How to improve profit from tourists for small international businesses 18 December 2014

As we have traveled for months we often have to rely on online reviews. We are forced to as we often show up in cities with no contacts on the ground and plans to see some attractions. This means when it comes to hotels, food, ATMs, taxis, bars, and other activities we turn to the net. It seems many smaller hotels and restaurants don’t know how to leverage the internet to increase their business. For instance we are in Elmina, Ghana and it only has 1 restaurant according to TripAdvisor, which I am here to tell you is not true.

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Some little B&B and restaurants do become active with basic online presence and often tell us about massive growth in their business. It becomes so important they protect there online reputations, diligently responding to any complaints and trying to improve on common customer issues. So how can you attract international travelers, with a low amount of effort? I thought I should share what I consider to be the basic steps for having an online presence that tourists can find.

  1. Have at least a basic website
  2. Ensure correct location information on your establishments on mapping sites
  3. Ensure correct additional information and photos of your establishments pages
  4. For lodging that includes a restaurant ensure both hotel and food listings
  5. For lodging, include an option to pay with credit card

Let’s dive a bit more into the details of the list.

Have at least a basic website.

Your business has to have a website, even if very basic. A single page will do, you can consider managing a google places or facebook page as a website if you don’t know how to create your own. It must list contact information (phone, email, physical address), accurate map location (a link to the correct location on a online map), and links to any other relevant online presence you officially manage (facebook, TripAdvisor, etc).

Ensure correct location information on your establishments on mapping sites

I can’t count the number of times we WANTED to visit a restaurant and could not find it. TripAdvisor has many restaurants with inaccurate location information. Google maps can’t find the business at all. The official website doesn’t link to any map or even have an address that shows up when entered into online map services.

  • add your location or fix the location of your establishment on google maps, bing maps, apple maps, mapquest
  • verify the location information is correct on popular review sits like TripAdvisor
  • if you are a hotel, B&B, check location information on hotels.com, agoda, priceline, or where ever else you have previously accepted reservations from
  • if you have a facebook page add or correct your location information.
  • make sure your website links to a valid address on a online map service like google maps, if your address does not yet work on the maps link to direct latitude and longitude on the map which can ensure the pinpoint is in the correct location.

Ensure correct additional information and photos of your establishments pages

Maintain your online pages, adding photos, ensuring correct information (address, phone number, website, map locations). I would recommend maintaining at least these 3 pages:

For lodging that includes a restaurant ensure both hotel and food listings

If the establishment is both a hotel and has a restaurant open to anyone, you need two listings on TripAdvisor. One for the hotel and one for the restaurant. Even if the restaurant doesn’t have a distinctly different name, it should be listed as HOTEL NAME Restaurant for the second food listing. This will let travelers find food in cities like Elmina where most of the dinning establishments are attached to lodging. So go submit a second restaurant listing now.

For lodging, include an option to pay with credit card

This is the last item and it is really a bonus point, 1-4 are far more important than this last item. If the establishment offers overnight accommodations, either work with a service AirBNB, Agoda, or any others to have a way to accept online payments via credit cards. Travelers frequently end up in situations where getting enough cash can be difficult. Also, having online reservations that can accept credit card payments through your own website is acceptable, but be careful as I personally don’t always trust small business websites to handle credit card information and often prefer to book through a 3rd party for that reason. I have seen some hotels try to accept credit cards via email or over http non secure internet connections which isn’t OK. If you can’t work with any of the services at least make sure you can accept a credit card in person even if you need to charge an additional credit card fee.

It really is that easy

That’s it, by having a website and managing a few brand pages, many lost tourists who are looking to buy things will come knocking at your door. Besides a bit of time and the cost of internet access, these resources are basically free. The best part is you will get more customers and they will be happier, and require less help. Being able to find information about location, hours, and prices online will reduce the time you spent answering the same questions from tourists calling it. There is a lot more you can do online and here might be ways to spend money on smart online advertising, but if your in a small tourist town you can probably get by, with the tips above. Happy customers will help do the rest for you.

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I am Dan Mayer and this is my development blog. Currently it focuses mostly on Ruby development, a side of dev process, and best practices. It also has archives of my old development posts dating back to when I was first learning programming. I contribute to a few OSS projects and often work on my own projects, You can find my code on github.

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