After a lot of discussions, test, design and re-design, the two teams that have the understanding and resources to make a truly exciting and excellent product happen, have finally done it. I am delighted to announce that BABEL Multilingual, the new form of international e-commerce marketing for hotels, is now available for hoteliers to get… and if the conditions are right, we will do this for FREE… well, almost!
Almost a decade ago, when I first met with the guys from OBAN in a presentation they did at the Sussex Innovation Centre, I had one of these light-bulb moments. Whilst the rest of us were battling to convince hotels that spending some money with Google for some track-able advertising was a good idea (again, this was a decade ago and the market was very, very different) OBAN were talking to their blue chip clients about the end game. Proper internationalisation projects where everything is done on a per country basis, with thorough and creative local research techniques that would help identify what the search engine AND cultural requirements of each country were, and use all this information for home-grown websites, talking to each customer in his or her language, from within his or her country… why hadn’t I thought of that??!
OBAN and I hit it off right away. These guys were wondering why they had such success with global giants around the world (think BMW, governments and tourism departments of Holland, Spain, Abu Dhabi etc.), yet when it came to hotels, there seemed to be some barriers… We looked at it back then, and we pretty quickly figured it out. The level of sophistication required for boldly investing some serious money to gain a well-worth it international presence, seemed to be firmly in the court of the large chains – those with international presence in the first place. Any single hotel or small chain, which would typically invest under 10K a year on their entire website effort for their .com and .co.uk versions were very unlikely to invest with such commitment…
I immediately knew there was a gap in the market there… hotels are natural targets for foreign customers. And searches from other countries, in other languages will always yield… well… “other” results. An international version of a hotel’s website, living and growing within the target (source) country HAS to be a good thing to have. And having it sooner rather than later, HAS to be a good thing, as age is generally a factor that helps you with your organic listings extremely significantly. I know that if a hotel places a .de version of their website properly in Germany, they will have what is called “early entrant benefits” for many years to come.
There was definitely an opportunity there… Fast forward to today, and I am delighted to say that I genuinely believe we have come up with the answer.
How does it all work?
- BABEL is a product where we take the hotel’s website and we re-construct it – using OBAN‘s awesome services – in foreign languages and for a foreign audience.
- First we look at each hotel individually in terms of price, style and location. We then make a call on where we think there is an opportunity for them internationally (given existing AND projected international tourism trends).
- Then we send the guys at OBAN‘s various international offices the hotel’s existing URL, and we ask them to evaluate if the website will work in that market.
- Each of the international offices will then re-construct the website from within that country to match both the online behaviour of the guests (e.g. the terms they are using to find a hotel) but also their cultural requirements (I always have fun explaining to hoteliers why their website is going to be having slightly different colours for a Chinese version..).
- The hotels typically approve any suggested changes right away and we crack on with buying the correct URLs, hosting a site locally (or simulating local hosting – depending on the market) and then fine-tuning the text.
- We then get the booking engine sorted. Pre, post and confirmation e-mails – as well as modification and cancellation confirmations are translated alongside with room and hotel descriptions. The entire experience has to be strictly seamless.
- We finally launch and we generate traffic and reservations from these countries.. and there is the kick. A hotel typically won’t have paid anything until that point. They are only asked to pay a commission on the value of the reservation, once the reservations start going through, and only for a period of time. When we have been paid for our work, the then established and well producing sites are returned to the hotels and the reservations from abroad become free!
The real excitement for me is that this has never been done before. Hotels paying on a CPA basis for an established, thorough and otherwise very expensive multilingual expansion and localisation service is a completely new thing – and seeing it move from a glint in my eye a few years ago to a real, working concept that generated revenues for the hotels – where they didn’t have anything before – is just extremely rewarding!
With thanks for reading – and don’t be shy to give us your feedback and thoughts.