Managing your independent hotel for the future #2: Online Presence

With the latest post in our new “Managing your independent hotel for the future” blog series, our message is simple: Independent hotels need a strong online presence to remain competitive and protect their business.

Web-based tools, such as search engines, direct and 3rd party booking sites, social media, and consumer review sites, are changing how travelers discover destinations, make reservations and share their experiences – all of which directly impact independent hotel performance. Having a digital network that funnels travelers into booking channels is essential for independent hotels to generate the revenue needed to achieve long-term growth and sustainability. But in addition to driving financial performance, a strong online presence helps independent hotels protect themselves from online deception. Let’s take a look at how this works:

Helps prevent identity theft
Online identity theft isn’t just a consumer issue, it’s a major problem for hotels. Fake hotel sites are collecting 15 million bogus reservations, costing $1.3 billion, a year. While it’s impossible to police the entire internet, independent hotels can better protect themselves by establishing an online network that provides consumers with legitimate channels to research and book rooms.
Maintaining updated social media pages, an active TripAdvisor account and various online travel agencies with links to legitimate hotel websites makes it difficult for digital thieves to steer traffic to fake sites. For example, thieves looking to create fake social media hotel profiles will have a much harder time impersonating properties with established online communities as opposed to hotels that do not utilize social media. It’s unfortunate, but without a strong online presence, independent hotels inadvertently create opportunities for digital thieves to continue defrauding trusting consumers.

Builds trust with travelers
It must be true if it’s on the internet, right? Although this phrase is tongue-in-cheek, it underscores the trust between consumers and hotels that allows online bookings to occur, while also contributing to why digital thieves are able to defraud so many people. Fake booking sites are designed to look real – that’s why, tragically, they work so well. What makes matters worse is the damage from fake sites isn’t just financial, it also impacts the reputation of unsuspecting independent hotels – creating a potentially daunting repair job.

Today, building trust with travelers starts online. 64% of travelers view review sites like TripAdvisor for vacation ideas, so they’re observing how hotels engage with guests before clicking “Book Now.” Managing an independent hotel’s online presence is time consuming, but the benefits are extremely valuable. The brand loyalty cultivated through online engagement not only drives bookings during good times, it sustains hotels when disaster, like online booking fraud, unexpectedly strikes. Loyal customers are known to defend the brands they love when their reputations are challenged. Independent hotels that gamble by not establishing a strong online presence may save time in the short-term, but they may also find themselves short on luck if strong consumer support is needed during trying times.

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