The global online travel market is still in its infancy but is showing steady overall growth. Global online travel sales accounted for 25% of all travel sales in 2013 (just under £370 billion) and this trend looks set to continue. As the owner of an online travel business, you obviously want your company to be part of this industry growth. However, things are never that simple. Here are three challenges you will face and how to overcome them:
Offline travel agents
Despite the steady growth of online travel bookings year-on-year, offline travel agents have also seen a boost in their business. Travel agents offering a face to face service are able to cater to the consumers' desire for a more personalised service, offering a comprehensive understanding of the market and the best available options.
To ensure your online travel company does not lose bookings to travel agents, you can introduce personalisation onto your site. For it to be effective, the personalisation needs to be fast, dynamic, relevant, include deals and offers, and operate in real-time. Another option is to offer an overall travel package for every customer; this means not just dealing with flights and hotels, but restaurant recommendations, passenger networking opportunities and a perfectly streamlined customer service experience.
The online travel portals created by search engines present a challenge to online travel businesses. Search engines use deep search techniques to provide the most relevant search results for customers.
One way to overcome this competition from portals is to offer added value to your customers. This may take the form of dedicated travel concierges helping customers address issues before, during or after their trip. Another tactic is to ensure your site is filled with rich content to make it 'stickier'. The richer the content, the more customers you will attract and engage. Put simply, the stickier your site, the greater your revenue.
Regardless of whether you have an amazing loyalty programme or not, customers will generally tend to make their final decision based solely on price. Airlines and hotels are often able to offer customers the most competitive price with added 'perks'; things your online travel business is unable to match.
It is easy enough to set up a loyalty programme for your travel business, but it needs to add that little bit extra to give you a good return on investment. One example of this could be offering customers complimentary travel insurance or car hire for bookings over a certain amount. Alternatively, tapping into your customers' profiles and preferences can reveal favourite meals or wine that can be waiting for them at their final destination.