WordPress for hotels – an effective alternative to increase direct bookings

This is a viewpoint by Ann Taylor, a WordPress blogger.

If you’re thinking about building a hotel website with a real-time property reservation system, you are probably not even considering that it can be done without tech help and with a modest budget.

The hospitality business market is overwhelmed with proprietary software for accommodation reservation. And their marketing agencies spread the myth that even non-complex hotel websites require months of development to accommodate expansive booking software.

However, I’ve been working with WordPress for almost two years now and can safely say that it’s a perfect content management system not only for publishers, but also for savvy business owners of hotel establishments of all sizes.

A fully functional hotel site with direct bookings activated does not have to take up lots of time and cost lots of money.

WordPress is an affordable, powerful and secure open-source software that has brought website content management to everybody. So far, it powers 28% of all websites on the net. Imagine, you can create a visually perfect hotel website with properties listings and switch on direct online bookings without any (or a little) tech help.

Just to make things clear, I’m talking about wordpress.org self-hosted websites (when you are the only boss on your site.)

Why you can rely on WordPress

Here are a few more reasons to back my claim that WordPress CMS is a great cost-effective solution for a hospitality business:

  • WordPress is ready to be an enterprise-grade CMS

It means that WordPress is a highly powerful, flexible, and secure system to run any type of a website.

Lots of renowned websites, such as The New York Times, BBC America and TechCrunch are powered by WordPress.

Moreover, it is used by a lot of governments across the world. It is 100% scalable – it powers many small and massive websites.

If we speak about hospitality-centric business and user-friendly tools, WordPress vendors offer lots of ready-made customizable hotel site designs (free and paid themes) as well as hotel reservation functionality (plugins). Plugins can be used on any WordPress theme.

The variety of designs and plugins give hoteliers freedom of choice and customization within one content management system.

  • WordPress is affordable

This is one of the main reasons for this article – to serve the needs of on-budget hoteliers.

Not including the expenses on a WordPress website itself (which is around $350 per year for a domain, hosting and design), the cost of the reservation functionality plugins varies from $30 to $90 per year. Sometimes a hotel-dedicated WordPress theme includes the reservation software by default, so you have lot of options to cut down expenses.

Compare to the proprietary software, where the charge is around $500-$1000 yearly for a reservation software only (and the price may increase depending on a number of rooms, for example).

It’s worth mentioning that you may not even pay for the WordPress plugin on a regular basis (each year/month) and still use its functionality (however, you won’t receive updates and support), because you own it. This is generally impossible with subscription-based reservation software providers that offer you tools you’ll never own.

  • You can set up everything yourself

WordPress is growing in terms of content management simplification. The main aim is to give you the option to edit all content fully visually with no coding required.

For example, the property reservation plugins don’t lock you down, giving you more customization freedom than the vast majority of the proprietary software. Developers may tweak the booking functionality with the custom code if required, while the code of the proprietary software is generally closed for editing.

Managing hotel reservation software on WordPress, in most cases your job will be to upload your texts, media content and click all needed buttons to set up the system.

For example, you’ll need to tick the boxes “Accept payment through PayPal”, “Confirm bookings manually”, etc. to make it work.

Even if you hire a developer to set up the system for you, it won’t be a hassle for you or your staff to manage live reservations.

  • Safe ecommerce platform for online bookings

WordPress reservation plugins for hotel accommodations come with built-in e-commerce tools: you’ll simply need to choose the plugin that offers the needed payment gateways. Generally, guests can pay for your accommodation online or after arrival (you choose which options to provide them with). The security of your payments also depends on many reasons as with any other software: whether your domain name uses the security certificate (https), what ways to protect the site you use, etc.

  • SEO-friendly platform for local business

Though your hotel establishment is a local business (easier SEO, that is), proper default SEO tools are a need to help you fill the site with your local keywords and descriptions. Unlike many proprietary software for hotels, WordPress gives you a full control over website optimization, with a huge choice of free plugins for advanced SEO.

Proper SEO will be one of your best friends in your fight against OTAs.

But what about drawbacks, I hear you ask?

In the imperfect technical world, the hoteliers who use WordPress can face the following obstacles:

  • It is easy to work with but for newbies it will take some time to figure out how the things work. It may take some time to get familiar with the dashboard.
  • If you rent out your property through multiple OTAs, you’ll either need to use additional software to avoid double bookings and fully automate the reservation process, or will need to find a WordPress hotel booking plugin that initially comes with this option of multi-channel connection.
  • By default, the property booking plugins can lack any non-standard feature you may need on your specific website.

What’s the process of building a hotel site on WordPress? A bird’s-eye view

Regardless of the CMS, each website requires hosting space and a domain name, which is a cost.

To build a hotel website with WordPress, you’ll additionally need to download the free WordPress software, choose a theme (customizable site design – free or paid), and find a property reservation plugin (generally paid).

So, the hotel site design itself is a theme, the online bookings system is a plugin, and WordPress is a free content managements system to customize and handle a theme and a plugin.

Basically, there are two alternative ways to start a hotel site on WordPress:

  1. Choose a ready-made hotel booking theme (be attentive and chose those that include the automatic bookings submissions and payments).
  2. Choose any theme + install the booking plugin.

Free themes can be found on the official WordPress repository (they are free because of less features and no support), and the paid ones anywhere on independent WordPress shops or marketplaces. The same for plugins.

You may check my latest comparison of popular WordPress hotel booking plugins with all pros, cons and up-to-date pricing, so it’s easier for you to consider all nuances.

Additionally, there are several important things to consider when choosing a room reservation plugin:

  • It should be multilingual/translation ready/already translated into your language to avoid any problems with non-English websites.
  • Check whether it offers the payment methods you need.
  • The flexibility of rating and seasonal pricing – test the plugin demo and read in details how far you can customize the seasonal pricing, rates, set discounts, etc.
  • The type of search availability form: handling adult and child price for the room, adding custom fields, etc.
  • Check whether the iCal synchronization is available (it will allow you to connect your hotel to OTAs if needed).

Overall, WordPress is a progressive, sustainable and powerful platform with a great community and free knowledge bases behind it, so you can safely rely on it with your hospitality business website. So, are you ready to test the waters and reduce expenses?

This was a viewpoint by Ann Taylor, a WordPress blogger.
Image by BigStock

Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Tnooz, its writers, or its partners.

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Viewpoints

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.

 

Comments

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  1. Richard Vaughton

    Ann: A great post and so thorough! We run templates and more and more WP blended sites. The reason we love WP is that the direction of a website design is often at the mercy of an owner or manager, as templates even with CSS control are not flexible enough (not that most owners can understand CSS anyway).

    Even Wix, Squarepace cannot accommodate the granularity needed. Embedded silo CMS systems also create captive customers who may be dissatisfied and take up more time than needed when significant changes are required. WP can do this for small businesses. However more and more people need to think API, data exchange and specialist tools as well. OK with a single small unit, but for bigger businesses more developed connections may be needed.

    WP has so many content design and promotional benefits but does not scale with large data and exchange of such, so a blend of two technologies is perfect for those with extended marketing needs and complex financial needs. Unfortunately many plugins are not great for scaling businesses.

    There are lots of comments on here and from what we see, about 10% of users want any deep involvement as they have no interest, time or even computer skills, but they do know what they like and its oh so personal. This is one of the reasons why the OTA’s have so much power and are accepted as a necessary evil. Its hard work and on-top of every other part of a hospitality business is yet another learning curve and continual development to keep abreast of the marketing needs.

    Most hotels have 20+ rooms I believe so quite a complex environment and most use OTA’s so all this needs addressing. In the rental world many of these same rules apply but with more complex pricing, stay times, extras, etc and also data exchange (our research shows each manager is using 2.5 channels)

    There is no single solution for everybody, but if one was offered it would include WP as the front end and “choose your designer” approach and contracted content writers and social “pushers”. Small businesses can use plugins and basic systems for managing small booking numbers for sure, but in our experience most people want a simple effective working solution. What they don’t realize is the work needed to promote it and create a micro-brand. This is 100x what it was 10 years ago. “Build it and they will” come is only a line from a film these days.

    Once you start scaling inventory this adoption of a WP approach would be blended with true purposeful separate data handling for bookings, payments, financial management, caching, filtering, sorting searching, etc.

    Seriously good plugins that provide flexibility of design and assimilation of a theme and hooked to good cloud based data management systems are the true destiny of WP web business.

     
  2. Dumitru Brinzan | HermesThemes

    After 4,5 years of developing WordPress themes for hotels, I can honestly say that it is a good solution for a good portion of independent hotel owners.
    Having said that, I’ve also had customers that are completely oblivious to how websites work and have zero desire to learn anything about it. In these cases yes, WordPress can be very overwhelming (as is most software).

    Yes, WordPress can get confusing sometimes, but so is running a business. You should not expect that you can create a beautiful, functional hotel website in a day without putting in some effort.

    Or you can take a shortcut and rent out a website from subscription-based “cloud” service and start draining your wallet monthly. Sure as hell sounds easier for business owners with deep pockets.

    Another thing to consider: personally I would beware of themes that come with built-in reservation features. You really don’t want your average WordPress theme developer being responsible for the most important part of your website – bookings and payments. It is better to leave that part to professional third-party services, so that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

     
    • Ann Taylor

      Thanks for commenting! I’m aware of HermesThemes and I heard people love them! If I remember that right, you used the AweBooking plugin in your themes before, which is no longer supported, so you now recommend to use third-party solutions. However, people often ask for a turnkey solution. I’m just curious – do people still ask about the themes with the reservation system? Do you probably plan to include the reservation engine into several themes at least – just to give customers the alternative?

       
      • Dumitru Brinzan | HermesThemes

        Hi Ann,

        We’ve included support for AWEBooking for a while, as it looked somewhat OK. (it is now distributed for free via wordpress.org, so it is still available).

        Personally I haven’t found a good (and universal) booking plugin for WordPress, mostly because hotels are very different and have different needs across different countries and continents.

        There are no plans to include any reservation functionality in the themes, as that goes against the fundamentals of WP themes: design and functionality should be separate.
        Thanks to that our customers are not locked into sticking to our themes – they can switch anytime to a different theme without losing content or features.

        Of course many developers don’t care what happens to their customer once they decide to switch themes, it is not their concern any longer. And I don’t like that way of thinking.

        For this purpose we don’t even use custom post types (well, we do, only for Testimonials). The rest is created with core Pages: rooms, amenities, photo galleries, etc.

        Oops, this is too long 🙂

         
  3. Vincent Goemaere - Stardekk

    With Stardekk we provide a channel manager en booking engine called Cubilis, used by over 3000 hotels in +45 countries worldwide – Stardekk also provides hotel webdesign solutions directly connected to Cubilis, so content can easily managed, and is directly connected to the hotel website. Hotelowners don’t need to develop or understand any web technologies, no ical sync needed – much more easy – seamless connected for more direct bookings.

     
  4. Peter Fabricius

    There are three common trends we see when properties using WordPress, switch to Springnest:

    • Time: independent hoteliers don’t want to build their own websites, they want professional websites, which they can easily manage to run campaigns and increase bookings.

    • Ongoing support: I’m not talking about server and email support, I’m talking about honest expertise about content, best practices for third party integrations, and understand website performance/analytics

    • Usability: This often overlooked as an important factor. WordPress is powerful, but I haven’t found a hotelier who enjoyed logging into WordPress admin.

    As for affordability, I agree with @Colin about Odysys, and @Evan from Booking Factory; with off-the-shelf solutions, the premium of custom development becomes irrelevant.

     
    • Ann Taylor

      hey Peter!
      Agree, it may take more time (up to several weeks if starting from scratch) and time is money. But that’s a great choice for those who want to save money, just start with a small hotel, face financial problems, or any other reasons.

      As for support, each premium WordPress item or theme comes with the same quality human support. Plus, there is not other such a huge knowledge base dedicated to analytics, third-party integration or whatever possible, than WordPress provides (dozens of blogs with comparisons, opinions, tests, etc.).

      Btw, what’s strange or difficult about the login with the username and password?
      Anyways, thanks for the info!

       
  5. Jordan Hollander

    Jordan Hollander

    WordPress is absolutely a great option as there are much more sophisticated types of sites than hotel websites built on the platform. Having said that, it’s always best to work with a great digital agency who’s have enough experience A/B testing dozens of UX experiments and through trial and error learned to optimize conversion and on page SEO. Some agencies do build on WP and others have proprietary CMS that provides similar functionality. In the end, a small conversion bump of 0.1% could easily pay the $10-15k annual bill (approx.) for many hotels. Here are the top rated digital agencies by hoteliers: https://hoteltechreport.com/companies/marketing-tech/

     
  6. Colin J Brownlee

    WordPress can be great for a lot of website solutions, but I do not want to learn about building websites for my small hotel. I still do not find it easy enough for the average non-tech person to set up a basic website with little effort. I want an “off the shelf solution” that covers all the basis (website, hosting, PMS, channel manager, and booking engine). I used to use Buuteeq (now known as Booking Suite) until it was taken over by Priceline (Booking.com people). Not wanting an OTA (same as, The Fox guarding the Henhouse) to have control or access to my website, I switched to Odysys.

    It has been over a year now and I am quite satisfied. Actually, their strongest attribute has been the support. On top of it being really easy to make any changes to your website, their support agents and sharing industry best practices saves you having to figure everything out by yourself.

     
    • Ann Taylor

      Hey Colin! I understand your reasons, many people today are looking for turnkey solutions, especially in the hospitality business. It has a common sense. But again, I stumbled upon many questions by hoteliers, who are looking for something maximum affordable and user-friendly, but generally don’t even take WordPress into consideration because of 2 widespread myths – it’s just a publishing platform for blogs (which is not so anymore for many years) and it’s not powerful enough to power complex websites (WordPress is one of the most powerful and feature-rich platforms for any business.)

       
  7. Dude

    Everything here makes sense except time is money and two years to become a WordPress Master is not time well spent. You can buy a full-featured property management system with website and channel manager and commission-free booking on your own website for 100- $200 a month. It will more than pay for itself in time spent. Increased bookings for multiple channels. Free updates. And they will usually set up everything for you. Just won $200 room night a month pays for the system and you will surely get many more than that by having modern Integrations

     
    • Evan Davies

      The dude is right, our system would provide a full PMS, booking engine, website and channel manager from just £79-179. No worries on pci compliance etc. Beats the hell out of worrying about hackers getting into your WordPress website.

       
    • Ann Taylor

      Thanks for your opinion! Well, it doesn’t take 2 years to become a “WordPress Master” (whatever that means) – many people without tech expertise get the basics and run different sorts of sites in less than a month. It doesn’t take 2 years to build a hotel site: if you have all content ready (photos, texts), then setting up the hotel booking plugin is the process of several days, if not hours. For testing purposes, I’ve created a hotel website with the booking system during several days actually (it’s a pretty intuitive process even without documentation).

      If the prices you name are not a problem for you, that’s absolutely fine and a good way to go for many people, but this post was for those with a modest budget looking for a quality platform.

       
      • Diana

        My web designer uses WP for my small management business and I love it. She does the manger jobs like putting up a new listing or changing plugins as I need them. I just recently left VRBO due to well I think everyone knows why and have integrated a plugin on my web site for guests to put in the dates they want on my calendar and an email is sent to me kind of like VRBO and if I wanted to have pay now button it would be no problem to do that too. It is so easy to use I can change pictures and context anytime I want to. So I would suggest people who do not want to mess with it themselves at the beginning to have a web designer do it for you and then have them teach you how to maneuver through the pages.
        I think it is a great alterative and you choose how much you would like to spend on your page. It works for us.

         
  8. Gavin Pereira

    I was about to say the same thing. WordPress and Joomla are very vulnerable to hacking (speaking from experience). Although saying that I enjoyed the above article and these platforms are a good learning curve. Potentially the actual booking part and important bits get redirected to a booking site which is more secure for the booking part. just my 2 cents.

     
  9. Alex @ DayPass

    Interesting take, I would not undermine the coding part here as the booking engine can be challenging to set up, what about connectivity with CRS, PMS, Ota’s ?
    Would love to see an actual hotel website powered by WordPress though.

     
    • Dumitru Brinzan

      Hey Alex,
      If you want to see some live examples, here’s a showcase of ~200 websites using our WordPress themes for their hotel websites: https://www.hermesthemes.com/showcase/

      Cheers!

       
    • Ann Taylor

      Hey Alex! It’s not such a big challenge to set it up – install the plugin, add content, apply the settings, choose payment methods, etc. The property management system is also handled in the WordPress dashboard (plugin). As for OTAs, the synchronization is usually made through iCal.
      As for live examples, here is the demo site of a WP plugin in action – featuring live examples of different types of hotel establishments – you can view the sites on the frontend and also get a first-hand experience testing backend: https://hbdemo.getmotopress.com/
      One more real WP site of the hotel in the Maldives: https://lagoonviewmaldives.com/

       
  10. Zeeshan Chawdhary

    Completely agree with the author, I am building WPCityGuides.com using WordPress as a tool to enable anyone to launch a Travel Website / App.

     
  11. dave spector

    Let’s not forget that WordPress is highly vulnerable to ransomware (and other malware) attacks. Never a great idea to build the most important marketing asset of your hotel on cheap software.
    https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/02/mysterious-spike-in-wordpress-hacks-silently-delivers-ransomware-to-visitors/

     
    • Ann Taylor

      WordPress security problems is the most used claim to scary people away. However, neither software is perfect, be it a web application, operating system or client software. Remember the recent ‘Petya’ cyber attack? Lots of business and governmental organizations have been crippled by it, so all software have their vulnerabilities.

      As for WordPress, the website security primarily depends how many layers of security the website owner uses: secure dedicated hosting, professional security plugins, in-time updates, monitoring, etc.

      Why are there so many talks about WordPress security problems, actually? The bigger amount of the sites globally, the more talks; the more work is always in progress on reporting and fixing any vulnerabilities. If you look up the CVE-ID database (a listing of publicly known information security vulnerabilities), you’ll see how many popular software come with different vulnerabilities (including Google) .

       
 
 

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