Tuesday, 10 June 2014 13:20

Beware! hotels that pretend to be on the beach, but aren't

Beware hotels that pretend to be on the beach, if they aren’t. Having a road and traffic between a hotel and the beach is going to become a bigger liability than ever before, especially if your wbsite and brochure conveniently 'forget' to tell potential customers.

A newly completed website is here to show beach-lovers exactly which hotels are right on the beach, while isolating those that aren't.

"The Beachfront Club is out to shake up booking along the beaches of the world," says its founder, "by moving bookings away from the pretenders hotels that really are on the beach." The detailed beach maps of this site displays each qualified hotel by its boundaries, thus showing the precise shape, size and location of over 8,000 true beachfront hotels on the beaches of 106 countries. 

"Many people are disappointed, even quite angry when they find they have been fooled by misleading hotel advertising," says John Everingham, the Australian founder. "So many websites lead people to believe a hotel is right on the beach, usually by omission, deliberately leaving out photos of the road while showing nice shots of the beach." Everingham, a photographer, former print publisher and 30 year resident of Thailand knows plenty about hotels' deceptions. He shot many advertising photos for hotels, often with managers' orders to hide roads and other undesirable features, or to use a telephoto lens to make the beach appear closer. A story by CNN Go highlighting Everingham's motivations for starting The Beachfront Club website is still live at http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/visit/new-online-database-s...

When the The Beachfront Club's beta maps were first released in 2011 The Daily Mail in London named it 'Website of the Week', while noting it was not complete. The Associated Press newswire ran a story about it that landed in about 300 newspapers worldwide, rocketing the website up to 27,000 on the Alexa scale. The future looked good, very good, say the owners.

Yet the IT business is often called is a cutthroat world laden with snares for start-ups, and this website soon ran afoul of the financial shortfalls and conflicts that kill off so many new businesses. Progress slowly ground to a halt and the site crashed in 2012. "Sophisticated software is really expensive", says Everingham, "and finding companies that can really produce what they promise – strong, stable code without bugs – is really difficult, especially in developing countries". The original team of six, working to earn points in the business, broke up, leaving Everingham and his Chinese wife Jade Wei the only partners. This leaner, dedicated team then found new finance and began rebuilding.

This time, say Everingham and Wei, they are back on the beach scene with a fully-functional site that is strong and ready to shake things up along the beaches of the world. Alexa shows the site has had zero downtime this year. At the re-launch in February the site boasted a new set of functions focused on the beach that carry twin purposes; providing users with an unprecedented array of information about the beaches on which they book their hotels; working as an SEO tool to advance the website up the ranks.

The idea, says Everingham, is to create the world's major online resource and data bank of information about beaches, eventually levering that database towards environmental protection for beaches worldwide. To that end, the site now holds a beach rating system, a romance scale and a brief environment comparison. The biggest store of beach information and images, however, is found in the new beach travel pages that have debuted in Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, with other Southeast Asian countries in progress.

"People book a beachfront hotel because they decided to visit the particular beach or destination, not the hotel," says this entrepreneur. "So we have created the most comprehensive guide to beaches ever seen. Especially beaches in Thailand and Southeast Asia. And importantly, we show the reality of each beach and destination. Over-the-top marketing where every beach is called 'paradise', all water is 'crystal clear and turquoise' and everything is perfect, is worn-out, boring to users. We show the good, but don't ignore the ugly, too." This photographer's photos can be seen on virtually every beach in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bali that has beachfront accommodation of any kind, from cheap bungalow to 5-star resort. In addition to walking and photographing hundreds of beaches, he has shot more than 1,000 beachfront hotels in Thailand alone.

This info is useful to both potential visitors and hotels, Everingham says. Visitors can use it to get a realistic, honest look at beaches and beach destinations before making a decision. Hotels can use these pages for destination marketing.

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