As he takes in the crisp fresh mountain air of the Snowy Mountains, Anton Schatzle is confident his revamped website and the magic of internet searches will breathe renewed life into his resort bookings.
Bushfires stalled his business last summer and then the COVID border closures froze his winter bookings.
But he says guests booking directly with his Pender Lea chalets on the Alpine Way near Mt Kosciusko recently have him optimistic about a post-COVID recovery.
Mr Schatzle’s parents started the resort more than 40 years ago and after an avalanche of problems in the last 12 months, he says investment in his website has proved to be a good business move.
“Despite all the adversities with the fires and COVID – we’ve had a reasonably satisfactory winter because the traffic through our website has managed to steady the ship,” Mr Schatzle said.
“We started redesigning out website just before winter with the help of Simon Oldham from onlinetourism.com.au.
“It has definitely helped with our bookings.”
Mr Schatzle said it was vital for all accommodation providers to inform customers on the front page of their website that they could “save a great deal of money’’ by booking directly with the property rather than through online travel agencies.
“The site has to be simple to use and we’ve found the use of video on our pages to be very popular,’’ he said. “My other main piece of advice to property owners is that you need someone professional monitoring the site to update and modify it regularly. If you fall into the trap of trying to do it yourself you can go for months without having your finger on the pulse. With search engines such as Google you have to be relevant or you’ll fall behind.”
Michelle Smith, who with partner Gary Strickland runs the two properties Tides Apartments and Riverstone Retreat in Port Fairy, Victoria, says their websites ensure more than half of their bookings are made direct rather than through OTAs.
Port Fairy is a charming fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road, three-and-a-bit hours south-west of Melbourne.
But alongside all the tempting local attractions, Ms Smith says her properties’ websites are the keys to enticing guests.
She said with OTAs taking large commissions – and with that money going offshore rather than to local communities – Australian property owners needed to invest in a “simple, effective website and a direct booking engine that is easy to operate”.
“It’s one thing to get traffic to the website but if you don’t have a simple booking tool that people can work out in a couple of clicks they will move on and find somebody else,” she said.
Ms Smith says with Simon Oldham’s advice she began “ramping up’’ the website for the Tide Apartments five years ago.
“Lately we’ve been jazzing up the website so that it is now more and more mobile friendly,’’ she said.
“The website and all the tools of the internet have made a significant change to our business.
“Accommodation providers must have a really good website that presents well because these days your reputation is online. If you haven’t got a good website, you might as well not bother.”
As the founder of onlinetourism.com.au, Simon Oldham has spent the last eight years developing websites and online marketing campaigns for the tourism industry, covering the whole range of properties from major hotels to single room bed and breakfast establishments.
He laments that many property owners are still relying on websites that are antiquated, slow and not user friendly for mobile devices such as smart phones.
“Websites have to display quickly and be clear and concise,’’ he said.
“They also need to utilise all the optimisation techniques for Google searches.
“My company can give properties primary exposure in web searches and outstrip the top OTAs. That will be more crucial than ever in the competitive post-COVID environment.”
Trevor Rawnsley, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association, has urged all accommodation providers to take control of their pricing by driving traffic through their own websites rather than the OTAs run in other countries.
“We are urging people to book directly with the accommodation providers. By booking directly the consumer will get a better deal and better value,” he said, “and the accommodation providers will avoid the huge commissions that the OTAs charge.”
Grantlee Kieza OAM has won three Queensland Media Awards, two Australian Sports Commission Awards and has been a finalist for the Walkley and News Awards and for the Harry Gordon Award for Australian sports journalist of the year. In 2019 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his writing. You can find more of his work in our AccomNews & Resort News print magazines.
He has written 22 acclaimed books, including bestsellers Hudson Fysh, The Kelly Hunters, Lawson, Banks, Macquarie, Banjo, Mrs Kelly, Monash, Sons of the Southern Cross and Bert Hinkler.