Marketing communications is regarded as a common function of all Web sites, even if this is not the express objective of the site. As no previous research specifically considered these issues, this study examined the extent to which lodges graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa effectively use their Web sites as online marketing communications tools. A content analysis was used to investigate the Web sites of graded lodges according to a list of evaluation criteria based on the elements of the marketing communications mix (i.e., advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing and personal selling). A number of specific online marketing communications techniques that could be employed in a tourism firm’s Web site were identified from an extensive literature review for each element of the marketing communications mix. The extent to which these specific techniques were employed in the Web sites of the graded lodges was then determined. The findings show that the graded lodges are not using their Web sites effectively as online marketing communications tools for communications with their target audiences. Comparisons were also made between the three, four and five star lodges to determine whether differences were present in their Web sites based on their star grading. Overall, the lodges did not differ much in terms of the online marketing communications techniques that they employed and only slight differences existed. The main recommendation for this study is that the managers of South African graded lodges include as many of the 30 online marketing communications techniques investigated as possible in their Web sites. This study was limited as it only focused on lodges that have been graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa and the findings cannot be generalised to all South African lodges or to other types of accommodation establishments. Potential reasons for the inclusion/exclusion of these techniques, whether the lodges maintain their Web sites themselves, what specific techniques Web site visitors regard as important and the fact that the researcher was the only coder of the sites were also limitations of this study that could be overcome in future research. Copyright
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2007.