Tag Archives: websites

Some tourism operators are not taking the internet seriously

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Cost cutting by removing your tourism website is not the answer

Isn’t it frustrating when you see some tourism operators dismiss the value of an internet presence when most travellers are now using the web and social media to plan and book their trips?

Consider this recent example.  A cruise operator that takes passengers on wilderness cruises through a remote part of Gippsland surrounded by a rugged national park (we won’t name them here to protect their privacy) has had their details and website listed on many tourism websites including that of Parks Victoria. Recently, the cruise operator’s website went off-line, so we found their email address and alerted them to the fact.  The reply we got back (we’ve edited it for clarity) is below:

Unfortunately our web site has been discontinued –
not enough hits to justify the cost

What an unexpected reply!

Firstly, the cost of a .com.au domain name, plus simple web hosting with a reputable Australian provider, will set the cruise operator back around $70 per year. How can this tourism business justify removing their internet presence to save the tiny annual website operating cost of $70? You may wonder how many thousands of dollars they were instead spending on brochures to put on the shelf of the local visitor information centre or the big bucks they were splurging on colour newspaper ads.

Secondly, their statement that the number of hits didn’t justify the web presence is unqualified. How many hits did they want? Looking at the counter they used to have on their website, we estimate they got about 1,000 visitors (real people, not web robots) per year.  For a small operator in a remote area, that’s not too bad, particularly as there’s much potential for future growth if they start doing some more active promotion on the web.  All they needed was the right people to come across the website, and they could have had booked out cruises galore.

Let’s be really clear about this – an internet presence in the form of a website is one of the cheapest ways of giving your tourism business exposure in the travel market.  Once you have a website, people will have something concrete to reference on related websites. Here at Travel Victoria, we showcased their business on our tours and cruise pages, for free, giving them good exposure. Now we have nothing to link to, so their listing gets deleted as we have no authoritative source of information to present to our website visitors.  Same goes for social media.  People who want to discuss or share details of this amazing cruise through one of Victoria’s most pristine wilderness areas simply have nothing official to refer others to. People want to instantly see the cruise schedule, costs and photos of the journey so they can see if it is of interest to them.  The cruise operator’s website could also be used to inspire other people who wouldn’t normally do that sort of thing to actually experience it.

With the low cost of domain registration and website hosting, tourism businesses should consider an internet presence as being mandatory for their survival. The last thing they should be doing is wielding the cost-cutting axe to save a tiny $70 by killing off their website and effectively their entire internet presence.

An off-line website implies you’re closed for business

closed
People may assume if your website is down then you’re closed for business

It’s remarkable that in this day and age of the internet, where information about virtually anything anywhere in the world is available online, that some businesses in the travel and tourism industry regard a reliable web presence as something of little importance.  This is particularly relevant to those businesses whose operations pre-date the internet – some simply don’t appreciate how many travellers nowadays expect to instantly find information on the internet, at any time of the day or night.

Consider this example we experienced with a tourism business in Victoria.

A river cruising company (which we won’t name specifically), has operated on one of Victoria’s great scenic rivers for many decades.  Up until 2009, they had a simple website detailing their cruise schedule, what you’ll see along the way and a photo gallery. They let their web hosting expire (cost cutting in the height of the global financial crisis perhaps?), and since then they have had no dedicated web presence.

Many travel websites gave free exposure to this cruising company, (including us here at Travel Victoria), inviting people to click on the link to their website for further details about their cruises, their timetables and contact details. However, because the cruise company abandoned their web presence in 2009, these links went nowhere, and many people were simply left with the impression that the company was no longer operating. And if people think a business is not operating, they will just try elsewhere for what they need.

We cannot emphasise this enough – if your website goes off-line for an extended period of time, people will simply assume you’re no longer in business.

And if people think you may still be in business, you really cannot expect them to take on the role of a web detective, trying to piece together bits of information from various sources, in order to find out what should have been on your website.

As an experiment, using ONLY the internet, we attempted to find out the cruise timetable of this Victorian cruise company which took their website off-line in 2009.  Many websites where this company was mentioned simply provided a link to the off-line website for further information, so that was useless to us.  Others detailed prices and timetables that were dated from many years ago, as they obviously couldn’t get up to date information from the web.  This raised questions as to how accurate the information was, given it was years old.  We even tried the website of the local visitor information centre where the cruise company is based, but alas, they had few details other than a link to the off-line cruise company’s website. So we ended up emailing the visitor information centre asking for details about the cruises. We got a reply back two days later as they probably had to try to contact the cruise company to get the latest information, although to be fair, we did email the visitor information centre on a weekend. But still, one may ask if someone planning their trip is willing to wait two days for information that they could have in seconds if the cruise company continued their web presence? Many people would have probably tried another business in the area or maybe somewhere else in Victoria. That’s tourist dollars lost to that business and also to the town.

We then decided to email the cruise company directly and advise them that their website was off-line to see their response. To begin with, this became another intensive web detective crusade as we tried to find out their email address and we had no idea if the email address they published 3 years ago was still the one they used.  As it turns out, they did get our email, and said they said they are working on a new website. We can only assume they’ve been working on it on for the last 3 years!

Of course, one has to wonder why they didn’t just let their old website continue to run beyond 2009, update only the most critical information as needed, and then replace it once they’d finalised their new site?

With web hosting by reputable Australian companies at very affordable prices, many offering plans of less than $90 per year, there is simply no way to justify a cost-cutting exercise of having your website off-line for 3 years when you’re in the very competitive tourism industry and one in which people expect instant access to information when planning their travels.

Monitor the results of outsourcing of your website promotion

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Be careful with outsourcing your web promotion.

Outsourcing the job of promoting your website is becoming an attractive option for business owners who either don’t have the time or know-how to do this promotion themselves. However, you really need to keep a careful eye on what your promoter is doing, as if they are not professional about it, their work could end up damaging your business’s reputation rather than enhancing it.

The people at Jensen Windows & Doors (www.jensenqld.com.au) appear to have employed someone from overseas to promote their website in what appears to be a less than professional way. How do we know? Someone based in the Philippines (as determined by looking up the submitter’s IP address) filled in our free listing form for tours and activities in Victoria in order to get their business and website displayed on the Travel Victoria website.  They specified that Jensen Windows & Doors, who are manufacturers of doors and windows in Queensland, conduct tours and activities around the Great Ocean Road coastal town of Aireys Inlet in order to trick us into approving the listing and displaying the website link. With their link published, they would have gained exposure by people clicking on the link and viewing their website.  Also, web search engines like Google would notice the link and treat it as a vote of popularity for Jensen Windows & Doors, thus possibly boosting their website’s ranking when people conduct searches for window and door manufacturers.

While we obviously didn’t publish the free listing as requested by the person from the Philippines that Jensen have hired, it has however left us with a negative view of this Queensland-based manufacturing company that resorts to hiring people from Asia to get their business listed in inappropriate places.

Promoting your business and website is serious stuff.  If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, ensure the person or organisation you outsource this task to is of a reputable nature.  Also ensure that the methods they use to promote your website are appropriate.  They should not spam and they should definitely not try to trick others into listing your website by misrepresenting your business.

Make sure your website’s drop-down menus work on an iPad

Apple iPad
Getting those drop-down menus on your website to work on an iPad

By the end of 2011, Apple had sold more than 55 million iPads worldwide. In many markets, sales of the iPad represented over 70% of tablet computer purchases. Therefore it is important to make sure your website is fully functional when used on an iPad.

If you don’t have an iPad, one of the first things you can do is to view your website using the Safari web browser which is what iPads use by default.  Safari is available for Windows, Linux and comes standard on Macs.  You can download Safari for free.

Unfortunately, using Safari on your PC or Mac isn’t quite the same as using it on an iPad.  One of the reasons is that “hover” events in HTML/CSS cannot be performed on an iPad. A hover event occurs when you hover your mouse over something, without clicking, causing an action, such as a menu to drop down. Interestingly, Android-based tablet computers emulate the hover action by allowing you to tap on the area which would cause something like a menu to drop down. This tapping is ignored on iPad and other Apple mobile devices.

So if you have a website which uses a standard HTML/CSS drop-down menu (constructed using HTML list elements such as <LI>) and it relies on the “hover” event to make the menu items reveal themselves, then it probably won’t work on an iPad.

There are many solutions which make the iPad behave like an Android-based tablet whereby clicking on a button will emulate a “hover” and display the full drop-down menu. Some solutions use JavaScript while others use code to try and detect if you’re using an iPad and work around it. There are many ways to accomplish this, however we began a quest to discover the quickest and simplest method of getting those drop-down menus to work on an iPad, and the solution ended up being trivial.

To make a drop-down menu appear when someone taps on the menu button, all you need to do is add

onClick=”return true”

to the “A” tag within any list item (such as <LI>) that triggers a menu to pop up. This works for cascading menus as well.

This simple workaround has no affect on people using web browsers on desktop or laptop computers – it just forces the menu to pop up on an iPad when someone taps on the menu button, which is equivalent to a click.

We have verified this all works on a couple of websites we manage that use HTML/CSS drop-down menus:

  1. Beach Stays
  2. Dogs on Holidays

Originally, the drop-down menus on those sites failed to operate on an iPad due to the missing “hover” functionality, making it impossible to access the hidden menu items and forcing people to go through the tedious routine of returning back to the home page to access an index of the website’s contents. Once we explicitly defined a click action to emulate a hover, suddenly those drop-down menus began working (when you tap on them) just like on a desktop computer!

Due to the popularity of iPads, it is important to make sure all parts of your website work correctly on them, including those HTML/CSS drop down menus which are becoming quite popular nowadays.

 

Your accommodation property’s website – who’s looking at it?

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Low-cost ways of getting travellers to visit your website

An accommodation provider may typically spend between $1,000 and $5,000 getting a website developed for their business. A professional image is created, all facets of the accommodation are on show, but who is looking at it?

The next step many make is to then market their accommodation on commission-based travel websites, such as Stayz, Take-A-Break and Wotif. While you’re generating good business from these popular and high-traffic websites, your brand new shiny website sits there, unused.  This is because most high profile travel websites that market your accommodation do so on a commission basis (i.e. they take a percentage of the revenue you earn from each booking), and thus won’t allow you to display your contact details or a link to your elaborate website, otherwise they may lose a sale if you contact the property directly.

So how do you get extra people to find your website when they are on the internet?

  1. Pay-per-click search engine advertising. Use a search engine like Google, and you’ll notice ads appear related to your search terms. Sign up to Google AdWords and pay for your website to get listed in these advertiser sections. The problem is that unless you’re going to target niche search terms, then buying ads that appear when people search for things like “accommodation in Ballarat” could cost you several dollars per click. Do the sums and unless you’ve got deep pockets or get a lot of bookings, this can be quite an expensive option.
  2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). You employ an SEO expert to make changes to your website such that search engines like Google will rank your site highly for search terms of your choice.  To see results, you may need to wait months or years, and still there can be no guarantees as per our recent article on ranking high on Google. SEO alone is not enough as the wording on your website is just one of hundreds of points Google considers when ranking websites for certain search terms.
  3. Listing your business and website on a popular travel website. While there’s not many, there are a few travel websites which will happily advertise your accommodation and allow you to display your phone number, email address and a link to your website. They typically charge a fixed fee (like a newspaper advertisement) as they cannot collect commissions or track bookings while all your details on show to prospective guests. By choosing a travel website that ranks well in Google for general search terms related to your accommodation, you’re effectively getting items (1) and (2) listed above for a modest fixed fee.

Given that the cheapest and easiest way to get exposure for your website is to list it on a travel website, you may wish to consider:

  1. Travel Victoria – that’s  us!  For a small annual fee, you get a full page listing of your accommodation property, complete with phone number, email address and link to your website. In January 2012, our most popular listing by far, Lorne Caravan Park, was viewed by almost 2,000 people, with over 500 of them clicking through to the caravan park’s website. Generating those clicks using advertisements on Google, assuming $2 per click, would have cost the caravan park $1,000 compared to just $5 for their listing in January. Our average click rate for all listings in January 2012 was 31, so that’s still an expected $62 cost in Google AdWords versus $5 on Travel Victoria.
  2. Weekend.com.au. Whether you get a free listing or a paid listing, your website link gets displayed, allowing you to funnel traffic to your website.
  3. Great Places To Stay. If your accommodation is “special”, a listing on GPTS includes all your contact details and a website link, directing people to fully explore your offerings on your own website.

So don’t ignore the low cost and high value method of giving exposure to your website by listing it on a popular travel website. For a fixed fee, the visitors you attract can be endless.