One man and his domain [name]
What started out as a mere drop in the ideas ocean has turned into a decade-long passion for Matthew Lawson, founder and Managing Director of Hotel.com.au.
In 1995, Matt registered the domain name. It sat in the back of his mind for seven years while he worked an office job in the telecommunications industry and daydreamed about his next holiday – trekking in Patagonia, floating down the Yangtze River in China, riding the waves at Surfers Point off Margaret River. Then, in 2002, he found a way to combine his love for travel and technology into a full time business and the Hotel.com.au website was born.
Now more than 10 years on, with a potent brew of travel industry gurus and IT geeks by his side, Matt is still as enthusiastic about the online travel industry, and more specifically what Hotel.com.au can offer its customers.
Online travel is a vastly different marketplace to what it was 10 years ago, says Matt. The biggest transformation has probably been the introduction of social media, which is good for branding, developing trust and goodwill as you engage with your customers, rather than just a straight sell. For customers, it’s now the preferred space to converse, organise and share information.
It used to be that SEO gave you the edge in mass marketing. But Google algorithm changes have removed that advantage, so there’s no point focusing on SEO tricks anymore. A “good” website is one that has top quality and unique content, attracts buzz to generate natural links, likes and shares with users, is fresh and relevant, and concentrates on niche markets.
What is Hotel.com.au’s niche?
We’re experts in Australian domestic travel, inbound travel (particularly for travellers from the UK, USA and China) and family travel.
The Australian online travel industry has always been dominated by large companies mostly US-owned. Even the Aussie brand Wotif sold to US giant Expedia in 2014. Hotel.com.au is, and has always been, a small 100% Australian owned and operated business. We’re also travel junkies ourselves, so we truly understand the time and effort that goes into researching, booking and preparing for a holiday.
Because of this, says Matt, Hotel.com.au is in the privileged position of being able to offer a premium service to its customers, where we answer all travel queries by email, phone or online chat, not just those that lead to a hotel booking with us.
Our customer service efforts have been recognised and awarded too, such as the Canstar Blue Award for Overall Most Satisfied Customers, proving it is possible to compete with the Goliaths of the industry and come out on top.
We’re always tweaking the Hotel.com.au site to improve the customer experience. Two of our latest features include:
1. Price Alerts – a tool which monitors hotel pricing daily and alerts you when your selected hotel goes on sale.
Most people go back and forth to various sites checking rates and availability, says Matt, which can be time consuming and confusing if you’re not comparing apples with apples. We take the stress out of searching by monitoring the customer’s chosen hotel for them.
2. Price Guardian – we don’t stop scanning for a better deal once you’ve booked. We continue to monitor hotel rates daily and, if your hotel drops in price and you’re within the hotel’s free amendment period, we let you know so you can secure the cheaper deal. We’re the only Australian hotel website offering this service and prioritising the hip pocket of its customers!
At the end of the day, says Matt, we’re passionate about all things travel. Some might say borderline obsessive. We love what we do, but more importantly, we hope you do too!