel Industry Association, “The July Travel Price Index, TPI, rose 9.4 percent compared to July 2007. Gasoline prices increased 0.7 percent from June and jumped 38.3 percent from one year ago. Lodging prices were down 0.2 percent compared to July 2007 and increased 3.1 percent from last month. Airfares increased 19.9 percent against twelve months earlier and rose 2.1 percent from previous month. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI-U, was up 5.6 percent from July 2007.”
People are just not travelling as much as they used to. Family vacations are being reduced from multi-week trips across the country to simple one day visits to the local parks and attractions. Times are tough, and so is the competition in the hotel business! Simply stated… the hotels and resorts that invest in high-quality virtual tours, photography and other rich media will have the competitive edge over properties that do not. They will see higher conversion rates and will retain more repeat visitors. They will build loyalty and trust with their guests by providing accurate visual content that helps them make more informed decisions.