Tag Archives: accommodation

Staying overnight at Melbourne Airport

Melbourne Airport is Australia’s second busiest airport, transporting over 33 million passengers per year.  It is currently Victoria’s only international airport and is located at Tullamarine – 21 kilometres by road from Melbourne’s CBD.

A very convenient advantage of Melbourne Airport is that the international terminal (T2) and all of the domestic terminals (T1, T3 and T4) are located next to each other, so you can easily walk between them.

Do you depart on an early morning flight from Melbourne?  Do you fly into Melbourne late at night?  Or are you travelling a long distance to Melbourne Airport from regional Victoria or southern NSW and are after a good night sleep before your flight the next day?  Then staying overnight at Melbourne Airport may be just what you need.

Within the grounds of Melbourne Airport are 3 hotels which are within easy walking distance of the airport terminal buildings.  They are Parkroyal, Holiday Inn and Ibis Budget.  Staying at one of these hotels will ensure you are relaxed and make it to your flight on time, or provide a relaxing night’s sleep after disembarking from your flight.

Parkroyal Melbourne Airport – from $235

Parkroyal Melbourne Airport

Parkroyal is the perfect hotel to stay at if you want to be just a few steps from the airport terminal. It sits above the large multi-level short term car park and is directly linked to the terminal buildings via two pedestrian sky bridges.

  • 100 metres from the international terminal building
  • 276 guest rooms
  • Standard, superior, deluxe and family rooms
  • Restaurant – open daily for breakfast and dinner, weekdays for lunch
  • Cafe – open daily for coffee and light meals
  • Bar – open daily for drinks, bar meals and snacks
  • Room service food and refreshments
  • Fully equipped gymnasium
  • 12 metre indoor lap pool, heated spa, sauna and steam room
  • Business centre
  • Valet parking or self-parking at discount rates

Phone: (03) 8347 2000
Website: www.parkroyalhotels.com

BOOK NOW - Parkroyal

 

Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport – from $195Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport

This hotel was Melbourne Airport’s first on-site accommodation option, originally known as Travelodge Tullamarine when it first opened back in 1970.  Now called Holiday Inn, it is located just opposite the multi-level long term car park, and is between 300 to 500 metres walk from the airport buildings, depending on the specific terminal.

  • 4 star rated property
  • 207 guest rooms
  • Superior rooms, executive rooms and spacious luxury suites
  • Day use rooms (up to 6 hours) from $99 (book by phone only)
  • All rooms are soundproofed from airport noise
  • Restaurant – open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Bar – open daily for drinks and coffee
  • Room service food and refreshments
  • Kids stay and eat free (conditions apply)
  • Fitness centre with gymnasium
  • Outdoor pool
  • Business centre
  • Complimentary 24 hour shuttle service to the terminals
  • Park, Stay and Go packages available, providing free airport parking
  • Complimentary 24 hour shuttle service to the terminals

Phone: (03) 9933 5111
Website: www.holidayinnmelbourneairport.com.au

BOOK NOW - Holiday Inn

 

Ibis Budget Melbourne Airport – from $129Ibis Budget Melbourne Airport

Ibis Budget offers excellent value accommodation for those who simply want somewhere cosy to sleep at an affordable price.  It is located just across the road from a BP service station and McDonalds.  The airport buildings are between 300 and 700 metres walk away, depending on the specific terminal.

  • 73 guest rooms
  • Rooms have either a queen bed, or 2 single beds and an overhead bunk
  • Private ensuite (small)
  • All rooms are soundproofed
  • Complimentary all you can eat buffet breakfast served daily
  • 24 hour check-in either via front desk (limited hours) or self-serve kiosk
  • Private on-site outdoor parking

Phone: (03) 8336 1811
Website: www.accorhotels.com

BOOK NOW - Ibis Budget

 

The background behind the major online accommodation websites

When searching on the internet for accommodation, it can be quite a daunting task with many options available, particularly in large towns and cities. So a quick way to get an overview of these many options is to use an online travel website. They can display availability and pricing for many hotels at once, so at a glance you may be able to find something suitable without individually going to each hotel’s website.

There are many online travel websites which feature listings for accommodation in Australia and throughout the world, but most belong to either one of two large groups.

Online hotel booking brandsThe Priceline Group runs a number of websites including:

Expedia Inc is the owner of these popular websites:

It is important to realise that searching for accommodation within a specific accommodation group will yield the same results. So, for example, search for somewhere to stay on wotif.com, and you will get exactly the same results as if you had searched on expedia.com. What may be different is the layout of the website, the search mechanism, loyalty reward schemes, and the ways guests can get customer support.

Between the two major groups listed above, there may be price differences between individual accommodation properties. However, in general, they are limited to special offers or campaign sales. For example, we did a search for a one night stay at a specific hotel in the popular Melbourne inner northern suburb of Brunswick on several websites within these two major groups. For most room types, the tariffs were identical. But within the Expedia group, they were promoting a sale at the hotel of our choice on deluxe queen rooms, which resulted in the nightly pricing dropping from the standard $145 down to $108 on all the websites within that group.

Based on that, one could conclude that best way to get the lowest pricing when using online travel websites is to pick one from each of the two major groups and search those.

Another option is to use what is known as a meta search engine website. These gather pricing for accommodation through a large number of booking websites and present the combined results.

Meta hotel searchSome major meta search engines for hotel bookings are:

A few years ago, using meta search engines was really the way to go. That was because many of today’s popular online travel booking sites were actually independantly owned and managed, with their own arrangements between suppliers of accommodation. This meant there were many instances of wide variability in pricing and the presence of some hotels across those sites. But in the last few years, many popular online travel booking sites have been bought out by big groups, including Australia’s Wotif which was acquired by Expedia in late 2014. What exists now is basically a duopoly between the websites that are part of Priceline Group and those that Expedia Inc runs.

Is this the end for hotel meta search engines? Yes and no.

While Priceline and Expedia control many of the world’s most popular accommodation booking sites, there are a few smaller ones out there which are still independant and do offer unique deals, so using a hotel meta search engines can easily sniff these out for you.

Australian-based HotelsCombined is an interesting meta search engine. Like Trivago and Kayak, it searches websites belonging to the major online travel groups and combines the results. However, it also has arrangements in place with some hotel chains, like Best Western for example, such that it can get pricing directly from the hotel, rather than through the major online travel websites that the hotel has listed itself on. While this sounds good in practice, it may not actually mean you get a room cheaper when booking direct.  There is usually a rate parity arrangement in place which prohibits a hotel from advertising a cheaper rate on its own website than through the major online travel groups that it distributes room availability through.

The Wotif grid is back

Wotif was established during 2000 in Australia as an online hotel booking service. It was bought by United States travel giant Expedia during late 2014.

Up until recently, what set Wotif apart from other online booking and comparison service was its grid or matrix of hotel prices and availability.  Many other competing services required a traveller to provide their exact check-in date and duration of stay before they were presented with a matching list of hotel availability options.  In striking contrast, Wotif simply presented an availability and pricing grid across all hotels so travellers could see at a glance their options. This particularly suited people who were flexible with their travel arrangements or who were hunting for the best deal.  See the example below.

Wotif availability grid

At the time, Wotif’s executive general manager underlined the difference between Wotif and other online booking services by these quotes in regards to its availability and pricing grid / matrix:

  • “It’s one of those things we know has a big fan base…and continues to provide an easy way to compare rates for price sensitive travellers who have flexibility about when they want to travel.”
  • “The grid layout is now also somewhat unique. On most sites, customers would have a hard time knowing if the next or previous day or week offered a better deal.”

In early 2015, Wotif changed their availability display style to match the theme of Expedia which meant travellers needed to specify specific dates and stay durations before they could search for availability. This caused the following issues:

  • If someone was wanting to find availability or the best rates for a weekend stay, but had flexibility about which weekend, it would require them to conduct a separate search for each weekend and write each one down to compare. With the Wotif availability grid, a traveller could see instantly the availability across a range of hotels, and simply flick the calendar forward to get to the next weekend
  • Someone with flexibility in regards to the duration of their stay would now need to conduct separate searches with different durations to see the availability and tariffs.  Whereas with Wotif’s former matrix, travellers could see, at a glance, whether they could change the length of their stay and which hotels could accommodate them.

Many people have some degree of flexibility when it comes to their travel plans, particularly if it is for leisure purposes, so having to go through a time consuming process of trying various combinations of check-in dates and stay durations can seem very cumbersome with Wotif’s new Expedia interface than simply casting one’s eye over a availability grid which covers a range of accommodation properties, dates and prices.

Like many others, we here at Travel Victoria missed the Wotif availability grid.  So we did something about it!

As an official Wotif affiliate partner, we had the opportunity to request access to the Wotif API through Expedia, which would allow us to extract availability and pricing from their live database without having to go through the web interface.  This meant we could build a customised table of availability across a range of hotels. Thus we were able to recreate a simplified version of the much loved Wotif matrix, as shown below for our St Kilda accommodation list:

St Kilda accommodation

We do have a few limitations:

  1. It is not a real-time availability matrix as it actually takes a few hours to build up the matrix of availability for the several hundred hotels in Victoria we have chosen to feature in the grid.  At the moment, it is automatically updated once a day, with this process concluding in the late afternoon.
  2. It only covers 3 months. People looking for accommodation more than 3 months into the future will still need to do a traditional (and cumbersome) search by date.
  3. It only shows availability for stays which have a minimum duration of 3 nights or less, as testing for longer minimum stays would slow down the database update significantly.
  4. It only shows the base or minimum rate for the cheapest room.  To get the rates for all room types and numbers of guests, people will still need to go through the regular Expedia style interface.  Wotif actually had a second level grid which would open up if you restricted your search to a specific hotel, thus showing all room types and rates.

So the Wotif grid is back, alive and well, although in a much simpler form,  now on the Travel Victoria website!

Off the beaten path in Melbourne & Victoria

Melbourne and Victoria offer a wondrous number of destinations ripe for exploration and enjoyment. While the city of Melbourne holds many different popular attractions, research the possibilities of going off the beaten path. Journey through the countryside and visit unique locations and experience once-in-a lifetime adventures.

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Great Ocean Road
The 12 Apostles rock formation on the stunning Great Ocean Road

Considered one of the most scenic areas in southern Australia, the Great Ocean Road lies south-west of Melbourne along the coast. Driving on the road, visitors see an array of unusual rock formations jutting out of the shoreline or out of the water. One of those not be missed are the famous Twelve Apostles – although due to wave erosion, there are only 8 of these limestone stacks left standing. The area has sandy beaches and camp sites where holiday makers enjoy canoeing and kayaking or just exploring and photographing the landscape. Venture to the Great Otway National Park and hike through gorges while witnessing cascading waterfalls and encounter a series of caves. The park also serves as home to a myriad of wildlife including kangaroos and koalas.

Great Ocean Road tours & activities

HANGING ROCK

Hanging Rock
The view from Morgan’s Lookout near the summit of Hanging Rock

The Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve lies in the middle of the Macedon Ranges, east of Woodend. This unique rock formation rises 718 meters above sea level and features a massive boulder suspended between other massive structures. A pathway leads into the expansive cavern beneath the hanging rock. The location remains a favourite destination for climbing and gaining a bird’s eye view over the landscape. The park also has a forest, creek and picnic grounds along with an interpretation centre and cafe. While hiking around the park, guests often see eagles, koalas and kookaburras along with possums and wallabies. The local Hanging Rock Winery welcomes visitors to sample a number of locally produced wines while enjoying the view of the Macedon Ranges and lush green rolling hills.

HEALESVILLE SANCTUARY

Koala
A koala at the Healesville Sanctuary

Unlike conventional zoos, the Healesville Sanctuary strives to defeat species extinction through a number of breeding programs. Set in a rural bush setting on the outskirts of Healesville, the sanctuary features animals native to Australia that range from cassowaries to Tasmanian Devils. The park offers various live demonstrations and feedings throughout the day to the delight of guests. Watch the abilities of the birds of prey or cuddle a koala. The facility hospital also provides an opportunity for viewing the newest park residents.

TRAVELLING THROUGH VICTORIA

Rather than flying to Melbourne or another location in Victoria, staying in a hotel and relying on public transport or tours for seeing the sights, consider creating a holiday while driving a campervan. Having a personal vehicle provides greater freedom to leisurely come and go wherever desired. Enjoy the great outdoors and spectacular scenery while staying in and exploring the many national parks around the area. Save money and calories while indulging in a home-made BBQ in the fireplaces provided at the camp sites. Caravanning also offers privacy. Sleep in without awakening from the noise created by other hotel guests. Conversely, when staying in rural locations, families or groups of friends need not worry about disturbing other guests. Take a road adventure in a caravan and make lasting memories.

Campervan hire is a great way to explore Melbourne and Victoria. When thinking of campervan hire in Melbourne and Victoria, also take into consideration the state has quality camping parks with convenient facilities where people can rent a space for the night.

Campervan
Create the ideal holiday experience in Victoria by hiring a campervan

Careful with adding TripAdvisor widgets on your accommodation website

TripAdvisor website
Adding TripAdvisor widgets to your website? Think carefully.

TripAdvisor is one of the most popular and influential travel websites. Many accommodation  managers have embraced the TripAdvisor concept, and actively monitor reviews that guests post. This allows them to view feedback and provide a “management response” to any reviews that deserve another point of view, so that prospective guests can make an informed decision.

TripAdvisor allows you to implant “live” widgets on your website. There are a range of different types – some simply show that the accommodation is featured on TripAdvisor, while others go into more specifics, such as showing how many travellers gave a 5/5 rating.  The one you really need to watch out for is the “review snippets” widgets as it shows the last (5 by default) recent reviews.

One of our clients has embedded the “review snippets” widget by TripAdvisor on their website. They are an acclaimed B&B – one of the top ranked their area. 90% of their reviewers have given them an overall “excellent” or “very good” rating. However, at this exact moment in time, this is what their “live” TripAdvisor widget is showing:

TripAdvisor widget
TripAdvisor review snippets live widget

That widget is displayed prominently on every single page on their website for everyone to see.  2 out of the last 5 reviews are unfavourable.  After seeing the phrases “didn’t live up to expectations” and “terrible and over priced”, you can imagine some people won’t spend a second longer to delve any deeper, and they will simply look elsewhere. That means lost bookings.

The problem here is those reviews have been taken out of context. While 2 out of 5 bad reviews are showing there, if you look at the bigger picture, that accommodation establishment has a total of 30 positive reviews out of a total of 33. In fact, half the reviewers gave the accommodation the highest possible score of 5 out of 5. Now that’s a pretty impressive achievement. Delve a little deeper, and each unfavourable rating has been followed up with a management response which casts significant doubt on the version of events described by the guests in question.

It’s a big risk implanting the TripAdvisor recent review snippets widget on your website. Any bad reviews from the 5 most recent really stand out and contain no explanation other than some derogatory catch phrase which is sure to put some people off, no matter how good all the others are.  If you want to implant a TripAdvisor widget on your website, you’d be much wiser to choose one of the safer ones that don’t show the leading catch-phrase of guest reviews up-front. That way, if people want to see your reviews on TripAdivsor, they can go in and see the whole picture.

Will booking your accommodation directly with the property give you the best deal?

booking
Should you book your accommodation directly or via a third party?

When booking accommodation, you can either book directly with the property, or choose to go through a third-party booking service, such as Wotif, Expedia or Agoda.  So which gives you the best deal?  Let’s put this to the test with a real-life example.

Let’s consider the Bairnsdale Motel which is located at Bairnsdale, in eastern Victoria.  We are after a 3 night stay, checking in on Sunday 24th March and out on Wednesday 27th March, in their cheapest room.

  1. Direct booking. If you go to this motel’s website, you’ll discover their direct online booking system.  Nightly stays in their “superior queen” room are listed at $155, but they offer a 3 night rate of just $132 per night. Thus booking directly with the hotel will cost $396.00.
  2. Booking through Wotif.  This motel distributes their accommodation through Wotif, however you will not find any of their special 3 night deals, so we are forced to pay $155 per night for 3 nights. To make matters worse, Wotif charges a non-refundable $5.50 fee for each booking, thus booking through Wotif will cost $470.50.
  3. Booking through Agoda. The nightly rates are identical to Wotif, however because Agoda doesn’t charge a booking fee, the total cost will be $465.00.

So book directly with the motel for $396, go through Agoda and pay $69 extra for exactly the same room, or choose Wotif and pay even more – $74.50 or 18% extra.

But you can’t just look at the room rate only. What if, due to unforeseen circumstances, you need to change or cancel your booking?  How does each booking method deal with that?

  1. Direct booking. You deal with the motel directly and you can simply email or phone them to change or cancel your booking, subject to their change/cancellation policy.
  2. Booking through Wotif. A $25 administration charge applies to any booking change or cancellation. This is because you have to contact Wotif, who then have to deal with the motel to cancel or change your booking. Don’t forget the non-refundable $5.50 fee still applies even if you cancel your booking.  You will also still be bound by the motel’s own change/cancellation policy.
  3. Agoda.com don’t charge fees for changing or cancelling bookings, but if you do cancel, it can take up to 10 days for them to refund your money. Like with Wotif, you will also be bound by the motel’s own change/cancellation policy.

Booking directly with the accommodation provider means you avoid third-party booking fees and you get full access to all their room types and offers. If you need to change or cancel your booking, and you didn’t book directly, your request needs to go through multiple organisations, some of which charge hefty fees in addition to the restrictions imposed by the accommodation property itself.

A good technique for locating accommodation is to use websites like Wotif, Expedia or Agoda to see what’s available, and then when you are ready to book, simply book directly with your chosen accommodation provider, either their own online booking system or by phone. As well as getting the best rates, things are much simpler if you need to modify or cancel your booking.

Official tourism websites – Victoria vs. Tasmania

Competition between the states with their tourism websites

Each one of Australia’s states and territories has their own official tourism website.  If you own or manage an accommodation property, it is certainly beneficial to have some exposure on these official sites as they are used by a wide range of travellers.

Victoria’s official tourism website is Visit Victoria, while Tasmania’s equivalent is Discover Tasmania.  When it comes to advertising your accommodation, they are quite different.

Go to the Discover Tasmania website and you will find around around 1,050 accommodation listings for this small state with a population of 495,000 people (2011 Census). Pop over to the Visit Victoria website where there are around 1,400 accommodation listings in a state which is home to 5.35 million people.

So why does Victoria, with more than 10 times the population of Tasmania and being home to the second largest city in Australia (i.e. Melbourne), have only a slightly larger listing of visitor accommodation on its official tourism website? It mainly comes down to cost.  Accommodation listings are free on Discover Tasmania, hence anyone operating an accommodation business in Tasmania can receive, at no cost, exposure on that state’s official tourism website. To do so, they just need to register their business in Tourism Tasmania’s TigerTOUR database.  In Victoria, accommodation listings on Visit Victoria cost $250 per year, although this is reduced to $100 for accredited tourism businesses. This cost therefore discourages some accommodation operators in Victoria from listing on Visit Victoria.

This raises an important question. Should official tourism websites for Australia’s states and territories provide free accommodation listings in order to promote tourism and encourage people to stay overnight and contribute to the local economy?  Tasmania and Victoria appear to have different views on that idea.

There’s more to accommodation reviews than just reading the review

review
Don't just read the accommodation review - ask yourself how it got there

When deciding on a place to stay while on holidays or away on business, many people turn to guest reviews published on the internet for a more realistic picture of what to expect.

When looking at reviews, there’s a bit more to them than just the actual contents. You need to give weight as to whether they have been verified as being written by confirmed guests, and if there’s been any censorship of reviews. So let’s look at some of the more popular websites used by Australians for finding accommodation which publish reviews.

TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com.au)

  1. Reviews are accepted for any accommodation property without the property owner’s knowledge or permission.
  2. Anyone can submit a review without actual proof of staying there.
  3. Property managers cannot remove reviews, just respond to them once only if they are registered with TripAdvisor.

Wotif (www.wotif.com.au)

  1. Only guests who booked through Wotif will have the ability to submit a review for the property they stayed at.
  2. Reviews only include numerical scores for specific items such as location, value, facilities, service and cleanliness. No comments are permitted.

Take A Break (www.takeabreak.com.au)

  1. Only guests who booked through Take A Break will have the ability to submit a review
  2. While all reviews are published, a property manager can get Take A Break to remove a review they demonstrate is unjust

Stayz (www.stayz.com.au)

  1. Anyone can submit a review without proof of staying there
  2. Property manager controls which reviews are displayed in their listing, effectively “censoring” all reviews

What is interesting here is that reviews on TripAdvisor cover very wide ground, from glowing accounts of superb accommodation and impeccable service, to reports of appalling conditions and disgraceful service – often relating to exactly the same property! This is expected, since anyone can submit a review – although TripAdvisor claim they can detect most fake submissions. Those reviews are published independently of the accommodation property, so there is effectively no way for a review to be removed.

At the other end of the scale is Stayz. While anyone can submit a review without verification, the property manager will only release for publication reviews of their choice. As they are unlikely to allow bad reviews to be published, the general public effectively gets to see only the very best reviews and no others, similar to the cherry-picked testimonials that businesses tend to publish on their website. You may get the impression by reading the reviews that every stay at every property listed on Stayz will simply be perfect.

So when reading a review for an accommodation property, also keep in mind how the review got published, who may have written it, and what (if any) censorship may have occurred.

Use your website’s on-line booking facility to the max

booking online
Get the most out of your on-line booking system

More and more accommodation providers are adding instant on-line availability and booking facilities to their websites to ensure potential guests can quickly and easily find and book accommodation 24/7. The benefits to the provider and the consumer are numerous, some of which we’ve mentioned in our article why you need a real-time online booking system.

But are you getting the most out of your own on-line booking system?

A couple of months ago, one of our staff members booked a 5 night family holiday at the beachfront town of Cowes on Phillip Island for late November. The apartments they were looking at had an on-line booking system, so they expected using that would be the quickest way to make a reservation and get the best deal. Unfortunately, the apartment provider made their online booking system very unattractive by only offering apartments at the “rack rate”, which is basically the maximum price they’d ever charge without any discounts. In reality, you almost never pay anywhere near the “rack rate” unless it’s right in the middle of peak season or during some local event when accommodation is scarce. Whether you stay one night or 10 nights, the accommodation provider offered the same inflated nightly “rack rate” if you booked online with them.

Upon phoning the establishment directly, our staff member secured a deal for the 5 night stay that was 40% cheaper than booking on-line. Instead of paying the $275 per night online rack rate, they paid $165 per night.  Wow!

The lesson here is that if your on-line booking system is only accepting bookings at the inflated rack rate, then chances are you’re going to be missing many bookings.  Our staff member could have easily been put off by the exorbitant off-peak $275 per night rate shown in the online booking system and tried somewhere else, thus costing the establishment a profitable 5 night booking.

Some useful tips for accommodation providers with on-line booking facilities:

  1. Advertise your best rate within the on-line booking system on your website. You’ll only get one opportunity to secure a booking when someone visits your site as you’re not directly negotiating with them. So don’t scare them off with inflated prices.
  2. Ensure your on-line booking system has discounted packages for multiple-night stays. Most systems should be flexible enough to allow you to discount rates instantly when people enter in the length of their stay. People don’t expect that the nightly rate for a week will be charged at the same rate as just a one night stay.
  3. Don’t undercut your own website’s online rates on third party accommodation distributors like Wotif, HotelClub, etc.  If you can offer those rates to those websites, then you can surely offer them on your own website. In fact, you really want people to book directly on-line with you, to save you paying hefty commissions to those third party distributors anyway. Additionally, people often compare your rates on Wotif and others with your own website for the best deal, so save the commission payment and make your own booking system competitive.

Your on-line booking system is a valuable, time-saving tool, but it can also cost you bookings if used wrongly.

Evaluating internet advertising offers for your accommodation

Evalute
Evaluate and compare advertising offers before signing up

If you’re an accommodation provider, you will no doubt be regularly swamped with offers from websites wanting you to advertise your business with them. You may receive these offers via letters in the post, email (some of those may even contravene the Australian Spam Act of 2003!), phone calls or even people visiting your business personally.

These days, having exposure for your accommodation on the internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity if you want to attract a significant number of guests. But how do you choose where to advertise?

It’s important to evaluate the website that your accommodation will be advertised on to ensure you’ll get decent exposure and you are dealing with a reputable organisation.

  1. Ask how many visitors come to their website per month. Don’t be mislead by statistics related to the number of “hits”. A “hit” is triggered when a distinct item, be it a page of text or a single image, is downloaded off a website. If one page has a large number of embedded images, then someone viewing only that one page can trigger something like 50 hits instantly. A more meaningful measurement term is the number of “visitors” which provides a guide to the number of real people who browse the site. For example, during October 2011, there were over 162,000 visitors to the Travel Victoria website, which generated about 10.5 million hits – quite a difference in those numbers!
  2. Don’t just take their word for their claimed website visitation statistics. A very rough guide you can use to examine the performance of a website is to enter the website address at Alexa. Alexa records statistics of website visitors through those who use the company’s toolbar in their web browser. The lower a traffic rank, the more visitors it gets. Other statistics are available, including the average number of pages visitors view and how long they stay on the site. Note that the results are more accurate for high-volume sites as more data is collected. Also use it to compare different websites against each other to see which performs best.
  3. Ask the website operator to supply a list of search terms in Google that lead people to their site and thus to your advertisement. If you rent out a holiday house in Venus Bay, then you’d want their website to catch people who would be typically be searching for terms like “Venus Bay”, “Venus Bay accommodation”, “Venus Bay holiday”, “beach accommodation”, etc. If searching for terms like that in Google isn’t giving at least one entry for their site in the top 5 results returned, you’ll want to question them about how people will find your property’s advertisement. Keep in mind that search engines such as Google are the major way people find information on the internet unless you’re advertising with an organisation that is a recognised household name whereby people will go directly to their website instead of searching.
  4. Ask for a complete list of all advertising costs. The advertising rates may appear cheap, but then you may have to pay a set-up fee, a maintenance fee each time you want to make changes to your advertisement, or maybe there’s extra costs for add-ons like displaying extra photos or a link to your own website. Some websites may charge a commission on enquiries or bookings, which can potentially cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
  5. Check the website owner’s credentials. View details relating to the website owner by doing a lookup on the website address using Whois. If the website is based in Australia, search for the website owner’s Australian Business Number (ABN) or if they are a company, the Australian Company Number (ACN) using the details you found in the “whois” search. Also search for their business details within the business register of the state or territory the website is based in.
  6. Verify there are no consumer warnings or significant negative information regarding the website in question on the internet. A good way of doing this is to use Google to search for the website address or name (put quotes around it) followed by the word “scam”, “warning” or “fraud”, and see what comes up. Click the links that come up and carefully read the content, as some websites (including us at Travel Victoria) publish actual reports of scams and fraud, which doesn’t mean they (or us!) are the actual source of them.