Roundup: The Top 10 Hotel Sites
Web site preferences are very subjective – if you ask several people about their favorites, you will likely get many different answers. However, as keeper of one of the largest collections of meeting industry favorites, have been tracking hotel web sites for years, and would like to offer my choices.
My primary selection factors in order of importance are:
· Content -- a site must have lots of useful information – why else would the average visitor go there?
· Ease of use – the site must load quickly and be easy to navigate
· A creative idea – some of the sites were selected as they have come of with a novel marketing or display idea
· Aesthetics – A pleasing design is great – it encourages site exploration and establishes brand recognition. However, if you do not have content, speed and ease of use, the most beautiful site around will not be effective.
The sites are not ranked in strict order of preference. Some are listed for a good idea, others are for lots of content making direct comparisons difficult. So, in the order that made the most sense to me conceptually, here are my favorites:
Turnberry Isle Resort www.turnberryisle.com
The Turnberry Isle Resort takes the meeting planners sales packet and puts it online. If you follow the “meetings” link, you find menus, AV info, floor plans, billing procedures, and more. This improves customer service and saves money in printing and mailing costs. This information can be easily posted and should be the minimum that all meeting hotels have at their web sites. This site is easy to navigate and has a streaming video tour of the property as well.
SwanDolphin Hotel www.swandolphin.com
This is and excellent example of “mass customization” for the hotel industry. In the meeting planning section, there is a P.E.R.K (Personalized Electronic Response Kit) link. Once you fill out the profile form, you will be sent a specialized password that provides an individually customized site for you, greeting you by the your name and the name of your company on numerous pages. This site also has 360-degree views of public space, multi-lingual streaming video, and a great way of handling floor plans.
PlanSoft is the most
comprehensive database of hotels with meeting space on the Web. It is well
organized, highly searchable and is an indispensable resource for meeting
professionals. Detailed meeting space specifications, web links, and contact
information is included. Throw out the meeting facility guides – this is more
comprehensive and up-to-date than any paper guide. EventSource
(www.eventsource.com), StarCite (www.starcite.com)
and AllMeetings (www.allmeetings.com)
also provide good meeting facility databases and deserve mention.
This site employs streaming
video and audio technology to take “virtual” video tours of more than 100
properties around the world. As bandwidth improves, these small pictures will
progress toward standard video in appearance, provide sight and sound images
much richer than other forms of promotion. The site has an easy-to-use clickable
map to find your destinations.
Hotelstravel.com claims web
links to over 75,000 lodging and travel resources. Click on “hotel chains,”
for example, and get links to principal web sites for more than 220 hotel chains
A complete set of airline and airport links are available as well. If you are
trying to find lodging in “Smallville” this is the site to try.
Hilton Hotels www.hilton.com
Hilton has been a leader with
hotel web sites. It is a fast and clean site. Following the “Meetings &
Groups” link provides free downloadable floor plans (using a free version of
CEO’s Optimum Settings room diagramming software), and slick online RFP form
(for groups of 10 or more), short term (30-45 day) Group Value Dates, and a
complete directory of facilities.
Holiday Inn www.basshotels.com/holiday-inn
Holiday Inn gets a nod from the
historical perspective. They were the first to allow web-based real-time
sleeping room reservations way back in the Internet “dark ages” of 1995.
Their current site continues to be easy to use. Following the “Meetings/Group
Events” link on the home page. The
next page narrows it down to “Group Event” (weddings, parties, etc.) and
La Mansión del Rio www.lamansion.com
The simple navigation scheme
and the consistent and elegant design encourages visitors to explore. The
graphics support the historical nature of this
San Antonio hotel, with loads of content for group business as well as
the casual traveler. The opening
splash screen sets the tone with a slide show and a flamenco guitar flourish.
This site has it all. The “dining” section, for example, has details and 360° views of the restaurant and lounge, information about the
chefs, a dining reservation form, culinary events, and even the recipe of the
month. Find the “golden cascarone egg”
and fill out the form (they want to know who you are) to win a two-night
stay and a private barge tour for two.
W Hotels www.whotels.com
I both love and hate the design
of this site. It is one of the best examples of the web design supporting the
hotel image. The graphics, very smooth style and layout all bring to mind the
trendy upscale traveler theme that this relatively new hotel chain is known for.
Check out the virtual tour using the IPIX 360°
views (then best 360° viewer
around). The “W meetings”
section has basic floor plans and also highlights the technology in meeting and
guest rooms. All this is great.
However, what I dislike is the annoying interstitial (smaller, pop-up) window
that opens while playing music. This slows the opening page, requires effort to
close this window, assaults the site visitor with music that he or she may or
may not like, and distracts from appreciating the opening page.
Hyatt Hotels www.hyatt.com
The Hyatt site made my list for
its fresh, fast design and easy navigation structure. It is not loaded with
graphics, instead opting for basic text allowing the site to open quickly.
“Meeting Planning” is a prime navigation link on the home page
leading to a searchable facilities guide, request for proposal, value dates, and
more. This is a great example where less is more. A site can be simply designed,
easy to use, and still bring forward a highly professional image.
This site, in general, is your standard hotel chain directory. However, it has a great idea for meeting planners: the Ramada Events and Meetings Organizer (REMO) – a series of 10 checklists for meeting planners. These include timelines, budgets, meeting prospectus, arranging food & beverage, Audio Visual, event chart. Helpful content will bring people back.
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