One-size-fits-all travel sites do not fit all

One-size-fits-all travel sites do not fit all

Press release – 27 August 2008 – Oban Mulitlingual

Research from international web marketing company shows that travel site preferences differ according to users’ travel destinations, as well as reflecting their culturally-distinct search behaviours.

Nearly two-thirds of those planning a trip to France as their next holiday were looking for easy-to-use travel sites, while the same percentage of those planning a trip to Greece said they would prefer to see traveller reviews on their travel sites. Meanwhile, over half of those planning their holiday in the UK wanted easy-to-use sites, with traveller reviews coming in at a distant second (20 percent).

This provides further insight to speculation that homogenous travel sites are not optimal for gaining and maintaining customer loyalty.

Interestingly, these findings seem to be in line with web experts’ expectations. “It is not surprising that travellers going to different places are looking for different web features,” says Greig Holbrook, international web marketing specialist at Oban. “International travel searchers are becoming more specific in their online behaviours so that in addition to multilingual web optimisation, global social media optimisation also needs to take place.”

This can be as simple as providing a forum for user-generated content with a moderator to keep out all the junk.

The variation in these preferences often reflects cultural habits. For example, users in Russia often refer to blogs and forums since these types of sites are less likely to be influenced by politics. Chinese users are often more attracted to busy, colourful websites over our simpler designed ones.

Oban’s French researcher Remy Allard says that the research results could stem from users’ cultural knowledge. “It could be that those planning their trip to France already have an idea about where they want to go. France is a well-known destination and most of the time people have heard of Paris or Bordeaux.”

Remy explains that when users are more familiar with where they want to go, they will search for specific information and prefer not to waste time looking for it, hence the easy-to-use preference. On the other hand, he says, travellers might not know Greece as well and may look for more generic information such as where is it best to go, what can they do there and other general questions.

With the amount of competition in the online travel world, having a website that keeps users from all parts of the world happy is often a foremost concern.

In addition to traveller reviews and easy-to-use content, Oban’s research showed that users were looking for eye-catching design and multilingual usability. Also mentioned was a preference for price comparisons, wide selection, and of course, low prices.

So, how can sites offer the best user experience with these varying preferences in mind? “A site with properly optimised social media that is visible to a variety of cultures will prosper,” says Greig.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all-cultures solution. It is vital to understand the cultural preferences of a particular country and modify the site to suit that culture. Further, there is more research to be done into how and why site preferences tend to vary according to the planned travel destination.

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