Independent hoteliers must make the most of internet search engines or face becoming obsolete, leading marketeers warned this week.
Richard Hyde, chief marketing officer of internet consultancy Openworld, told hoteliers last week at the National Hotel Marketing Conference in Birmingham that they must keep up with internet developments or risk losing business.
He urged smaller businesses to make search engine "pay per click" facilities central to their online marketing strategies, and also warned that positioning in online search results was crucial.
"If you are not in the top six listings you need to adapt your website and add key words to get a higher ranking in organic searches," said Hyde. "With pay per click, it's worth bidding that bit more to get a top three ranking, as you only pay on performance."
Martin Phillips, director of the Recommended Hotels consortium, said business in its 20 properties had increased by up to 300% in the past 18 months after improvements were made to websites and search engine rankings. "The more you put into the internet the more you get out of it," he added.
Research shows that 73% of travellers now use internet search engines before making a booking, with 76.6% of those searching by a broad generic term and only 21.5% by a specific hotel brand.
So far this year a quarter of all hospitality revenue has been generated on the internet, an increase of 12% from 2004.
Top ten internet marketing tips
Regulary check and reply to internet enquiries throughout the day.
Ensure your website reflects your product.
Set up online packages.
Create added calue for online bookers, such as complimentary bottle of wine
Work with lots of different search engines.
Get on the national Tourist Product Database - it's free.
Check what the competition is doing.
Get good photography - pictures sell.
Track what works and what doesn't and adjust your site accordingly.