To thousands of holiday seekers, the planning phase may seem like a time-eating disaster. With so many options where to stay and what to do, the majority find themselves immersed in indecision and torn between equally exciting, glamorous and exotic choices. And this is where your social media strategy gets tested.
To capture the holiday seekers’ imagination early, you need to keep the engagement fire blazing on daily basis – a whopping 66% of leisure travellers turn to search engines when planning their next trip. So, what it means, really, is that a ton of potential guests are snooping around your social media accounts every day.
How can you turn curious vacationers into soon-to-be guests?
Capitalise on the magic of compelling visuals
The number of international travellers has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. People are more eager to travel to distant, exotic places than ever before and the thirst for unique experiences pushes them outside their comfort zone.
How do they pick their travel destinations? It’s not uncommon to hear about travellers crossing the world to visit a place they’ve seen featured in a magazine, on TV or in a travel blog. The mind is a visual instrument, so if there is one way to grabbing travellers’ attention, it certainly involves gorgeous imagery.
5 More Ways That Great Photos Can Boost Your Bookings
Great photos can massively enhance the first impression guests received from your website – and therefore boost your bookings. Here are a few clever strategies to really drive home the benefits that excellent visuals provide…
Collect lots of terrific photos of your property by all means. In particular, make sure that your room photos present your accommodation in the very best and most flattering light. But once you’ve done this, chose a SINGLE PHOTO that you’ll use to convey everything you feel is best about the experience your offer your guests. Use the photo as a kind of unofficial logo anywhere you can – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Places (and whatever other ‘must do’ social media channels are lurking over the horizon!) Once people see it often enough, they’ll associate it instinctively with your property.
When you (or your web designer) is updating the photos on your site, make sure you think carefully about how you name them. Well-named photos add a lot of Search Engine value to your site. It may seem a bit unwieldy, but make sure the file name for each photo includes the name of your property and where it is (e.g. mayfield_guesthouse_norwich_bedroom1.jpg) rather than just (room.jpg). Lots of people find accommodation by doing geographic searches like “B&B in ____” or “guesthouse near ____”. Naming your photos in this way will help them find you. Congratulations, your site just got “Searchier”!
Great photos of rooms are the gold standard when it comes to visuals that will entice people to stay with you. But other types of photos can also be great when it comes to really emphasising the cosy, personal experience that people crave. If you take great pride in your home cooking, for instance, have some great photos of your meals on your site. If you’re on the coast with spectacular views, emphasise those. In other words, find your unique selling point and push it as clearly and concisely as possible through your visuals.
Putting guest reviews (even TripAdvisor reviews!) on your site can be a terrific way of establishing trust (i.e. “Look, we’re a wonderful property with nothing to hide and here are the reviews to prove it.”) But some people these days don’t even have the time/patience to read reviews. A Guestbook page with a few photos of you with your guests (ideally smiling!) creates an instant and very powerful positive message. They’re also great for your Facebook page.
Going back to how people search, it can be immensely useful to have a “Local Area” page on your site, with lots of smartly-labelled photos showing nearby attractions. Placing yourself within your community means that you become a strong part of its online presence and an advocate for it. It also means that you’ll score well, once again, with Search Engines if anyone searches for a local attraction then starts looking for accommodation.
Big hotel chains have the largest marketing budgets, so their websites must always be the ones that attract the most attention. Right? Wrong. In the USA recently, it’s the websites of smaller, boutique hotels – and even B&Bs – that have been generating the most buzz in the media. Why? Because these smaller hotels are much better (and quicker) at adapting to what customers want when booking accommodation online. And these days…
It’s All About Images!
A strong visually-oriented layout is the only way to go, because (and this can’t be emphasised often enough)…Photos sell rooms.
1. Good photos.
2. Big photos.
And, most importantly…
3. Prominent photos
Here’s a great example of a rooms page (courtesy of the Lion Inn, Winchcombe)…
Don’t force your customers to hunt around for images that will tell them what the place they’re thinking of staying at actually looks like. Put them front and centre. You own a great property – let the world know about it!
So, even if you don’t want to redesign your whole site, at the very least get your web designer to boost the size and number of quality visuals on the front page and all the room pages. And, ideally, add a big, unmissable link on the front page itself that shouts, “ROOM IMAGES.”
Happy New Year, it’s going to be a good one…. but it’s important to have everything in the right place for 2013.
Here are 3 “must do” things for 2013:
1) Ensure you have rates loaded for the whole of 2013 – January is one of the busiest times of the year for new bookings. Early bird customers are looking to book dates throughout the year. Don’t lose out. Have your rates loaded until the end of summer or even the end of the year. If you don’t have rates loaded they can’t book.
2) Create at least one special offer…especially for your low season dates – If you have some low season dates in the winter months load a special offer to help persuade customers you have the best value. Do a last minute offer or a longer stay offer, eg 10% off when you stay 2 nights or more.
3) Show off your very best images on your freetobook widget – Pictures are so important, customers will look through all your images and make an assessment of what you offer. It’s quick and easy to make a judgement on appearance, so make sure they get the right impression with a great set of photos.
As with any engine, they all need a bit of a shine every so often and a little oil….