Original article by Vikram Singh posted at Words of Vikram
Unfortunately it was not open for responses, but here’s mine…
Interesting and thought-provoking piece, Vikram. I have to say at the outset that I agree with roughly 90% of what you are saying here, mainly the benefits of WordPress as a CMS – although I perhaps wouldn’t couch some of your criticisms of the industry in the same terms. I usually tend to switch off when I read sweeping statements about “marketing experts” particularly when those making the criticisms purport to be precisely the same thing…
The things I would take issue with are firstly your assertion that hotels “cannot continue to 100% rent their entire online marketing efforts”. I don’t really see where you have made the case that they can’t, or even adequately explained what the reasons are behind your thinking that they shouldn’t.
Presumably hotels continue to work with marketing agencies because they see some value in the arrangement? What evidence do you have to suggest that they should stop doing this? (Sorry, I’m just “questioning the source” here). If my agency-run web site delivers me $2million/year in revenue, perhaps my agency is a good thing. If it delivers $2/year maybe not…
Incidentally, like you I have been heavily involved in the hospitality and web industries for quite some time. I can even recall nearly 20 years ago coding my first web site for something called Mosaic which probably appears in the fossil record these days. I have coded hundreds of sites, some using proprietary CMS, some open source, some not, but often taking over where there had been a relationship with a previous agency or developer. In all my time I have never come across the behaviour you describe when an agency relationship ends. I don’t believe any professional agency or developer would think of behaving in the manner you describe. It would be the “ultimate kiss of death” for their own businesses.
I’m also not convinced by your assertion that the wish for agencies to make money easily by not revamping their processes is the basis for every piece of outdated technology being used by hotels. It may be a contributory factor in the use of proprietary CMSs, but most hotels of any scale use rather more technology than just a CMS. It is precisely because a hotel’s web site is typically its main delivery channel that the hotel industry keeps reinvesting to produce enhanced user experiences.
We believe this is the factor driving WordPress uptake as fresh, updated content is a key UX element and WordPress is relatively easy for staff to learn and work with consistently. Given that staff turnover in the industry is quite high, it also a tool that many people will have knowledge of from elsewhere and so will not require much training to handle – quite a compelling reason for management to choose it. This benefit will only increase as uptake increases.
It would also be nice if you had at least given one example of a hotel customer that had successfully followed your advice to jump in without “a second thought”. Presumably they would just know to include 301 redirects into their .htaccess files so as not to lose the benefit of the SEO work they have previously paid for (and at the same time avoid a heap of trouble with Google)?
I’m not so sure it would make great sense to simply drop a branded site with integrated social networking, possibly linked to the PMS content and emailing software and to ditch a CMS the staff knows well on a whim? For a generic $35 hotel theme running on a CMS they don’t know. Seriously? I suppose they’d know to back up their databases and theme files before doing their “one-click updates” in case there’s a plug-in conflict – they would know how to use phpMyAdmin and FTP, right?
The reality is that businesses like mine have for some time been helping hotel clients to successfully switch to WordPress as a CMS as – yes – it does offer many of the benefits you describe. We can typically develop bespoke themed professional web sites for about a third of the cost of the typical agency model. We recently built such a site for a leading hotel to replace a WordPress site built on a generic hotel theme – just as you are suggesting. Traffic (and more importantly) conversions were pretty negligible. Post revamp the analytics look rather more compelling, but that obviously isn’t down to WordPress.
Can anyone set up and run a WordPress site in the manner you describe? I know quite a few very intelligent people who simply wouldn’t know where to start, but given a fair wind essentially the answer is yes. Will it work? Almost certainly not well, but when they come to looking at renewing or improving a site – or even starting one from scratch – they would really want to talk to someone who understands how to implement and optimise WordPress for the hotel industry.
On the other hand if my customers were more likely to believe what Jay Z and Katy Perry reckon, then perhaps I won’t have to explain what “open source” means anyway.