The First 5 Seconds: Is Your Hotel Website Ready?


We live in a world of instant gratification and non-stop distractions. So, all hotel marketers can surely agree that holding a guest’s attention in the digital world is difficult. We’re up against our guests’ own smart phones, websites full of intriguing content and forever-streaming social media channels.

In fact, attention spans are at an all-time low. Recent studies have shown that because of all these tech distractions, humans now actually have shorter attention spans than goldfish! Bottom line for those of us trying to convert guests on our hotel websites? Every second counts.

There are still ways to capture attention quickly and hold it. The first five seconds on your site will determine if that person books or bounces, so you need to squeeze performance from every secondHere are the five things every hotel website must do in the first five seconds to grab and hold attention long enough to maximize your chances of conversion and revenue.

1. Load Quickly

You’ve probably experienced this yourself. If a hotel website doesn’t pull up in the same amount of time it takes to slowly blink your eyes, you think something is not only wrong with the site, but the hotel itself! The ramifications of a slow loading website are not just swift (people will abandon your hotel website if it doesn’t load within 4 seconds), but often permanent as well. Recent studies show that once a potential guest leaves your site because of slow loading, most will likely never come back. That’s a ton of potential bookings down the drain merely because it took up too many seconds to load.

One quick way to gauge and improve load times (especially for mobile) is to use Google own speed checker.

2. Clearly State Your Unique Value Proposition

The reason you’re different from your comp set has to be obvious.  Remember, you have just five seconds, so there is no time to waste in expecting the guest to figure it out on their own. Don’t hide what makes you special a few sentences down in your content or buried deep in other parts of your website. You need to offer relevance to the guest immediately.

And this principle goes for EVERY major section of your website, not just your home page. For example, if a bride-to-be clicks on one of your wedding ad campaigns, that click should lead her directly to your wedding page where she’ll immediately find exceptional photos of your best venues dressed for a wedding or reception and reasons to book her special day there, (like gorgeous ocean views, a stunning mountain setting and customized menus with cultural flavors). She should not land on your homepage, your accommodations page nor your meeting and conventions page, and be expected to find the reasons herself.

3. Be Visually Arresting

Your hotel photography should be more than just pretty pictures. They need to stop a guest in their tracks and convey your experience in a single glance. A study by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management found that when guests research their hotel options online, they will dig deep and examine photos closely to see if the perceived experience correlates to rates.

Plus, photography has the power to change someone’s mind – for better or for worse. So, invest in a photographer experienced at shooting architecture, interior design or other hotel properties. They will know how to create stunning shots even from the most mundane of spaces.  Plus, don’t settle for a few good shots that you will use over and over. That will get old fast.  Use multiple shots from different angles to mix up your marketing pieces.

4. Establish Trust

Whether travelers notice this or not, staying in a hotel is an extremely personal experience. That’s why guests will spend time carefully reading guest reviews to see what other travelers have experienced before them. They want to know that you are what you say you are and that you’re worth their travel dollars. The best way for you to establish trust and “social validation” directly from your website is to showcase a few select TripAdvisor reviews, your magazine awards and any major industry accolades.

Again, make them relevant to the page a guest is being brought to. Your group travel page should feature awards from travel associations or agencies. Your meeting and convention pages should showcase accolades or reviews from meeting planners or meeting publications.

5. Make it Remarkably Easy to Contact You Without Picking Up the Phone

Ever get frustrated trying to find a number to call or a contact email on a company’s website whenever you have a question? Your guests hate that, too. In fact, you should assume any potential guest will have a question about a possible stay with you. So, instead of waiting for them to contact you, make their life easier by reaching out to them or offering them a method to reach out to your staff effortlessly. The best and most cost effective way to do that is through a live online chat. Chats are the most convenient form of online hotel guest service today. Not only will your guests appreciate the live interaction with a reservation agent, you’ll also be in a better position to convert that customer into a paid booking.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: