Should I build my hotel website on WordPress?

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) on the web, providing a fast and easy way to create a website with little programming knowledge. But while WordPress may be well-suited to blogs, media publications, and even some company websites, building a hotel website presents an entirely different set of challenges. Whether or not your hotel website should be built on WordPress depends on the level of service that you want to provide, your budget, and your internal IT support. There are both pros and cons to working with this platform.

The advantages of working with WordPress

It’s affordable. WordPress (WordPress.org, not WordPress.com) itself is completely free and hosting is extremely low cost. Due to the high number of developers available for the platform, even WordPress development can be very cheap compared to other systems. For hotels that have particularly lean budgets, WordPress may be alluring for that reason alone.

It’s open source. Open source software is software that is freely distributed and can be modified by anyone. Not only does that tie into the affordable nature of the platform, but it also means that there have been many improvements made to the platform by the community itself. WordPress has thousands upon thousands of plugins, extensions, modifications, and themes, all designed to make the development of your website easier.

It has a large community. There are thousands of WordPress developers and an extremely active community. It’s not difficult for a hotel to find a WordPress specialist who can build a website on the platform. Most basic web developers, even ones with little coding knowledge, can build websites on WordPress, tapping into the library of plugins to flush out more complex features.

The drawbacks of working on WordPress

It’s vulnerable to hacking. Being a popular open-source platform means that WordPress is an incredibly popular target for hackers. Many security issues can even be introduced to the code base through plugins or extensions, as these are all provided by the community. In fact, plugins and themes are the most common source for hackers to attack a WordPress site.

It isn’t optimized for hotel e-commerce. WordPress itself wasn’t intended for use with hotels. The features that many hotels need on their websites—including booking engine, booking widget, easy-to-update room pages and special offers—are not standard in WordPress and require custom extensions. Even SEO tools and social sharing features require their own plugins. This can mean paying a developer a substantial amount of money to build out all of these additional features.

Limited customization. WordPress runs on design “themes,” which are essentially templates that you can customize to your needs. But virtually no theme is a blank slate on which you can build a completely custom design; even the premium themes have their limitations and constraints. This ultimately impacts the way you can present your hotel on your website, and your ability to optimize conversions.

It’s not your site host. In many cases, your website may be developed on the WordPress platform, but it is not hosted by WordPress. That means paying a separate hosting server, such as Media Temple or Dreamhost, to store the site files. WordPress is not responsible if something happens to your site; you will need to have separate contracts with the hosting server or your web developer to ensure that there are consistent backups of your site in case something goes wrong.

It requires constant maintenance. Updates have to be completed on WordPress on a near daily basis, and a failure to update WordPress, site themes, or the site’s plugins can potentially lead to security vulnerabilities and even service interruption. Someone will have to run these updates, whether that’s a the WordPress web developer you’ve hired or a team member at the hotel.

No guarantees of updates or bug fixes. Even if you do have a developer who can oversee maintenance for you, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed proper and timely updates on your site. Most WordPress themes and plugins are built by developers outside of WordPress, and sometimes they move onto other projects or “abandon” their plugins, meaning that they no longer update the code to fix security issues or address new developments in the platform.

The biggest myth about WordPress

One reason many hoteliers say they choose WordPress is that the platform makes it easy for hotel owners and employees to update the content themselves. In our experience, that is unfortunately a myth.

OK, sure—adding a blog post is relatively easy if your hotel has a blog. The CMS was designed specifically as a blogging platform. But what about adding a limited-time special booking offer to the home page that expires in exactly 30 days? Or updating the room pictures and descriptions across the entire website and booking engine? Or adding a video to the site that will still display correctly on a mobile device?

It’s not as simple as going to the WordPress dashboard and adding or editing a page. The amount of custom coding, extensions, and plugins that a WordPress developer has to use to create the main pages of typical hotel websites makes it extremely difficult for a hotel employee to make these type of crucial updates to the site.

A hotel’s alternative to WordPress

Instead of working with an open-source platform, hotels can and should build their websites on a web platform solution that includes website hosting, content management, and web maintenance all together. These platforms are inherently more secure, as they are developed and maintained by a team of dedicated professionals that keep the software up-to-date—no more rogue plugins making the site vulnerable to hackers. When it comes to dealing with high volumes of transactions and client-related data, more security is always better.

Though it may seem to be more expensive on the outset, this type of web solution can pay for itself in reduced administrative and maintenance time. The solutions are designed with the goal of freeing the hotel from IT headaches, as well as the administrative headaches of having to contract with both a web developer and hosting company. In many cases, these solutions also make it much easier for hotel marketers to update the website with rates and new special offers.

How to choose the right hotel website solution

Choosing the right hotel website platform

There are numerous hotel-specific website solutions out there (including our own TT Web), but when it comes to selecting the best website solution for your hotel, here are the main questions that you should be asking from your web agencies or technology providers:

  • Who is responsible for hosting and maintaining the hotel website? How many points of contact will I need to deal with if something goes wrong?
  • Will the website be responsively built to display optimally across different devices?
  • How easy is it to update site content? What is the process to add new pages, text, photos, or videos to the site?
  • Is there a way to collaboratively make updates “behind the scenes,” without compromising the content on the current site?
  • How well-integrated are the CRS and booking engine to the website? If I make a change to a rate plan or room description on the CRS, will it automatically update on the website?
  • What merchandising features does the website solution have to better promote my hotel to potential guests? Will I be able to easily advertise special offers and packages on the website?
  • How does multilingual support work on the web platform? Can my hotel website display and function in multiple languages?
  • How responsive is tech support? How long will requests and issues take to resolve?

Though WordPress may be the most accessible way to build a general informational website, there are some inherent challenges to building a hotel website using this particular platform. A hotel website should be a high-performance e-commerce website, not simply nice-looking brochureware. The website, along with the CRS and booking engine, need to work together as one seamless solution that helps you power direct bookings for your hotel.

Nate Lane

Nate Lane

Nate Lane is a senior global director of business development, product development, and agency operations with 10+ years of experience driving growth and innovation as an "intrapreneur." He's an avid mountain biker, a coffee and craft beer enthusiast, and a proud family man. Contact him at nate.lane@pegs.com.

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