The travel industry has been greatly changed by the advent of e-commerce, making it far easier for consumers to plan their own holiday or arrange business trips. However, without the help of a travel agent it can sometimes be hard to tell which hotels are available – especially if you have no knowledge of the area. This business idea, the online hotel guide, works through creating a database of hotels for a specific area (town, county or even a country). There should be a lot of information for each hotel and it should be free for them to register their details.
Your revenue will come from charging a weekly, monthly or annual fee for providing a link directly to the hotel website. It is your job as owner of the site to provide lot’s of extra content that will set your service apart from the others – such as fun things to do in the local area or competitions (in conjunction with the hotels you feature) to win free weekend breaks.
Skills needed: You will need some knowledge of the travel industry in your local area. Your website will need to be updated constantly so some basic knowledge of web publishing and database management will also be required.
Business environment and set-up cost: There are no barriers to international business in this industry; in fact many of your customers will likely be foreign travellers looking for information about your local area. For this reason you may wish to get your website translated into other languages to aid international visitors. You will need to have a high-end computer and powerful software to deal with the daily running of the site. The website itself will need to be professionally designed and hosted on a fast reliable server. In order to generate hits you may need to allocate a monthly budget for marketing. The overall set-up cost will vary from £10,000 to £25,000.
- Add your website to the popular pay-per-click search engines
- Establish mutual links with relevant link directories and web rings
- Run regular contests to win prizes in conjunction with some of the hotels on your site
- Use a mailing list in conjunction with the hotels on your site to keep customers informed about special offers
- Write a travel blog and give personal reviews of some of the hotels yourself (although be careful about offending some of your clients!)
- Use OnlineOffice to set up web-site, blog and online shop to promote your business online
Complimentary business ideas: Sell advertising space on your website
Notes: Keeping your database current is one of biggest challenges you will face. Try to make it easier for yourself by developing a special ‘members only’ section of your website for the hotels to access in which they can update you with any change in their details. Also, link your invoicing to the database to deal with credit card payments.
Online examples & resources:
- Hotel Guide Network – worldwide database of hotels
- Signpost – UK hotel database
- Hotel Blog Watch – opinions on some of the top hotels worldwide