Fruita looks to launch online hotel-booking system

In its ongoing effort to draw more tourist dollars into the Fruita economy — and do it more efficiently — the city has plans to make hotel room booking a little bit simpler and a lot more direct for travelers in the coming year.

Some of the money set aside in the city’s 2013 marketing and promotions budget will go toward the creation of a centrally hosted, single interface for future Fruita visitors to book their rooms through a tab on the city’s tourism website at GoFruita.com.

Right now, lodging properties listed in the “Sleep” section at GoFruita.com provide links — and divert site visitors — to hotels’ websites or other resources to get information about lodging properties in the area.

The new centralized booking site will allow visitors to enter their travel dates and compare all of the accommodations that are available, according to Jack Rabbit Systems, the developer the city’s consultants are working with on the project.

The objective hasn’t changed: Get as many tourists as you can to come to Fruita. But the manner in how to do that seems set for an upgrade next year.

The city wants “to make it so (tourists) don’t have to go all over the place — they can do everything right on our website,” said Odette Phelps, Fruita’s human resources manager. “People like one-stop shopping.”

For the larger hotel chains, the planned web page will allow traffic to be re-routed to their individual sites. But for the smaller lodging properties in Fruita, which may have a minimal online footprint, they’ll get the chance to have their guests book directly through the new service.

“They will get a presence on our tourism site that will direct people to them,” Phelps said of the motel and bed-and-breakfast properties that are likely to be included. A 3 percent lodging tax approved by Fruita voters in 1996 provides the money for the city’s marketing and promotion fund. It’s estimated that Fruita will collect more than $95,000 from the tax in 2012 — up from about $93,500 in 2011 but down from more than $98,600 collected in 2010.

Currently, eight businesses remit lodging taxes to the city, including two bed-and-breakfasts, one campground and five hotels and motels. A total of 233 hotel and motel rooms and 80 campsites are taxable in the city.

In 2012, the GoFruita.com tourism website had significant increases in unique visitors, page views and time spent on the site versus 2011, according to the city.

“We’ve known that this is a perceived need. We’re always looking at ways to improve our tourism website,” Phelps said, adding that the city regularly tracks traffic numbers at GoFruita.com, “and it just made sense that we could make this piece of it easier for people visiting our website.”

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