Rural areas in Poland, owing to their natural character and varied landscape, offer inhabitants increasingly better conditions for undertaking non-agricultural business activity. Among the most popular ones are tourism services. The development of rural tourism brings many benefits to farm owners and tourists alike. One of the most important ones is the possibility of obtaining additional income from offering lodgings for rent, and from selling agricultural products and handcrafted articles. In addition, motivation for conducting business activity in rural areas includes the need for self-fulfilment, sharing the passion, interacting with people, and establishing social relations.
The rate of tourism development in rural areas is largely determined by marketing activities including the promotion of services. Rural tourism implemented in a competitive environment should take into account such activities that will allow tourism facilities to attract a satisfactory number of customers. Many a rural tourism facility owner seeks for a way to distinguish their offer from many others and to reach out to a wider group of customers. To this end, the potential of websites is most frequently made use of. Many of them, however, are of poor quality, which makes them fail to serve their function. This can be prevented through the application of web analytics, marketing management and a range of managerial competencies.
Marketing management involves marketing planning, organising, fulfiling marketing functions in an enterprise, motivating contractors, and monitoring the execution of the plan. The accuracy of decisions taken by a manager is based on reliable and credible information that is the result of conducted marketing research. Currently, the priorities include web analytics, gathering and collecting information on customers' preferences and expectations as well as on the competitors' actions.
Web analytics comprises the measurement, collection, analysis, visualisation, and reporting of web data in order to understand and optimise the effectiveness of websites and the processes occurring in their environment. It is an offshoot of a much older discipline, namely business analytics which, for many years, has been serving as a tool supporting the development of a variety of organisations.
With the growing popularity of rural tourism, an interest in this form of activity expressed in scientific and public administration circles has been on the increase. Considerable databases have been collected using
data from surveys and interviews carried out mainly with rural tourism
facility owners and, less frequently, with tourists. However, the vast majority
of data have been collected from local or regional studies. Relatively
few studies are devoted to analyses on the national scale, and this paper
addresses this issue. The main aim of the study is to assess the quality of
websites of rural tourism facilities in Poland. The paper also attempts to
provide an answer to the question as to what role is played by the quality
of a website in management marketing, and to what extent the marketing
(sales) potential of websites is made use of. At the same time, it aims at the
presentation of as many practical guidelines as possible for managers and
rural tourism facility owners who use individual websites to present and
promote the services they provide.
The study was of a comprehensive nature, and took the form of
competitor analysis. The subject of research were individual websites of
rural tourism facilities in Poland. The study used primary data obtained
using selected research methods and tools. Each website was subjected
to an assessment which included elements of a search engine optimisation
audit, content audit, and usability audit. Websites were analysed on
six levels: services, functionality and usability, development technique,
traffic sources and the synergy of marketing communication, website
authority, and design. The collected data were converted using selected
The study revealed a weak correlation between the scale of the
activity conducted, expressed by the number of bed places offered, and
the quality of the presentation of an offer on the Internet, expressed by
the attributes of website development technique, its functionality and usability,
and the marketing potential. Rural tourism facilities conducting
a larger-scale activity had websites of a slightly better quality. However,
a high quality of a website was not synonymous with a high quality of the
description (presentation) of a service offer. Moreover, many websites required
search engine optimisation, and in particular content optimisation.
A low value of authority indicators showed the local range of websites and
the small scale of their impact. Therefore, these websites had a significant
unused marketing potential and goal conversion capabilities.
The multitude of marketing communication channels requires (regular)
publication of diverse contents, primarily current ones. Therefore,
quality of a website results, to a large extent, from the quality of its operation.
An increase in the effectiveness of a website is only possible through
its continuous development which is primarily related to the broadly understood
content marketing. A website left untouched has a finite goal conversion
potential that is going to decrease over time.
The diagnostic variables adopted for the study are a specific list of
criteria to be met by a website in order to increase the conversion potential. This is because each website is published for a specific purpose, and its development, publication and maintenance involve costs to be incurred.
A high-quality website is a tool that is of key importance in marketing management, as it serves two basic functions: image-building and sales-promoting. A high-quality website can be a sales channel. The possibility of generating content by the users as well as booking services and payments facilitates actions of a sales manager.
The potential provided by the possibilities offered by the presentation of an offer on an individual website is currently unused by rural tourism facilities in Poland. Better use of available resources including websites and social media could increase the number of customers acquired through the Internet, and reduce the costs of offer publication on external sector portals.