For any hotelier, having a website that represents the best their hotel can offer to guests is a dream.
The challenge, as Thelma Gray, owner of Cowra Country Gardens Motor Inn, faced, is that many of those hoteliers lack the staff and budget to have a world-class hotel website created – let alone maintained. The hotel business had a website, but it was inefficient and difficult to manage.
“I was never totally happy with our old website,” Ms Gray said.
“Every time I told our website provider that we had to do something, it would either take ages to be done or it was not done at all. And each time we did have the website redesigned, there was very little change from the previous version and I felt that they were effectively carbon copies of one another. Even the photos weren’t updated often enough. Basically, there was little imagination that went into its production.”
As a result, the hotel’s website looked dated and insecure – not something you would trust as a resource when planning a trip, much less make a booking through.
Deciding that it was necessary to find an alternative solution that would provide Cowra Country Gardens Motor Inn to have a website without requiring excess effort, time or cost, Ms Gray discovered Canvas, an easy-to-use and rapid website creator designed specifically to help give independent hoteliers a competitive website.
Using Canvas, the Inn saw a substantial rise in its Google rankings in just four months while its year-over-year bookings doubled for a month that was typically off peak.
Taking back control and independence
In addition to the increases in bookings and Google rankings that the Inn experienced, Canvas provided Ms Gray an opportunity to have a visually-appealing website design, while also representing the best that both her hotel and the broader Cowra destination town could offer tourists by providing them with clear, concise and accessible information – at their computer, tablet or mobile.
Equally importantly, Ms Gray said, Canvas gave her a far greater level of control and input into the development of the site, without requiring that she learn complex IT and web design skills.
“Having ownership over the website design process makes me feel much more confident about the site, and what is on it,” Ms Gray said.
“Previously having to wait for someone else to complete any changes when I requested them would become very frustrating as I waited for them to be made. For instance, one page we had required changes to be completed urgently but unfortunately the website designer who needed to do the amendments was overseas for some weeks. You can imagine the difficulties that created for us.
“But working with Canvas I was very pleased with the results immediately. And now I can make changes to my website directly without risking its design or visual elements. As someone with only basic computer skills, this is a key benefit of the product for me.”
Attracting and converting in only four months
The new website is now live, and it highlights Cowra as one of the most historically-valuable and interesting places in Australia to visit, with its inclusion of more than 10 unique, local attractions that include Iandra Castle and the POW Theatre where visitors can view a nine-minute hologram recounting the Cowra Breakout during World War II.
In itself, the Inn’s website design is on par with what you might expect to see on the finest independent hotel’s website to give customers peace of mind about the security and reliability of the site, and, ultimately, of the hotel. Where the local attractions and some of the hotel’s most stunning images were once hidden, they now constitute the hero features of the website to better position Cowra Country Gardens Motor Inn as a place where travellers should stay.
For guided selling and a simpler user experience, the website is today clutter-free and features a large, prominent button for users to secure their booking at any point of the journey. In the longer term this will help to increase the Inn’s occupancy rate throughout the year and not just during its peak seasons.
And, the website is both searchable and responsive to better target inspired travellers while they’re on the move.
In just four months, between June and October 2015, the Inn’s rankings in Google increased by an average of nearly four spots across four search terms, including “Cowra hotel” which saw the Inn move on to the first page of Google for the very first time.
Year-over-year bookings also increased by 100% for the month of August and 25% during September, an important month for the Inn due to the annual Sakura Matsuri event being held at the Cowra Japanese Garden to celebrate cherry blossom season.
Says Ms Gray:
“The website stands out so much more and I am confident it is drawing people to the town and to our hotel. The increase we have seen in our Google rankings and bookings, just four months in, is definitely proof of that. The website is so different to what is normally associated with an accommodation property of our size and in a place like Cowra.”