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.
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:
What’s the process of building a hotel site on WordPress? A bird’s-eye view
- 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.
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:
- Choose a ready-made hotel booking theme (be attentive and chose those that include the automatic bookings submissions and payments).
- 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
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