Expedia’s 2015 survey into online travel booking habits gave us one of our industry’s best-known stats – that the average online travel booker visits 38 different sites before making a purchase. Google Travel describe it as “travel snacking” – dipping in and out of the internet to compare prices, find destination information, look at accommodation options, check visa requirements and so on.
So if you’re selling travel online, you have a LOT of competition! With every click, your potential clients are being exposed to alternative booking options, with even small travel blogs offering affiliate links to OTAs. How can you make sure that these flighty online bookers choose you? Here are our tips…
Firstly, and most importantly, you need to make sure that your website is designed with users in mind and is easy to navigate. There is little point spending thousands of dollars on a cutting edge interactive online experience if visitors can’t quickly find what they’re looking for. Here’s a graphic from Hubspot on what users are looking for from the websites they visit:
For more than three quarters of visitors, it’s all about navigation, navigation, navigation. So yes, whilst it’s important for your site to look slick and professional, it’s more important that you make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
Making sure online travel searchers book with you is all about stickiness – making our website ‘sticky’ so that visitors find it difficult to leave. One way to do this is to make sure you have enough content about the destinations you sell. If a traveller is looking for information on Cambodia for example, they don’t just want to book a hotel and a couple of tours – they want to know about the country’s destinations in detail as well as info on how to get around, the food, the etiquette, the visa requirements and more. If you don’t provide this level of information, you’re giving visitors a reason to leave your site and look elsewhere.
Providing this deep level of content is fine when you’re in a niche, maybe specialising in a narrow range of destinations; it can be tougher when you’re selling global destinations. But there are plenty of third party content providers out there, such as Lonely Planet, who specialise in leasing destination content to travel companies for a fee.
Trust is a vitally important factor when booking a holiday online. How do you get new clients to trust you to plan their expensive trip? Using the deep content we mentioned above is important as it establishes you as an expert in the destinations you sell. Introducing your team members and their individual expertise is also a great way to establish your credentials.
But the best way to reassure visitors is via online reviews. According to these stats provided by Condor Ferries, 72% of new customers won’t book until they’ve read your reviews online, so if you don’t post reviews on your site, again they may well go elsewhere. Getting reviews for your site is easy – 80% of travellers are willing to write a review when asked, and it’s easy to embed your Tripadvisor or Trustpilot reviews on your site. And be honest – don’t be afraid to post all your reviews on your site, even if there are one or two negative ones! Nobody is perfect and travellers will find you more honest and trustworthy if they see the occasional criticism from customers, especially if you can show that you dealt with the complaint in a professional manner.
One of the most frustrating things for website visitors is a site that makes it difficult for you to get in touch with the company in the way you want to. Not everyone wants to send an email; some want to use the phone, others prefer chat, others prefer forms. As this Amadeus graphic shows, there is no single dominant communication method preferred by travel bookers:
Therefore, you need to take an omnichannel approach to communication (what is omnichannel? See our recent blog post), enabling potential customers to get in touch with you via their preferred channel, in the knowledge they’ll receive the same level and speed of service whichever channel they choose.
And speed is important – there’s little point making it easy for potential customers to contact you if you’re going to take hours or even days to respond, and yet that’s what thousands of travel companies do. This jawdropping survey from 10xTourism found that only 11% of travel companies responded to enquiries in that all important first hour, whilst over a quarter either took over 5 days or didn’t respond at all! So make sure your site offers the following:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Live chat (with a chatbot service out of office hours)
- Social media links
- Request form
…and make sure you respond to all queries within minutes if at all possible.
Finally, given that you’re competing with OTAs and hotel booking sites all offering instant gratification, you need to make sure you offer genuine online booking. Not a request form, not a quotation tool, but live booking with dynamic pricing and live availability. This is a lot easier to implement than it sounds: use a booking tool such as eRoam and you can embed a white labelled B2C or B2B front end in your website offering visitors the ability to book packages, hotels, flights and activities in over 100,000 global destinations, as well as put together their own bespoke itineraries. You set your own markups, commissions and branding, you decide what products and destinations you want to offer, and you compete with the OTAs in terms of product range and ease of booking whilst all the while offering much higher levels of trust and customer service.
To find out how eRoam can take your online travel site to the next level in 2021, contact us today for a demo!