The Big Hotel Brand vs Independent Website Battle:

Why the Independent Hotels shouldn’t blindly and politely agree to switch off their websites.

One of our long standing independent hotel clients rang me last week. He was in a flap as his franchise had told him he must turn off his independent web site. What should he do?

We see an increasing trend for this amongst the major International Hotel brands. And it's perfectly understandable. Who wouldn't want to have full control of their brand proposition, to have authority over the digital presence of any establishment that bears their brand name?

But whilst the "big brand" websites might push the brand value proposition, do they really deliver "click through conversions"?

Best practice shows that when worked in concert with the brand web site, an independent hotel's web site can provide clear locality specific differentiation, which, in a competitive environment, delivers increased revenues. In addition to promoting the specific attributes of a particular venue, for instance, its excellence as a host for weddings or conferences, it's fantastic spa or its focus on food, it can also provide essential local information and answer the prospective customer's questions about a stay in that area in a way that no national brand web site could ever achieve.

It's all about improving the customer's travel search and buying journey by providing contextual information in that moment of truth; when they are ready to make a booking. This practice leads to happier customer who buy more often.

When faced with the inevitable question from the franchise holder I would recommend that you:

  • Take the heat out of the discussion and bring in the light by establishing the facts.
  • Analyse the key sources of your enquiries and revenues - make sure that you understand what income is being put under threat 
  • Analytics – Do you have analytics for your website – how much non-brand traffic are you getting? 
  • Revenue – The Brand should include independent website revenue contribution in their reports 
  • Rankings – Does the independent web site appear higher in the search engines than the brand's website?
  • In Switching off the independent site you will lose an "Augmented Website" – i.e. data capture, voucher sales, local partnership links
  • Scenario's – Think through some scenarios to help develop informed questions to the franchise, e.g. How will they support you in generating Christmas party bookings

Have a constructive debate around how you can work together, maintaining an independent web presence which works in concert with their brand site and which delivers real benefits for both of you and most importantly for both of your customers.

Seek the help of your digital marketing agency to construct a rational argument which creates a win for both of you.