The shrinking world is expanding the outreach of tourists. No more do hotels have a fully staffed reservation department with managers, assistant managers, supervisors and agents. The internet has conveniently replaced numerous phone calls, faxes and payment issues. Now potential guests just dial a toll-free number or book directly on the internet.
According to Forrester Research 32% of hotels revenues come through online bookings. They include both direct reservations and those made through third party websites. The travel industry allocates 29% of its marketing budget to online marketing. (Cullen)This is so because the importance of integration of E-Commerce with business strategies is realized. This is also because the nature of the traveler and travelling is changing. Present day travelers are hyper-interactive, who are texting, tweeting, emailing, communicating with friends via face book and commenting on their current or previous travels.
The advent of social media and mobile Web means that potential guests for the hospitality industry have continuous access to multi-channel interaction and sharing opinions. Thus hotel websites have to be designed in order to handle this hyper-interactive user. Thus hotel websites can no longer be static brochures with stale and boring context. (Max Starkov).
The Holiday Inn hotel is a subsidiary of the IHG group of companies. It is a brand which remains consistent towards the board. Guests at the 1874 Holiday Inn hotels around the world know that they will be treated well and have certain level of expectations regarding the service. In fact the idea for the Holiday Inn hotels came into the mind of its founder, Kemmons Wilson, when he was disappointed with the consistency of road side motels during a trip to Washington DC. Consistency is a great advantage when it comes to providing services. The art of total quality management lies with the hospitality greats like Marriott, Hilton and of course Holiday Inn but when it comes to social media policies and the ever changing world of the internet consistency has a huge down side.
Consistency is not the only key feature of the Holiday Inn hotels and resorts. Innovation goes side by side with consistency. Holiday Inn hotels were the first ones to introduce the Holidex reservation system giving its competitors a run for money. Holiday Inn hotels also initiated the idea for indoor pools, termed Holidromes, turning its hotels into resorts. This innovation and comfort, which is the landmark of the Holiday Inn hotels, should be made evident in the hotel website.
With the advent of time, Holiday Inn is now an established name in midscale provision of hospitality. This midscale travel market consists of 43% of travelers worldwide. (Hospital and tourism industry report:Q2 2010) and is the sector of the tourism industry which faces the highest competition. With the tourism industry recovering from the economic depression of 2009, the number of tourists is increasing, but at the same time the new tourist is more cost conscious and e-savvy. With social media’s burgeoning levels and websites like tripadvisor advising tourists on the wide range of living options available, the tourist might not fall for the reliability of brand names as the previous guests were.
The increasing travel trend resulting from economic recovery also means that the internet is bombarded with tourism information. This is so because due to economic conditions many hotel websites were abandoned during the past two years. The waking up of hoteliers means that new websites are profoundly different as they now cater to a different inventory distribution system, social media and cross channel marketing. Almost all new websites cater to mobile web applications and so does the Holiday Inn website.
With increased globalization of the economy and increased competition hotels cannot rely on their past successes. Holiday Inn and IHG are bound to know this well as the hotel chain lost considerable market share in the 1980’s. it is only after its re launch in 2007 that the hotel has again captured some part of its market segment. At the time of the re launch, the new hotel website was also launched.
Consumers that visit the hotel website find a user friendly environment. The site provides availability details, locations, room features and descriptions of the surrounding area. But provision of these details is not enough for the highly competitive hospitality industry. Holiday Inn hotels needs to develop a website which highlights its core competencies, tackles competition from market rivals and eliminates the bargaining power of buyers.
During the pre recession times, visitors were more satisfied with the Holiday Inn website than the industry average. This data was deployed from studies based on 31 websites of leading hospitality brands. It checked data based on the five most crucial dimensions of a visitors online experience. They were navigation, content, interactivity, motivation and adoption. The customer satisfaction was generally higher ranking in the 92nd percentile. (Website Satisfaction Soars at InterContinental Hotels Group)
In the year 2007, the content dimension was an area of strength for the website. The amount of details provided covered a vast range of aspects of visitor concern. Coupled with this was the fact that the data was very well structured and easy to navigate. This led to an adoption rating higher than the industry average, pointing to future site referrals and a strong likelihood to return. The website also fostered brand loyalty. According to Sasha Paine, an analyst at iperceptions, “There is no clearer indicator of a site’s effectiveness than its ability to build loyalty among its visitors.”(Website Satisfaction Soars at InterContinental Hotels Group)
The new virtual market place allows small companies to compete with industry giants. This means that Holiday Inn faces competition not just from hotel chains like Ramada and Hilton but also from small hotels. By looking at the hotel website we can easily find out that the website is high in content. The most critical section, which is the reservations section, is right in front for customer ease. The reservations section helps finds locations and provide all details regarding the Holiday Inn hotel in the area to be visited. On the downside it is known that only 32% of visitors visit a hotels website to make reservations. (Hospital and tourism industry report:Q2 2010) The rest visit either to find information or to compare rates. For visitors who are not lured by the brand into booking, the website should be appealing and catchy enough to ensure adoption or at least a revisit.
But what the website lacks is targeting new customer strategies. It seems that unlike other websites which appeal to new guests by providing reasons for staying at their hotels, the Holiday Inn relies on its brand name and preconceived notions about its excellence to get potential guests to make reservations. What is not realized is that website design is an illustrative art and making correct use of this art might ensure that visitors will not have to change pages or scroll down for the required information. A look at the key competitor Ramada’s website demonstrates this very well. Though the reservation section is still on the main page of the site, the opening window encompasses much more than only the reservation section. It eyes potential customers and not just visitors by ensuring that new deals are right under the visitor’s nose.
The slideshow of the Holiday Inn website is not very creative and is short with only 4 slides. Though it instantly appeal to the comfort factor and attracts business travelers immediately. The family and friends factor and fun travelling and living is excluded from the slide show. In contrast other websites have wider navigation menus and longer, swifter slideshows. Websites are using rich media foreg the Pueblo Bonito website and the Atlantis hotel in Dubai. Websites foreg theurbansuites.com are also trying to split visitors by demographics and visitor types to provide custom services. Websites have an increasing number of testimonials, blog links and some even have the press singing their praises. (Mackenzie) This you attitude employed by the website and marketing strategy appeals to visitors.
This paper looks at the need for developing a new website for the Holiday Inn hotels. It observes the changing trends in both website designs of the hospitality industry and nature of travelers. Data is collected from visitors to the website and their satisfaction is analyzed. Satisfaction is measured using variables which include content of the website, ease of navigation, interactivity, motivation and adoption. This is done by e-surveys and observing visitor behavior on the website. Conclusions are then drawn regarding visitor satisfaction. Since online reservations make up a chunk of all hotel reservations, it will be very important to pay due attention to either reconstructing or renovating the website if needed.
The new website can be developed by outsourcing the development of the website to some leading website developers specially related to the hospitality industry. Budgetary allocations will have to be made. They include consultancy costs, advertisement of the new website, Search Engine optimization costs and website development and mantainence. Research will have to be made on the percentage of revenues generated by the website, the potential for development and the amount competitors allocate towards online marketing and website development. Budget allocation and trends in the hospitality website industry along with weaknesses in the current website will provide guidelines for the new website.
The hotel marketing industry is a booming industry which caters exclusively to hospitality providers. Surveys are done and researches made to find out about visitor and guest behaviors. These researches aid hotel marketing advisors in development of new websites and to target customers. Special online surveys are designed to get visitor opinions and rate their satisfaction. Some of the works done in this regard are
The Iperceptions satisfaction index
It is the only metric device to measure exclusively customer satisfaction with an online channel. It provides advice to hoteliers on data mining and analyzes that data to provide results and draw conclusions.
The hospitality and tourism industry report
This caters to timely changes in the hospitality and tourism industry providing hoteliers with the current trends and predicting the future condition of the market.
Best practices in Hotel website design by Hospitality e-business strategies.
A report prepared by hospitality e-business industries which looks at the importance of websites for hotels and outlines ways to do so.
Best Practices for Maximizing Your Hotel’s Online Revenue & ROI by Kathreen Cullen. This white paper is a survey which as the name suggests helps hotels maximize their online revenue.
Although the content of these reports and many others which try to integrate E-Commerce with hospitality are industry specific but they provide broad guidelines for the Holiday Inn hotels.
This paper will focus on how the Holiday Inn hotels should conduct its research? what would be the methodology of research and what strategies would be involved. The limitations of the research and the potential for advanced features on the Holiday Inn website will also be discussed.
As Del Ross, vice president of Americas Distribution marketing for IHG, claims “We truly believe in the paramount value of knowing our customers and capturing
their opinions in the context of their actual online experiences by implementing improvements” research for the new website will be centered around customer opinion and satisfaction.
Data collection and methodology.
Advanced research methods will have to be employed to gather data from website visitors. According to Cooper and Schindler (Methods) qualitative studies may be combined with quantitative ones to increase the perceived quality of the research, especially when a quantitative study follows a qualitative one and provides validation for the qualitative findings. There is a strong suggestion within the research community that research, both quantitative and qualitative, is best thought of as complementary (Malhotra) and should therefore be mixed in research of many kinds. There is a strong suggestion within the research community that research, both quantitative and qualitative, is best thought of as complementary and should therefore be mixed in research of many kinds. Both qualitative and quantitative data sets will have to be used. Since customer satisfaction regarding the website has to be measures, offline data collection can prove to be useless and mundane.
Online data collection approach can be utilized in two ways and can result in both objective and subjective responses. The difficult part about this research is that though secondary data relevant to the industry is abundant, but none of this will be specific to the Holiday Inn hotel. Thus researchers will have to gather primary data from the scratch, analyze it and form conclusions about the current state of the hotel website.
The sampling method will mostly be a non probability method as the only visitors cannot be forced to take part in the research. Probability sampling will be reserved for a small focus group. Quantitative research will depend upon visitors and visitors will only participate in qualitative research by choice.
Quota method of sampling will be the most convenient. This is so because only potential travelers should be included in the research. Only people with annual income above $50000 will be sampled. Population below this income group generally is observed not to travel frequently. Similarly other characteristics of current guests can be used to find the different quotas which should be used in sampling. This kind of sampling will make it impossible to assess the sampling error as the results will not be representative of the population as a whole.
Focus groups of targeted market will need to be used. Since the current website of the hotel and the general notion about the hotel chain is that it caters to mostly business travelers, business travelers can be selected randomly. They can be chosen from firms where work entails frequent travelling. These business travelers will be then asked to navigate through the website and answer relevant questions about the website content, ease of navigation, interactivity and adoption. The results can be classified and then visitor perceptions about the different aspects of the website can be rated. They will provide a clear guideline about the positive and negative aspects of the website. This focus group will be coupled with quantitative and qualitative data. The focus group technique will allow better screening of the focus group respondents to ensure that they are the people whom the hotel is most interested in and thus provides an in-depth insight.
Descriptive data from the survey and the questionnaire will reveal information that could not be easily explained by the statistics from quantitative data.
This survey will be limited to a very small population of potential Holiday Inn customers. It can be both biased and non-representative of the actual feelings of the general public. But this data will target the largest niche of current customers.
Gathering quantitative data
Quantitative data can be gathered by observing visitor behavior on the website. It can be done on a large scale on the website. The behavior observed includes number of clicks, time on site, no of visitors who made a reservation, net promoter scores and the page from where visitors are exiting. Relationships between variables can be observed. This can be done from web analytics of the website. The sample size from this kind of web analytics has to be large and therefore will have to be done over a period of time.
For much of its history, web analytics has been concerned with measuring behavioral phenomena. Unique visitor counts, pages viewed/visit, time on site, bounce rates, click through rates, ad impressions, and, more recently, rich internet application events have
But studying clicks alone can never tell more than a part of the visitor’s story and will never bring to light true engagement data. Behavioral analytics is akin to paleontology, in the sense that it presents a fossilized record of a visitor’s site experience, at least as much as can be captured through page tags with optimal cookie deletion rates. However much scientists study the material implements of the past, however, they will never truly be able to gauge whether people were happy and led meaningful lives. This is the primary shortcoming of behavioral research; the tracks a visitor leaves are necessarily incomplete without knowing intent, attitude, and satisfaction. Further, engagement indices will always be hollow metrics unless they can be made to account for loyalty, trust, and advocacy (iperceptions)
Gathering qualitative data.
Qualitative research will take more time and preparation. Different sampling methods and full time researchers will have to be employed to monitor data. The basic format will be inviting all visitors to the website for a short survey or questionnaire. It will have to be ensured that the questionnaire is short and to the point yet it is fulfilling the purpose. This is necessary because abandonment of questionnaires will lead not only to loss of data but will also cause distaste for the website in visitors.
Like all qualitative and naturalistic research methods, questions will have to be developed which are clear and unambiguous but open to change as the research develops. It is necessary because both qualitative and quantitative research goes hand in hand. It is qualitative research which will give a holistic view of the complexities which the website poses to its visitors.
In the course of the survey visitors will be asked to provide scores for the website attributes related to their online experience. Each of these attributes will be related to specific dimensions of the website. It can include questions such as whether the visitor likes the site enough to recommend it to another friend or colleague. The scaling can be done on a 1 to 10 scale ranging from very bad to outstanding. The attribute sets that will be selected will be in accordance with both the E-commerce and hospitality industry standards. They will be content, navigation, motivation and interactivity in this case. It might also address the most crucial section of the website which is the reservations section.
Thus the questions to be addressed are
Website functionality must be intuitive and easy-to-use. If visitors are cannot find the information they desire, they may lose interest and move on to another hotel’s site. It is also important to be sure that hotels provide the capability to allow customers to book via the method of their choice such as mobile and smart phone technology.
The website must provide all necessary information. This information should not only be limited to the hotel but also about the area and activities where the hotel is located. The content of the website should be accurate, up-to-date, detailed and relevant.
This will address questions about the visitors ease of communication with the website and therefore the hoteliers. It measures functionality, collaboration, informational exchange, and the intuitiveness of transactional tools.
This measures whether the online content matches with the services the hotel provides. It questions whether the customers feel that the site was trustworthy and if their time on the site was well spent.
All these factors eventually answer one question and that is of adoption. This is the main factor of concern for the Holiday Inn hotels that whether the visitor will re-visit the website or refer the website to somebody else.
Potential for new features
New vanity websites can be added which cater to different locales. It should be ensured that the feel of the different websites remains the same but better search engine optimization can be achieved.
The Holiday Inn website can be optimized in two ways. It is the need of the time to modify the contents for Search Engine optimization.
The second is the renovation and restructuring of the website.
New website design
It has been observed that the Holiday Inn website has a subtle color appeal. It stands true to catering to business travelers as they can visualize themselves in that situation. But simultaneously excludes a large travelling class. A glimpse at the Marriott hotel website speaks loads about integrating target markets at one place. A boost of color on some place in the Holiday Inn website will provide the required energy to indicate that the hotel welcomes both fun and families.
Selling travel is all about selling a vision, a dream-an intangible product. Rich media and its many formats-from photos and visual galleries, to videos and virtual tours, e-postcards, web cams, interactive maps, etc.-can truly present your travel product and make it tangible and real. Seventy-two percent of US Internet users view video online on the same scale as network television and 89% of user’s surveyed said video influenced their booking decision.
Usability surveys about hotel websites show that the majority of users think hotel websites are “lacking or need more” pictures and images
The website can also add more visual content as the number of slides on the main page slide show is only 4 and only targets limited audience. The website can make use of good photography which provide more details about rooms and amenities.
Demand generator content.
The website should add more localized content to each of its franchise content sites. This will not only aid in showing up on search engines but a description of the area and the activities of the areas helps visitors thus creating better chances of adoption.
More navigation options can be introduced on the main page as even though the current website has a high content percentage but the visitor has to scroll and search for it. More tools can easily be added in the navigation tool bar without making the site look congested.
The website platform should have the ability to grow with the needs of the growing Hotel Inn. Holiday Inn is launching new hotels so it should be ensured that the new website keeps pace with both the rapidly changing face of the hotel as well as the fast changing tourism industry. Thus new development should be both easy and inexpensive. It should be easy to add new pages without the returning visitor to find a change which hinders his navigation.
The rapid pace of change of tourism industry and the changing face of the traveler requires the Holiday Inn hotel to maintain a website which is intuitive and adaptative. Regarding this concern quantitative data can be analyzed from the websites web analytics. An understanding of this quantitative data can be done by a focus group survey of the target market and online questionnaires.
Visitors to the website can be surveyed about their views about the website. This will be random non-probability sampling. The questions have to be short and succinct as target specific attribute. This is to ensure that the visitor does not abandon the survey midway.
After the online survey, a deep understanding can be gauged by using a focus group. This can be done either online or offline. The focus group can be small but chosen by quota or snowball sampling. The target audience should be used as the part of the focus group. The sample can be small but the questionnaire has to be extremely detailed. This will address all questions which arose from the satisfaction or non-satisfaction of the online survey participants.
The final data set will lead to a certain conclusion about the visitor satisfaction index. This can be used to provide guidelines about visitor expectations from the website and how and how much the website should be modified. The modified website will lead to higher revenue and return on investment.
Based on today’s visit, how would you rate your site experience over all?
Which of the following best describes the primary purpose of your visit?
Make a reservation
Find more information
Other please specify
Were you able to complete the task you visited the website for?
What do you value most about the website? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did you most dislike about the website? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Would you recommend the site to somebody?
If you answered in negative to the previous question, why? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Would you recommend any changes to the website? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How did you arrive at the website?
Typed the URL in the browser
Link on a Blog
Link sent by somebody
Other. Please specify _______________________________________________
The offline questionnaire presented to the focus group. This will be modified according to the response generated from the online website survey. It will be more detailed so as to sound explanations of the data derived can be provided.
What is your age category?
60 or above
What is your gender?
Are you single or married?
Your email address? _____________________________________________________________________
How often do you travel?
More than four times a year.
Twice or thrice a year.
Once a year
Less than once a year
Is your travel related to work most of the time?
Do you always make your bookings online?
What features of the website did you use?
Did each page load quickly enough?
On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent rate the following
Ease of navigation
Your overall satisfaction
Was the reservation process efficient?
Were you tempted were you to abandon the reservation process midway?
If yes then why? Choose one that is applicable
Difficulty in finding
Other. Please specify ______________________________________________________________
Did you easily find what you were looking for?
Did the website design confuse you?
Was the language easy to understand?
Was navigation comfortable?
Was the information you were looking for easy to find
Was the information useful?
Was the information detailed?
Was the information accurate?
Was the information up-to-date?
Did you like the appearance of the website?
Do you think more visuals should be added to the website?
If yes, do you think it will make the hotel more appealing?
Will a more detailed, illustrative website, aid or hinder you in your work?
Do you think the overall design of the website can be improved?
If yes then how? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Can the website alone without the Holiday Inn brand name lead you to make a reservation?
What did you like the most about the website?
What did you dislike most about the website?
What problems if any did you face when navigating the website?
Was the website user friendly?
If no why not?
Would you recommend the website to someone you know?
If no, then why not? __________________________________________________________________
Would you navigate the site from your phone?
If no then why not? _____________________________________________________________________
Do you think your time on the website was well spent?
If no then why not?
What are your overall suggestions for the website? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The research survey will look at the need for developing a new website for the Holiday Inn hotels. It observes the changing trends in both website designs of the hospitality industry and nature of travelers. Data is collected from visitors to the website and their satisfaction is analyzed. Satisfaction is measured using variables which include content of the website, ease of navigation, interactivity, motivation and adoption. This is done by e-surveys and observing visitor behavior on the website. Conclusions are then drawn regarding visitor satisfaction. Since online reservations make up a chunk of all hotel reservations, it will be very important to pay due attention to