Written by Byron Bunda, web designer
Why does it matter?
You may be skeptical as to why your little backpacker hostel needs a professional website. You’re in good company. Many hostels believe that investing in a website is futile given the overwhelming power of the OTAs. I spoke to one owner who vowed never to spend another dollar on his website, believing that OTAs “won the war.” Such fatalism is severely misguided. Your hostel website is part of a backpacker’s decision-making process. A nonexistent or ugly website means missing out on potential bookings. A top quality website means picking up more direct bookings.
Resortbrokers Australia found that 20% of direct bookings come from guests who found the property through an OTA.¹
Let that sink in. These are guests who first discovered the property on an OTA and still chose to book directly instead. Why would they do that? It’s because tech savvy backpackers use OTA listings and ratings, social media profiles, and websites as part of their research to get the full picture of a hostel. Will your website be ready to take their direct bookings once they’ve chosen your hostel?
First, your website must accept direct bookings. It’s simply unacceptable in 2018 to ask potential guests to fill out an online inquiry form and then wait for your response to inform them whether or not you have the availability to confirm their booking. If your website doesn’t have a booking engine, do not pass go, do not collect a direct booking, go directly to Booking.com and pay commission.
Second, the booking process should give backpackers the tools and information they need to make their reservation quickly and easily. Poor quality photos, incomplete information, or clumsy interfaces (especially those not optimized for smartphones) will send would-be direct bookers back to the ease and comfort of Hostelworld.
Lastly, your booking site should use a secure protocol. No one wants to risk having their credit card details compromised, especially while traveling, so ensure your reservation engine uses the proper security measures. Insecure websites also get dinged by Google’s search algorithms.
Is your hostel website up to snuff?
If the answer is anything less than a resounding yes, drop me an email and let’s talk about what it would take to get there. I’ve worked with hostels across Australia, from ones that just opened to the best hostels in Australia and I’d love to help you next.