Don’t Lose Direct Bookings Due to these 4 Web Hosting Failures

How many bookings are you losing when your hotel, tour, or travel website is down? The more critical question to ask is how often is your website down? You probably have no idea. If you don’t proactively monitor and respond to site failings globally and across devices, it is surely costing travel bookings. This includes travelers who are planning a vacation and visit your website (via search or social media for example) for the first time or return later to start booking.

To Do: Have a plan to monitor website uptime, responsiveness, and compatibility and resolve IT issues before you lose travel bookings. Here is your starter guide to tourism website monitoring, hosting optimization, travel mobile web compatibility, and email communication reliability.

1. Monitor Travel Website Uptime

The top of the list is keeping your site up and running 24/7. If your site goes down and a potential customer cannot access the page to “Book Now”, are they going to try again later? Maybe they will but why risk it? At the very least, monitor your website availability morning, noon, and night. Browse to your website first thing in the morning to make sure all is well. Do the same around lunchtime and again in the evening as your day ends. Have your hosting company or IT manager’s phone number at the ready in case your site is unresponsive or goes down.

Site Cannot Be Reached - Chrome Browser

To take this booking optimization tip to the professional level, sign up for an automated website monitoring service. These are companies who ping your website on a regular basis and notify you by email or SMS when your site is not responsive. Not only that, they monitor your site using test computers from around the world to simulate your global travel target market. While your tour website may be working fine from your home country, a traveler browsing from another country may have a different experience.

Review this website monitoring service roundup article on the Elegant Themes blog to learn about popular choices such as Pingdom (paid service) or StatusCake (free for life plan available) as well as WordPress plug-in packages such as JetPack.

2. Verify Site Loading Speed

Next up on the list of making sure your site is able to handle vacation planning visitors is site speed. If your website is slow to load, it might as well be down. The ability of your hosting company to transmit your web files quickly from shared or dedicated servers is only one part of the page speed calculation. Picking the most reliable web hosting company given your average traffic and monthly budget is the first step. The next is to optimize for blazing fast speed.

Remember that your potential guests are browsing to your site from around the world and often on limited mobile devices. People are busy and have little patience for slow-loading websites. After a few seconds of waiting for your navigation menu to activate or your travel photos to load, are they going to give up and hit the back button or close their browser? Optimizing your website for speed is a critical booking optimization task.

Luckily Google offers a free tool to test your speed and offers a plethora of suggestions for improvements. It’s called PageSpeed Insights (Google Developers) and it is super advanced. You may have to call in your IT specialist or web developer firm to help to fix many of the reported problems – unless you are a whiz at compressing JavaScript and eliminating blocking resources 😉

Google PageSpeed Insights - test travel booking site

Using the tool, test out a few of the most important pages by URL like your home page, booking or rates/tour pricing page, and tourism brochure page. Prioritize the most important and easy to make fixes first in order to make your travel website responsive and zippy. Or at least fast enough so that travelers are not likely to think your site is down or going down soon.

3. Check Mobile Hosting Compatibility

Just like with uptime and site speed, mobile compatibility is a website hosting-related issue. You may be using a web template that dynamically changes to be mobile friendly or you may have two templates, one for desktop browsers and one for mobile browsers. Either way you have to test mobile compatibility separately using a variety of mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. Or use a tool that simulates the hardware instantly.

I’m usually sitting at my desk using a laptop computer and often wrongly assume that my blog can handle mobile traffic 100% effectively. However smart phones and mobile browsers change quickly. Incompatibilities may be left undetected and unresolved unless you make it part of your booking optimization IT plan.

Can I say “Google to the rescue again”? It’s true. Navigate over to the Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your site can be seen, read, and analyzed by Google’s servers without question. Your goal is to see the message “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.” after testing a page. Here is what it looks like.

Google Mobile-Friendly Test Booking Site

Just to be clear I’m not talking about mobile usability. We’ll save that topic for another BookingCounts post. This is about whether your site can handle mobile device requests and serve pages to mobile browsers successfully. If you pass that test, Google will index and recommend (page rank) your hotel or tour site equally on mobile as for desktop Google searches. You don’t want to lose ranking due to mobile compatibility issues, so test and fix these issues to avoid penalties.

4. Unblock Booking Inquiry Emails

This travel website improvement series post is all about web hosting. However web hosting for any business goes beyond serving up your website. Email hosting is just as important to getting more bookings now and later. Does your web host also act as your email provider? Have you checked the settings lately to make sure that you can never lose a booking inquiry email?

Quick example… Just today I sent an email to a tourist attraction contact address and my message bounced. Ouch! The reason in this case was “mailbox full” but it could have been for one of a number of unexpected reasons. Take the time to login to your email hosting control panel or admin account to verify the settings. Be sure to check all your email user accounts and email aliases in addition to global settings. This includes the following areas of concern:

  • Mailbox maximum size
  • Deleted email retention policy
  • Email forwarding rules
  • Spam filtering, routing, and deletion
  • Password strength
  • How email addresses that don’t exist are handled
  • Email signature which includes contact address and links

Regardless of whether you use Google Apps for Business (which includes professional Gmail – highly recommended for running a tourism business) or your local web hosting company for managing email accounts, downtime is to be avoided. A full mailbox could lead to lost bookings and an booking inquiry email caught by an aggressive spam filter can have the same result.

Travel Businesses - sign up for free trial of Google Apps for Work (Gmail premium, Drive, Docs, more...)

Bonus Tip: Consider setting up an auto-responder email message that tells potential hotel or tour guests what happens next if you can’t always respond promptly. Mention your average response time and how else to get in touch when urgent or if they don’t hear back right away.

Summary

Nobody’s perfect, so be proactive with your website and IT hosting setup. This advice applies equally to the travel industry as it does to every reputable business that sells consumer products and services online.

Never assume that you can have your website hosted with a trusted company like HostGator and forget it for months at a time. Regularly test your hotel website uptime, your tour company website page load speed, your travel agency mobile friendliness, and ensure that you never miss a booking email message. All these travel IT tasks are a critical part of your drive to get more online bookings now and later.

Have another travel and tourism operator IT and web hosting tip? Share it in the comments section below.

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