Consumer demands of online travel retailers vary little from those using traditional travel agents, according to research presented at the Travolution Summit.
Clearly state the price, be honest, make prices easy to compare, provide information about activities and ensure someone is available to talk to.
At the same time, such long-standing concerns about holiday brochures as out-of-date information, hidden fees and misleading descriptions are among the worst experiences of travel website users – alongside technology-related issues such as slow downloads and broken links.
The findings are from research revealed exclusively at this week’s Travolution Summit by Frommer’s Unlimited, the digital division of US-based Frommer’s Travel Guides.
Joel Brandon-Bravo, Frommer’s Unlimited general manager, told the Summit: “People want transparent pricing. You would be surprised how many people still want to speak to someone and by how many sites do not update their prices.”
Frommer’s survey involved more than 1,200 online travel consumers – asking what influences their travel decisions, what determines where they go, what content they look for when planning and booking a trip, and what would improve their experience.
It found price was by far the biggest factor in choosing a destination, cited as an influence by more than four out of five respondents. Personal interests and how long they would be away were the next most important considerations, followed by the weather and food in a destination.
The exchange rate was a significant concern to less than half those surveyed – perhaps surprising, given the fall in the value of sterling – and beaches or a destination off the beaten track rated even less importance. And of the dozen factors suggested to onlinebookers, the carbon footprint of a trip carried least weight in deciding where to go.
Brandon-Bravo said: “We know users are likely to view only four pages of a site before they leave. But 55% said they are more likely to book when a site offers destination information.”
The content that matters most when planning a trip, the survey found, is accommodation photographs – followed by destination descriptions, details of activities, weather and travel information, and reviews by other travellers. Videos of accommodation and destinations came near the bottom of the list.
What matters most at the point of booking is airport and transport information, pictures of rooms and resort or city guides, followed by consumer financial protection and site security. Videos of accommodation again appear of least interest – as they also do in the period between booking and departure, when a map, basic travel information such as a country’s entry requirements, the weather and local activities hold most interest.
When respondents were asked what made for a bad experience, 50% said too few pictures, almost as many cited hard-to-find details or insufficient destination information, and more than 40% said inaccurate information.
Users were most likely to seek destination information before deciding where to go and least likely when booking, and online research had the greatest influence on where they chose to travel, followed by friends’ recommendations and travel guide books.
Newspapers and magazines and travel agency recommendations were of least significance – although Brandon-Bravo conceded that is a finding to be expected from online users.