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InnKeepers should take a closer look at
Internet reservations.

So you say, “I already have a great web page and I advertise it, so what are you talking about.”
What I am talking about is conversion. Does not matter if you have 500 visitors a day when very few of them call or email you to make a reservation. Most people that are surfing the web and finding pages like yours are using a search engine like Google or Yahoo.

They resist finding places using large agencies like Travelocity or Expedia. Why pay a big company to find the best deals when Google does it for free. One popular way surfers use to find lodging is Google Maps, simply enlarge the general area where you want to vacation and search with a term such as lodging. Instantly all the motels, hotel, Inns, and B&B's are shown with little flags indicating their location on the map. Now by clicking on any of these flags you are given a link to their web site and phone number.

But guess what? Today's want it now crowd, which makes up the majority of web surfers, does not call you, instead they clicks on the web link. The whole reason they are using the web in the first place is to find exactly what they want and book it with a credit card, the one that they have already taken out of their wallet and put beside the keyboard for quick access. After all there is a lot of other stuff to do on the internet besides booking a room this weekend.

The alternative is, they now have to find a phone, punch in a long string of numbers and hope someone picks. Too many times they get a phone message. Even if someone answers the phone right away they have to compose a question or two and maybe even use a pencil to write down some information. It is not happening because it takes too long and they are using a keyboard not a telephone at the moment.

When a surfer gets to your web site he/she is not that interested in all your pretty pictures. They want a clear property description, how much it is going to costs, and a little button that should be extremely obvious, which says RESERVATIONS. Their fondest memories, and the one they will sometimes brag about to their friends, are how in less than 3 minutes they found, booked, and had an email confirmation with a great B&B.

You have about 15 seconds for your web site to get a surfers attention. The last thing a surfer want to do is to send an email form requesting a room. They will then have to put their credit card back in their wallet without knowing if they even have a place to go.

Might as well use Travelocity. But wait, our web surfer is not that person, they do not have the time or patience required to navigate all the complicated paths that Travelocity takes them on. After all they have Google Maps and there are plenty of websites to check out and book in under 3 minutes.

In case you have not checked on the internet lately, let me tell you just how easy it is to satisfy your customer's desires. You can get online booking systems from free to less than $200 a month from many sources. Just type in a key word or two such as hospitality management or online booking software or web reservation tools and you will be surprised by how many companies are out there selling online reservations systems.

If you do a little research you will find that over 50% of all reservations, in the hospitality industry, are made over the internet and that this number is growing rapidly. Only about 30% are made by phone. Of the 50% taken by the internet, the larger travel agencies are loosing ground quickly to individual web sites. The split is roughly 30% for agencies and 70% for private web sites.

If this trend continues, and I cannot think of any reason it should not continue, you will be forced to have online reservation soon or face a lot of empty rooms. An availability chart is not enough, you must be ready to confirm the room and take credit information on the spot or the customer will move on to the next business who does take reservations.

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