For the past five years, Hospitality Technology, in conjunction with the University of Delaware, has performed an evaluation of restaurant websites; our goal has been to establish benchmarks and best practices for the industry as well as identify areas where progress is needed. As with anything that has something to do with the Internet, the annual Website Study changes at light speed. This year we've instituted several major changes that we hope will make the study more accurate, comprehensive and useful to hospitality operators.
First, we've redesigned the criteria used for evaluation based on new trends, technologies and suggestions from our readers. These changes, ranging from the removal of testing a text-only version to the addition of a keyword relevancy criterion, have increased the total possible points a website can earn to 410, up from 299 in last year's edition. Over the course of one month, seven researchers analyzed the websites in depth, evaluating their performance across the various criteria and scoring them.
In addition, for the first time ever, we've expanded the study to include an evaluation of hoteliers' websites. Undoubtedly, these tools play a critical role in a hotel company's overall success. Consider the following: A hotel's online presence generates, on average, 25 percent of the property's sales (PhoCusWright, 2007); Users visit hotel websites not only for booking but also to get information about the hotel and its amenities, view pictures and take virtual hotel tours, and obtain area information; Ten years ago, when there were just 15 million Internet users, many hotel brands leveraged the Internet by creating websites with reservation capabilities; In 2006, the number of Internet users grew to over 1 billion (Internetworldstats.com, 2007).