A few weeks ago we asked you how you are running multilingual hospitality sites. We ran a survey and got 274 results. I’d like to share them here, and give everyone a good picture of what others are doing.
What sort of hospitality sites you are building with WPML?
The first question was about what kind of sites you are building. Since it’s WordPress and “WordPress is only intended for tiny sites”, we expected to see a huge majority of the replies on bed-and-breakfasts. The results are not quite so clear.
Here are my conclusions from these results:
- Yes, a lot of people are using WordPress to build websites for tiny and small hotels.
- A surprisingly large number of sites are built with WordPress for medium and corporate clients. Remember that there are a lot fewer corporate clients than bed-and-breakfasts our there. There are quite a lot of people using WordPress for these bigger sites.
- Many people are planning to start building hospitality sites but haven’t started on this. This means, that there is a big opportunity for new players in the market.
BTW: The comments section for this question reveals more interesting information. While we asked about 4 hotel categories, many people pointed out that they are using WordPress for other ‘reservation-related’ sites. We got a lot of replies about travel sites, tour operators and adventure sports.
What theme are you using for hospitality websites?
For hospitality sites, the theme can provide both the appearance and a lot of the functionality. We wanted to know how many people use themes that are designed specifically for hospitality sites and how many people use customized general purpose themes.
Here, the smallest group of replies indicated using a speciality theme for hospitality sites. If you’re thinking about creating hospitality-centric themes, you can see that there’s still a big opportunity here for you.
Most people use generic themes or build their own.
To us, it means that there’s a lot of specialization here and that the ability to customize means a lot. My guess is that people use their own solutions because it allows them to customize everything. When picking a dedicated ‘hotel’ theme, there might be less chance to customize and tailor the site. And again, it might mean that developers who build hotel themes might need to push a bit harder on marketing, to get people to know their offerings. I’d love to hear your opinion on this.
We also asked which theme people use. Here is a partial list of themes that starred in our survey (in no particular order with without any affiliation):
Like I said, this is a very partial list, including themes that appeared several times in the replies. There are many many other great themes for hospitality sites.
How do you handle booking?
Most hospitality sites need a booking system, to receive and process orders. When we asked about what booking system you are using, we really had no clue about what replies we were going to get.
Looking at the results, we can see that most people either use a third party booking system or a WordPress plugin.
Here are some of the third-party system that we learned about:
On the plugins list, we found:
And, quite a few people indicated that they use their own code, written from scratch.
In almost all the comments we received, we heard that integration with different languages is a problem. The solution is clear to us, but it takes some work to do to get there. We want booking systems to accept a language argument, which allows them to display the booking workflow in the selected language. That’s easier said than done, considering they have other priorities.
Seeing that this topic is ‘hot’ and current solutions all have some drawback, I’m going to write a detailed tutorial on how to create your own custom booking engine with our CRED plugin. CRED is our front-end content creation and editing plugin. It’s fully compatible with WPML and also interfaces with WooCommerce, via CRED Commerce. Our solution will require a bit of coding from your side, to connection things together, but it will do 95% of the hard work. I hope that it will be a good middle ground between a completely closed solution and a completely custom solution.
Are you using a channel management system?
A channel management system allows to synchronize listing across different marketing platforms. Sounds obscure? It might be if you’re the one building the site, but if you’re the manager of the hotel, it should make perfect sense.
Building a great website is fairly straight forward (no offence to all us great web developers out there). Getting it to appear on top search results is a different story.
This is how hotel marketing systems such as Booking.com, Agoda, Tripadvisor and even Expedia became so popular (and rich).
The idea is that you create a central listing of your hotel and the information gets distributed automatically to the different booking websites. You update the price, description and images on one place and it appears updated on all these ‘satellite’ sites. The really critical thing is to also update inventory. When people book on one site, the room availability is immediately updated everywhere.
Makes better sense now?
Problem is, most developers who build hospitality sites with WordPress don’t know what channel management is.
We see this as a big opportunity for businesses who run channel management solutions. We’d love to cooperate with such companies, to make their solutions completely compatible with WPML.
Still, we got some replies about what channel management systems are used today:
- SimpleBooking (remember, it also handles booking)
I hope that this helps. If you are using a channel management system, you’re very happy with it and you’d like to see integration with WPML, your introduction to the channel management developers would help.
How do your clients handle communication in different languages?
Having a website in several languages is great, but what do you do when people use the ‘contact us’ form and the hotel staff doesn’t speak the language?
We asked, and you replied:
It was little surprise when we learned that most people only translate their sites to languages that they speak.
On one hand, it makes perfect sense. If you speak English, German and French, you’re going to be pretty hopeless when you get a question in Korean.
On the other hand, wouldn’t it be a pity if that question was from a Korean travel agent, looking to book 30 rooms?
When we see difficult problems, we think of them as opportunities. If it’s hard for your clients to communicate in languages that you don’t speak, it’s got to be hard for everyone else too. When you solve hard problems, the rewards are always greater than when you solve trivial problems.
We’re planning to add a solution for this to WPML soon. You will be able to get cheap, fast and ‘good’ (but not publish-quality) translation for simple texts. This will allow to use human translation for inquiries in languages that you don’t speak. I hope that this will help many hotels communicate with many potential clients from around the world.
What do you think?
When we ran this survey, we wanted to learn and I feel that we learned a lot. We also came out with some homework from this:
- Work with more authors who are building hotel-specific themes
- Work with more developers who build booking plugins
- Design a multilingual-ready booking solution with CRED and CRED Commerce
- Add an option for cheap, fast and good translation to WPML for client inquiries
These are our conclusions. I’d love to hear your. Leave your comments here and we’ll get back to you.