8 tips to manage multi-language hotel websites
8 tips to manage multi-language hotel websites
08 JULY 2015 8:44 AM
Reaching out to a wider customer base via different languages can be a major headache for hotel companies. These eight tips can create a more profitable (and less painful) approach.
GLOBAL REPORT—The management of a multi-language websites and booking platforms is far from straightforward. Employees need a firm focus on optimizing the budget, obtaining regional buy-in for translations and deciding which languages to include on the sites.
Niklas Schlappkohl, senior director of eCommerce, The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, and chair of Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Europe’s digital marketing advisory board, said it is important for hotel companies to get their strategies in place because of the estimated 2.8 billion Internet users, who, along with the millions set to soon join them, will “change linguistically our online presence.”
Chinese, English and Spanish remain the three key languages of the Web, he added.
In a 26 June webinar, Schlappkohl underlined eight points those responsible for online guest targeting must keep in mind:
1. Stay on one language
Schlappkohl said it is foolhardy to mix languages on individual pages or elsewhere along the booking journey.
Make it clear to users what languages are available. Italians, for example, might be able to understand another Romance language rather than English.
2. Think language, not country
Focus on the language. Do not break it down by country, Schlappkohl said.
If you have users in both Québec and Paris, one variation of French will meet their needs.
3. Use Web analytics
Those in charge can do a better job if they know their customers, know the languages they wish to use and know they can rely on everyone in the organization, Schlappkohl said.
Web analytics can help you see what languages visitors use in their spare time. This is important in countries with more than one official language.
4. Ask for help
When designing pages in different languages, rope in branding and marketing departments for help.
Obtain regional approval for translations. For instance, do you prefer informal or formal speech? Those in regional offices likely can advise on appropriateness, as content is both important and subjective.
Have an internal reviewer if outside companies perform translations. It is important for this to be someone who knows the brand and helps to get regional buy-in. Tone of voice is important for the brand to create the right flavor, he said.
5. Have a style guide
Agree on your style guide and glossaries and make sure they are mirrored across markets. Regional teams can help here, too, Schlappkohl said.
6. Translations
Schlappkohl said that although outsourcing professional translators are more expensive, in the long run they can save time and money.
Original translations are a one-time cost and the most expensive part of the process, usually at about 25 to 30 cents per word, he said. A good manager will understand how often that page likely would be updated—that is, its maintenance—and therefore see if it might be better done in-house or via a translator. (See “translation memory” below.)
Online information that you know will have a short shelf life might be given to internal teams of non-professional linguists that can do provide a faster turnaround. Just be sure to have another party analyze copy for tone, content and appropriateness.
Professional translators will be of definite use in the new expanding outbound tourism markets such as the Middle East (Arabic) and China (Mandarin and Cantonese).
7. Translation memory
A translation memory—that is, the history of your translated text—is an essential component in the website manager’s arsenal, Schlappkohl said.
Establish with your outsource company a translation memory, so that if for example you have a hotel with three restaurants and two pools, and one restaurant and pool is closed, you’ll only pay for changes to individual words, not the whole sentence.
8. Managing the budget
Schlappkohl said it is a mistake to undertake all of the above and then not manage websites, booking engines, online customer footfall and return on investment. A critical understanding of all of the components will allow targeted use of languages and a healthier budget for continued maintenance.
Consider ongoing maintenance costs for all languages. Identify who are the biggest markets for each hotel, and then use languages accordingly, which helps keep costs down and maximizes return on investment.

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