It’s no secret in the tourism industry that summer is the season of travel. In fact, a 2015 survey examining the travel habits of more than 1,000 respondents found a majority of those polled save more than one-third (37 percent) of their vacation time for the summer months, and that 46 percent of those who save their time use it for shorter weekend excursions rather than one long vacation.
As this trend is predicted to continue into this year’s summer season, travel companies can expect a surge of web traffic as travelers research and book trips. And because industry analysts forecast consumers opting for multiple short-term trips, travel companies must strive to maintain efficient, user-friendly web presences to ensure customers return each time they plan a getaway.
As the travel industry comes full-view into the digital era, it’s not simply enough to establish a website with basic search and booking functionality. Today’s traveler demands a more dynamic, engaging web experience, particularly millennial travelers who interact with the internet seemingly 24/7 in different modes on a host of varied devices. With that mind, here are seven must-have features travel companies should incorporate into their websites to remain successful and competitive in 2016 and beyond.
In today’s digital world, creating and maintaining an attractive website is not a difficult proposition - it’s a relatively low-overhead investment travel companies can ill afford not to make. Responsive design capabilities, which allow for more dynamic aesthetics and integration with mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops are a core driver in providing customers with an engaging, easy to navigate web experience that puts the emphasis on the products and services offered rather than the website itself. Simply put, a customer should not have to struggle with your website in order to research and book their trip - the experience should be seamless and convenient so the traveler doesn’t think twice about visiting your website in the future.
It may sound hyperbolic, but today’s traveler demands speed and efficiency from a travel website, and predictive searches are a big part of that puzzle. While predictive search software may save a traveler only a couple of keystrokes, it’s this level of convenience that resonates with customers and drives them to return to your website for future bookings. Especially when viewing a travel website on a mobile platform, predictive search capabilities eases the travelers buying experience and provide peace of mind that a travel company is operating consistent with expectations in today’s technology.
Because of the wealth of information available to today’s travelers, transparency of information regarding travel experiences is a key driver in creating an environment of comfort for consumers. Travel website that allow for customers to review all aspects of a travel company’s operations help further that transparency and allow travelers to see and interact with other customers, creating a small community of sorts that increase a travel company’s ability to engage with customers and utilize feedback to improve how the company functions.
Effective Payment Integration
Offering customers the maximum available options for payment should be a core principle in any travel website’s functionality. Because a majority of today’s travelers possess multiple credit, debt, bank, or prepaid cards, providing customers with well-integrated, user-friendly payment methods can go a long way to cementing long-term B2C relationships. In addition, employing the necessary software to store a customer’s preferred payment method creates the same level of convenience and service as predictive search software, and can be a deciding factor in whether a traveler returns to your website in the future.
Travelers like to tell stories of their travels - they like to interact with other travelers, share experiences, make recommendations, and so on. Today, much of these conversations happen in the social media realm on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and travel companies with user-friendly social integrations on their website better position themselves to take part in these conversations and use them as a key driver for customer engagement and online reputation management strategies.
Google Map Integration
As the de facto online mapping service, incorporating Google Maps into your travel website makes it easy for travelers to research the areas and interests surrounding their destination, which has the potential to result in additional bookings. For example, say a customer is searching for a hotel option and using Google Maps discovers a cultural excursion only a few blocks from a certain hotel. This could very well be a driving factor in which hotel the customer selects, which can be a value proposition for travel companies in regards to packaging products and services.
Compelling Photos and Images
In the restaurant industry, it’s said people go to restaurants for the food, but return for the service. In the travel industry, customers will engage with a travel website for the content and products (the food), but will return for the service (the extras). In this case, incorporating compelling images, photos, graphics, and other visual elements can go a long way in enticing a customer and engendering a certain level of brand loyalty, particularly if the website is branded toward a specific segment of the market.
As you can see, travel websites today go beyond a basic HTML home page with static images, simplistic payment options, and little to transparency of information. Instead, a travel website must function as a robust arm of a travel company’s business model. But travel companies also need to leverage their websites as more than just a tool for e-commerce - rather than a platform for selling products and services, a travel website should be utilized as a method to increase customer engagement and create lasting relationships with travelers on a global level.
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