Quality of a Tourist Attraction Website

Just down the road about 20 miles from the only skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Bartlesville, Oklahoma is Woolaroc, the rustic but plush home of Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum Company. Nestled in the Osage Hills of northern Oklahoma’s beautiful “Green Country,” Phillips’ former Woolaroc Lodge ranch house and grounds have been transformed into an extensive complex that includes a world-class Native American and fine arts museum, a petting zoo, a secure 3,700-acre wildlife reserve with more than 30 varieties of free-ranging wildlife that visitors can drive through at their leisure. The purpose of the report was to evaluate the quality of the Woolaroc website and formulate suggestions and recommendations concerning how the site can be improved. To this end, the report presents a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning online tourism marketing and applies these concepts to the evaluation of the Woolaroc website. Finally, the report provides a summary of the research together with suggestions and recommendations for improving the Woolaroc website in the conclusion.

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Review and Evaluation

Overview of Woolaroc

Woolaroc is located next to the Osage Hills State Park between Pawhuska and Bartlesville, Oklahoma (Southwell, 1996). The Woolaroc Museum’s director enthuses, “You have to see this museum to believe it,” but it turns out he is not exaggerating. According to the director, Kenneth Meek, “The Woolaroc is Frank Phillips’ vision of the West based on reality and myth. Part frontier hunting lodge, part private hideaway to escape the rat race, part shrewd business venue used to woo eastern investors, part cowboy and Indian daydream — the 3,700-acre Woolaroc represented many things to ‘Uncle Frank,’ the wildcatter who founded Phillips Petroleum” (quoted in Wilkinson, 2005 at p. 186). The lodge’s name was coined by Phillips by combining the three elements that dominate the surrounding Osage Hills landscape: “woods, lakes, and rocks” (Wilkinson, 2005). Legend has it that Frank and his wife hosted parties for all of the movers and shakers of the early 20th century, and the secluded location of Woolaroc helped to make these legendary exploits even more colorful over the years. What is known for sure today, though, is that Woolaroc is a world-class tourism destination that remains largely unknown, even to many Oklahomans (Wilkinson, 2005).

The facility includes a Native American museum with an art deco exterior and important American West art collections, a petting zoo (which suffered a fire a few years ago and which has since been rebuilt), a stained-glass enclosed chapel (complete with an enclosed iron spiral staircase with a viewing platform at top), and a wildlife reserve that visitors can drive through along a winding but well-maintained road. The Woolaroc is located on Oklahoma State Highway 1-23, 1-2 miles southwest of Bartlesville, home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, a modest tower complete with triangular elevators and a copper clad exterior (Curtis, 2008). The Woolaroc is located 45 miles north of Tulsa and its organizational website is found at www.woolaroc.org. Given its relatively secluded location in the Osage Hills, Woolaroc is in an excellent position to take advantage of online marketing. For example, Mulholland and Cachon (2004) emphasize that, “A remote resort or tourist lodge with difficult physical access is no longer at a disadvantage from a promotional perspective. The Internet has been identified as cost effective and easier to set-up and update than traditional marketing communication channels” (p. 176). In addition, other factors can affect the utility of online marketing for tourism destinations, including those discussed further below.

Online Tourism Marketing

Online marketing offerings exist along a continuum of complexity that ranges from a simple website that does not feature any interactivity, to a website that has simple email interactivity (visitors hope they get a response), to websites that offer offline transactions, to more complex websites that feature secure online transactions and integrated interactivity with various offerings (Mulholland & Cachon, 2005). This model is conceptualized by Bingley, Burgess, Selitto, Cox and Buultjens (2010) as follows:

1. Presence: This provides for a basic brochure site. Communication is ‘one way’ from the business to the user.

2. Portals: This level introduces ‘two way’ communication via order placement and building customer profiles through communications.

3. Transactions Integration: Online financial transactions are introduced.

4. Enterprises Integration: This is full back-office integration (p. 282).

Increasingly, tourism consumers are expecting destinations to offer the most sophisticated online model with the ability to interact, make purchases and conduct inquiries (Eger, 2006). In addition, studies have shown time and again that many tourism consumers are in a hurry (Kim, 2011), and will simply move of to the next offering if a website loads too slowly (Lee & Wicks, 2010). Organizational websites should also facilitate interaction through careful design (Moller & Brezing, 2012). Furthermore, tourism websites should also be user tested prior to launch (Jacko & Sears, 2003) and include a site map to help consumers navigate the site’s offerings (Miranda, Chamorro, Valero & Maestre, 2010) and hyperlinks to related materials (Cuddihy & Spyridakis, 2012; Mccabe, 2004). In this regard, Arnold (2010) emphasizes that, “A straightforward Web site map can point the indexing scripts to content that might otherwise be missed or ignored” (p. 37). An application of the foregoing online tourism marketing concepts and issues to Woolaroc’s website is provided in the evaluation below.

Evaluation of Woolaroc’s Website

The Woolaroc website is ranked #3,859,756 in the world according to Alexa traffic rankings and was last updated on July 27, 2012 as reported by Free Web Site Report (2012). In addition, the Woolaroc website:

1. Earned a Google PageRank of #4. According to Arnold (2010), the Google PageRank “looks at the query, consults its index that includes a ‘score’ indicating popularity, and delivers the highest-ranking match as the most relevant hit. Get a high ranking on a Google results list and the Web site gets visitors whether the content is good, bad, or indifferent. Most searchers click on the top results. A tiny percentage venture down the results list or explore ‘hits’ on the second and third page of results” (p. 37).

2. The estimated website net worth and values based on its advertising revenue is around $624.

3. Woolaroc.org receives just 285 pageviews per day and generates only $0.85 every day in advertising revenue.

4. Woolaroc.org has website backlinks from #178 website.

5. Woolaroc.org has a popular site score rating of 1 out of 5 Stars.

6. Age: 16 Years, 1 month (June 22, 1996) (Woolaroc Report, 2012).

The Woolaroc website features email and telephonic contacts only, placing it at the second level of website development. Given its extensive gift shop offerings, the website could definitely benefit from a fourth level interactive feature that allowed visitors to make purchases and further inquiries directly. In addition, although the website is fast-loading (loading completed before it could be timed), the loading page is graphics intensive with a large mural predominating which could slow loading on some computers. The graphic-intensive nature of the main page also makes finding the desires information more difficult. For instance, although there are links to information about tours and upcoming events listed on the main page, these require some effort to locate. There are also no overnight facilities offered at Woolaroc and there are no partnerships with local hotels in Bartlesville for this purpose. Although the site contains related hyperlinks, it does not include a site map which would be a cost-effective addition to the site.

Finally, Will Rogers called Woolaroc “the most unique place in the country” (Wilkinson, 2005) and the organization’s website likewise reports that, “The Woolaroc Museum presents one of the world’s most unique collections of Western art and artifacts. . . .” (para. 1). Many authorities, though, argue that the word “unique” is overused and cannot be further qualified since it means “one of a kind” and nothing else. Therefore, the curators at Woolaroc may want to reconsider this usage.

The research showed that Woolaroc is a world-class tourism destination that offers a wide range of family-oriented facilities and offerings. The former home of Frank and Jane Phillips, Woolaroc has become a destination of choice for well-informed visitors, but many consumers may not even know about the facility based on its limited online presence. To help overcome these constraints, it is recommended that Woolaroc:

1. Provide secure online gift shop purchases;

2. Install a site map on its website;

3. Develop strategic partnerships with local hotels that provide limousine service to and from Woolaroc; and,

4. Reduce the number of graphics on the website’s main page to facilitate navigation.

References

Bingley, S., Burgess, S., Sellitto, C., Cox, C. & Buultjens, J. 2010. ‘A Classification Scheme for Analysing Web 2.0 Tourism Websites.’ Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, vol.

11, no. 4, pp. 281-282.

Cuddihy, E. & Spyridakis, J.H. 2012, July. ‘The effect of visual design and placement of intra-

article navigation schemes on reading comprehension and website user perceptions.’

Computers in Human Behavior; 28(4), 1399-1409.

Curtis, W. 2008, July. 2008, July. ‘Little Skyscraper on the Prairie: A Rare Frank Lloyd Wright

Tower-One of His Most Bizarre Buildings Ever-Rises High above the Oklahoma Plains.’

The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 302, p. 8.

Eger, J.M. 2006, March-April. ‘Building Creative Communities: The Role of Art and Culture; a

Leading Authority on Information Technology Argues That Cities Must Nurture the Creative Potential and Community Engagement of Their Citizens.’ The Futurist, vol. 40,

no. 2, pp. 18-20.

Jacko, J.A. & Sears, a. 2003. The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals,

Evolving Technologies, and Emerging Applications. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Associates.

Kim, Y-M. 2011, September. ‘Factors Affecting University Library Website Design.’ Information

Technology & Libraries; vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 99-100.

Lee, B.C. & Wicks, B. 2010. ‘Tourism Technology Training for Destination Marketing

Organisations (Dmos): Need-based Content Development.’ Journal of Hospitality,

Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 39-40.

Mccabe, P.T. 2004. Contemporary Ergonomics 2004. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Miranda, F.J., Chamorro, a., Valero, V. & Maestre, J. 2010. ‘Quantitative Assessment of Football Web Sites: An Empirical Study of the Best European Football Club.’ Journal of Service Science and Management, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 110-112.

Moller, B. & Brezing, C. 2012, July/August. ‘What should a corporate website look like? the

influence of Gestalt principles and visualisation in website design on the degree of acceptance and recommendation.’ Behaviour & Information Technology; vol. 31, no. 7,

pp. 739-741.

Mulholland, R. & Cachon, J.C. 2004. ‘Online Marketing Communication in the Tourism

Industry: An Exploratory Study of Website Effectiveness among Tourist Lodge Operators

in Northern Ontario.’ Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, vol. 17, no. 3, pp.

175-177.

Southwell, K.L. 1996, Summer/Fall. ‘The cover.’ Libraries & Culture, 31(3/4), 654.

Wilkinson, T. 2005, October. ‘Pearls in the Sagebrush.’ Southwest Art, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 186-187.

Woolaroc. 2012. [online] available: www.woolaroc.org/.

Woolaroc Report. 2012. Free Web Site Report. [online] available: http://www.freewebsiter eport.org/.


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