Tag Archives: Destination Marketing

Book>Direct at VisitBigBend.com: Poor Deployment of a Bad Idea?

Brewster County Tourisim Council | Book-Direct | Bad IdeaThe Brewster County Tourism Council (BCTC) is spending thousands to implement the JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct booking engine at VisitBigBend.com – but is it turning out to be a poor deployment of a bad idea? At least one lodge owner seems to think so. Here is their feedback as forwarded to us by the Brewster County Bulletin:

——– Begin Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct at VisitBigBend.com: Just Too Many Hops
Date: 2017-10-01 14:28
From: [A Brewster County Lodging Vendor]
To: [Recipient Redacted]

Thank you so much for all your efforts. Unfortunately for us here at [our Brewster County lodging venue], they are terribly misguided.

Instant Book seems to work for standard locations, and more standard hotels.

  1. We are in Terlingua, an alternative community (oh my!).
  2. We are [a few] miles from the border (hence dangerous and filled with desperate illegal immigrants passing through. Although not the case).
  3. We are handmade houses (even though the photos tell the whole story).
  4. There is a dirt road and driveway to the location (they have to drive slowly and avoid the dips. Oh my!).
  5. There are no stores or chain restaurants (not the normal environment).
  6. Its the desert and has intense and passionate weather episodes (it is hot in the Chihuahua desert in June. Oh my!).
  7. This is Terlingua where Internet, electricity and water can go out for days at a time.

Most Americans can’t embrace some or most of these.

Some hotel owners ignore the unhappy guests and keep their money, and some of us live on site and care about our guests. If someone doesn’t want to be here, I think they should get their money back and find a place they want to stay. Otherwise they will leave Big Bend all together.

So people see the property on the internet, think it could be cool, and press the button to reserve. We set the reservation, and when they arrive, sometimes, they get completely freaked and want to get their money back and leave immediately. So I give them their money back, and I have lost the rent for their dates.

I will not accept Instant Book from anywhere. I have stopped my subscription with VRBO because they demanded Instant Book. [But how] can I fight Brewster County Tourism when I must pay them every month by law? Please find another way to fix your problem. You are going to mess us up big time.

[Lodge Owner]
[Lodge Name}
[Lodge Phone]

——– End Original Message ——–

JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct: Adding Hops to Making Reservations

JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct at VisitBigBend.com: Not “direct”, doesn’t “book”, just more hops to make a reservation.

JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct: Adding Hops to Making ReservationsThe Brewster County Tourism Council (BCTC) has just spent several months and several thousand hotel occupancy tax dollars – as well as sacrificed significant website performance – to embed the JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct booking engine in the web pages of VisitBigBend.com (VBB). They did so, no doubt, with good intentions – but in this case good intentions may have once again paved the way to you-know-where.

JackRabbit Systems promotes Book>Direct as “a powerful referral engine [that] allows visitors to search for accommodations directly from a destination website and book directly with the destination’s lodging partners”. They claim Book>Direct helps DMO (destination marketing organization) websites like VBB “become relevant” with benefits for lodging vendors and consumers alike. But in the case of VBB, at least, we believe their “BOOK A ROOM” booking engine embeds more bother than benefit.

For example…

Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Big Bend National Park and want to book a night’s stay in Marathon along the way. From the VBB home page you might hover over “LODGING” then select “Marathon” to land on the Marathon Lodging page. Upper right (or bottom) you note the “BOOK A ROOM” form and then start browsing through the Marathon area lodging options. You eventually choose “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”, then scroll back to the “BOOK A ROOM” form to book your stay:

JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct: Adding Hops to Making ReservationsFirst you enter your “Check-In” and “Check-Out” dates. Then not knowing how “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast” is classified, you accept the “All Lodging” default and click “SEARCH” (as there’s no other choice). A new window opens up – not just for “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”, and not just for Marathon area lodgings, but for every matching vendor in the VBB database.

All your keystrokes up to now have taken you nowhere – except to a point where you can start your lodging search over again…

Let’s say you’re patient enough to do so. Again you select “Marathon” as your Location and filter the results, which you browse through until once again you find “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”, then click “BOOK>DIRECT” to make your reservation. Yet another window opens up – but it’s not a reservation screen: It’s the home page of “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”.

Which you could’ve gone to with one click from the Marathon Lodging page by avoiding the “BOOK A ROOM” form altogether.

Choose any lodging venue or vendor VBB BOOK>DIRECT has to offer, and your experience will likely prove similarly – and irritatingly – inefficient. In fact, of the 34  BOOK>>DIRECT  listings we tested, 33 required we restart our booking from scratch:

  • 22 linked to lodging vendor web pages but passed no parameters;
  • 7 linked nowhere;
  • 2 linked to error pages;
  • 2 linked to reservation pages but passed no parameters; and only
  • 1 linked to a reservation page with our check-in/check-out parameters passed.

We concede there might be some marketing benefit to having a “book a room” pitch on every VBB web page. But from both presentation and performance perspectives, the VBB BOOK>DIRECT form is more wart than widget. And if all it’s doing is linking to lodging vendor web pages, there are many cleaner and faster ways to accomplish that.

Performance Ratings for VisitBigBend.com Drop from A/B to D/E in 12 Months

From 8 August 2016 to 5 August 2017 GTmetrix performance ratings for VisitBigBend.com dropped from “A/B” (Pass) to “D/E” (Fail).

Brewster County Tourism CouncilOriginally established as the Brewster County Tourism Board by an Order of the Brewster County Commissioners Court dated 23 September 1997, the mission of the Brewster County Tourism Council (BCTC) is to promote tourism and put “heads in beds” of lodging venues located in Brewster County Texas outside of the City of Alpine: To that end, the BCTC is charged with planning for the disbursement of a Countywide Hotel Motel Tax with a current annual budget in excess of $1 million:

The BCTC is also charged with keeping Brewster County Hoteliers informed about the Hotel Motel Tax and the activities of the BCTC Board and Staff. To that end, it holds meetings which are open to the public and which all Brewster County Hoteliers and others with an interest in promoting travel to and tourism in the West Texas Rio Grande Big Bend Region in general and Brewster County in particular should attend. The last BCTC meeting was scheduled for 1:00pm CT Thu 7 Sep 2017 at their office location:

Brewster County Tourism Council (BCTC)
Val Clark Beard County Courthouse Office Complex
203 N 7th St
Alpine TX 79830-4615
Map & Directions

Visit Big BendLast but not least, the BCTC is mandated to “administer” Brewster County’s flagship destination marketing website VisitBigBend.com (VBB). WLWeb.US would like to give them a hand with that. We believe VBB would benefit greatly from a total (or at least incremental) speedy secure responsive web design (SSRWD) makeover:

To be assured that a website is leveraging speedy secure responsive web design, its web pages must pass the 12 tests of SSRWD validation. About a year ago, we ran those tests against the home page of VisitBigBend.com. At that time, it failed 7 of the 12 tests. Here are screenshots documenting the results:


We recently ran the SSRWD validation suite again. As of now, VisitBigBend.com fails 8 of the 12 tests. Telling is that from 8 Aug 2016 to 5 Aug 2017, the overall GTmetrix performance ratings for VisitBigBend.com dropped from “A/B” (Pass) to “D/E” (Fail). Here are screenshots documenting all results:


Robert Alvarez | Age 46 | Executive Director | Brewster County Tourism CouncilThe web marketing advantages of SSRWD are manifold – not the least of which include improved website user experience and higher search visibility. And yes, VisitBigBend.com already ranks high on search terms like “big bend”, but we would expect that even if the BCTC did nothing to boost it…

At some point, however, the BCTC might want to expand their search marketing focus to target qualified prospects who’ve never heard of “Big Bend” and therefore wouldn’t know to search for it – terms like “texas vacations”, “texas vacation destinations” or “texas vacation spots”, where in Góógle as of this writing VBB is out of the running. Unlike “big bend”, for search terms like these VBB has serious competition, and in contexts like that SSRWD can make all the difference. That focus might prove more fruitful for BCTC Executive Director Robert Alvarez than feeding hungry jackrabbits or hopping the pond on DMO junkets.