Two researchers from the University of Portsmouth have published a report about the link between a hotel website’s quality and the company’s profitability.
Dr Alice Good and Arunasalam Sambhanthan studied hotels in Sri Lanka in their report – Strategic advantage in web tourism promotion: an ecommerce strategy for developing countries – but they say that their findings can broadly be applied across the sector in other parts of the world too, including the UK.
Their main discovery was simple: hotels which fail to spend the required time and money on their websites face a drop in bookings and therefore in profitability.
Dr Good said: “Hotels that rely upon web bookings are undoubtedly going to face a drop in bookings if they fail to keep pace with website design and the importance of it to customers.
“There is extensive research in how poor web design impacts upon both usability and accessibility in relation to ecommerce websites, with numerous examples of companies going out of business because of poor website design.”
Even when focusing on small hotels in developing countries, the two researchers concluded that customers expect a range of features on a hotel website. They also highlighted four key components that make up good hotel website design:
1. Promoting good website usability, including using ‘accessible’ typefaces and easy and intuitive navigation, and ensuring key information can be found within three clicks of the mouse;
2. Providing a good user experience, with the site being visually pleasing and encouraging users to return;
3. Promoting trustworthiness – the website is safe and secure and ‘feels’ safe to customers;
4. Ensuring that reservations can be made online with an email system to facilitate customer queries.
Dr Good added: “A website is the interface – the shop window – between businesses and their customers, and a poor user experience will reduce the chance of a customer committing to a business transaction.”