Lodging Industry Execs Finding Websites To Be Powerful Marketing Tools

Like the Internet itself? evolving and mutating but always growing larger, almost by the minute, it seems? hotel industry websites are all over the place, changing from day to day and displaying a dizzying array of protocols, purposes and procedures. Some companies strive for conformity and centralized control of content for their various brands. Others have adopted a laissez-faire attitude, asking only that minimum standards be met for both company-owned facilities and franchised properties. Radisson Hotels Worldwide, part of the Carlson Companies in Minneapolis, has two approaches to its Internet effort. There is a basic service listing information from the central database, which includes everything input through the central reservations system, explained Rachael Marret, director of interactive marketing at Radisson. Input from phone agents and all the other sources? which helps populate the website? is updated at one central location. Radisson also has a service called Web Extra, which allows individual properties to enhance their content on the website. Marret said this could include a variety of text as well as up to 20 photographs of the hotel and its facilities with information provided by the properties, but fed into the website at headquarters. At Hilton Hotels, when it comes to information about the individual hotels on the corporate website, ?We do it all for them,? said Bruce Rosenberg, vp/marketing and distribution at Hilton?s headquarters in Beverly Hills, CA. ?Every property has a computer and they put the information on the system, which goes into the central database, where we can update the website,? Rosenberg said. The hotels update the information regularly, so the time lag from input to Internet update ?may take eight or ten hours at the most,? he added. As far as the properties failing to update information on a frequent or timely basis. Rosenberg says there have not been any problems that he?s been aware of. ?It?s not an issue,? he said. In response to a question about remodeling and refurbishing, he added, ?Now if they are taking rooms out for construction, even if they failed to tell us, our regional would be aware of that and let us know.? At Radisson, every hotel gets the basic listing and has the option of getting the Web Extra deluxe package for a one-time fee that is currently $1,500. ?They realize this is a powerful marketing tool,? Marret said of the basic package, ?and with Web Extra, they get a freestanding website with a unique Internet address.? The Web Extra website is created at headquarters, but once it is up and running, Marret said, the individual properties are responsible for the information. ?It really doesn?t change that much,? she said, suggesting that electronic pictures? just like print pictures in a brochure? don?t age all that quickly. ?We do ask them to update at least quarterly, the information on packages and promotions,? Marret added. At Hilton, some of the properties? both company-owned and franchised? have their own websites, and to that extent there is little or no central control over content, but there is an effort being made to bring everything under one umbrella. Hilton?s Rosenberg said the company?s website is being enhanced?with the updated version scheduled to come on line sometime during June. The upgrade allows for more customization and personalization? more information altogether? at each site, Rosenberg said. Radisson?s Marret, in discussing why there has been little or no negative feedback from franchisees, said the website was more cost effective than a newspaper ad, which is ?essentially just one hit, while the website is ongoing and ubiquitous.? Both consumers and travel professionals can use the Radisson website, with access to certain pages and links restricted to travel agents and others with proper identifications. Marret noted that travel agents did not make extensive use of the website for booking rooms, but did find it useful in other ways.