|Mar 23, 2004
The tourist industry was an early and enthusiastic adopter of web-based advertising and promotion.
Low cost, wide reach and the willingness of the traveling public to use the Internet as a travel information source created tremendous growth.
Now, almost every hotel, from International chain to rural bed-and-breakfast, has a web site.
But few hotels use their web presence to full advantage. Whether a simple page listing essential information or a multimedia spectacle with sound and video, a web site is nothing more than a high-tech tourist brochure, a device for capturing a potential guest's attention.
Reservations are processed manually, and the hotel still must rely on wholesalers and other intermediaries to ensure adequate occupancy rates throughout the year.
"What-you-see-is-what-you-get" is a common term among computer graphics designers, meaning that the image on the workstation monitor is exactly what will appear in print or an Internet browser page.
But a web site is far more than words, pictures, and animated graphics. Advances in distributed databases, secure transactions, and other web-based technologies means that the image on the screen is only the tip of the iceberg.
The real power of the web lies in what many hotels do not see.
Reservation management can be greatly enhanced by database-driven websites.
Direct clients and agents can receive instant confirmations, simplifying last-minute travel arrangements, while automatic monitoring reduces the risk of over- or under-booking through administrative error or delayed processing.
High-level encryption, digital signatures and other security technologies allows a website to be used as a medium of business communication, with the potential to significantly alter the nature of the travel industry.
By setting up secure links with industry counterparts such as retail travel agents and corporate clients, a hotel can safely transmit seasonal room rates and other confidential information to pre-authorized recipients, reducing dependence on traditional intermediaries.
Instant reservation confirmation eliminates the need for block booking of rooms, giving hotels the flexibility to adjust rates to actual market demand.
The Internet has proven to be a boon to the travel industry. But the full benefits can be enjoyed only by those who can unlock the power of their website.