I recently came across two articles about how to market your hotel internationally. Overall, they both provided useful strategies for attracting more foreign visitors, and in both articles, I was very happy to read about the importance of getting your hotel’s website translated. But as a professional translator, the advice that followed just left me baffled: use machine translation.

No, don’t!

Let’s start at the beginning. Who wrote your website copy, your brochure, your menu, your booking and payment terms? A robot? Probably not. So why let a robot write the same texts in other languages?

Think about what you wanted to achieve with the marketing texts promoting your hotel: highlight all the benefits that set you apart from the countless other hotels around, communicate why visitors should choose you and not your competitor down the road. Basically, you want potential visitors to feel like they’re already on holiday while reading about your unique accommodation.

 

What machine-translated texts really saymachine translation

If you’ve ever used machine translation, it’s probably because you don’t know the language you need your content in, and you also don’t know anyone who does. That means you cannot check the translation for accuracy, style or grammar. In almost seven years of translating and proofreading hotel websites, brochures, etc., I have come across some disastrous results produced by machines and non-native translators.

 

Well-dressed stones are just the beginning

I copied a few sentences from various hotel websites into Google Translate to be translated from English into my native German. Since this post is written in English, I then back-translated them so you can see what a German reader would understand.

1. One hotel had a stone-clad pool, which in German turned out to be “a dressed stone, pool”.

2. In another example, English speakers would have to pay a no-show fee, while if you’re German, “no fees for the show [as in performance] will have to be paid”.

3. On the “translated” website of the third hotel, readers might think they are asked to pick something up from the computer shop on the way. The original set an hour’s drive from xyz town somehow became “drive [as in CD or DVD drive] lies one hour from xyz town”.

These examples perfectly illustrate why it’s important to work with professional, human translators who will pick up on the context and the nuances of the original text.

So there go all your well-crafted sentences, your carefully put together terms and conditions. They now don’t make much sense. In fact, they are a pain to read which will result in visitors leaving your website without booking a room. And especially when it comes to booking, it is vital that the customer understands your terms and conditions. You should also remember possible legal implications. You know you’ve stated that no-show fees will apply, but your poorly or machine-translated website says the opposite – or doesn’t mention them at all.

 

There’s an expert for everything

Just like your chef doesn’t give tennis lessons and your accountant doesn’t look after the garden, you should listen to marketing strategies from marketing experts, and get legal advice from solicitors. Consequently, when you need information about translation, consult a professional translator. And here’s number 4 for the way, my favourite of the recent machine translation results: the English word bedding turned into “litter” in German. Yes, the type of litter your cat or hamster uses. Do you really want your guests to think that that’s what they’re going to sleep on?

What is your experience with machine translations and how does your hotel go about reaching out to international clients? Please leave a comment to let others know.

Stay tuned for our next article: Why working with a specialised translator will make all the difference for your international hotel marketing.

4 thoughts on “Letting a machine translate your hotel website? Think again

  1. Absolutely loved this article, Malgo! It’s always fun to chuckle at the poor translation of menus and hotel leaflets while on holiday, but it actually just goes to show that translation is still not taken seriously enough – even in very customer-oriented environments like in the tourism sector. Thanks for writing a sector-specific article on this; you gave me a good laugh while also raising an important issue!

  2. Thanks, Marie!
    Glad you enjoyed it, and hoping it will show that machine translation just isn’t the way to go, especially when it comes to serious matters as legal information.
    I have a vision of travellers being able to book with confidence, based on accurately translated information.

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