The online travel and hotel reservation industry is blooming and people are relying more and more on the internet to book their flights and hotels (Read the article ‘How to generate b2b leads online for travel business or products to know how and what travel businesses are doing or are supposed to do to promote their businesses online). However, unlike any other industry, the travel industry has its own set of challenges too. Have a look at those challenges below and what travel agencies and travel software development companies are doing to overcome them.
The challenges and opportunities in online travel and hotel booking
Visitors in Asia (and even in some other parts of the world) have been facing the problem of slow internet connectivity since a long time. Although many people have 4G connections today, there is still a considerable amount of people who use 3G or slower networks. Low or slow connectivity results in people taking the traditional route to booking tickets – the ‘calling the company directly’ route! There are many who still prefer calling the airline or hotel to book tickets as that seems more ‘convenient’ to them. Travel business owners are now moving to simpler designs for their websites and mobile applications. Simple designs allow their websites and apps to load faster without compromising on the design or the user experience. Also, network operators are trying to bring 4G technologies to Asian markets on a large scale. It won’t be long until the problem of slow internet connectivity gets solved and more and more people plan and book their travels and hotel stays online.
No unique or good search experience
Travellers had to suffer from a terrible search experience on OTA’s websites or apps. They used to find it difficult to get the type of hotel they wanted.Thanks to the new advancements and the efforts taken by travel business owners, visitors are now getting a unique search experience. Thanks to the new advancements and the efforts taken by travel business owners, visitors are now getting a unique search experience. Most travel websites also allow visitors to search for or compare hotels and their prices. The overall user experience has changed for better and will continue to do so as travel businesses understand the importance of getting more customers online.
Synchronization between the travel agency and the hotel or airline used to cause many issues in the past. Sometimes travelers used to book rooms that were unavailable or already filled. It was difficult to update the empty rooms in hotels or seats on a plane. As a result, visitors used to view outdated information. This scenario has changed with the advancements in technology. Airlines and hotels are now able to provide live XML feeds to the suppliers, who, in turn provide these feeds to travel agents and agencies. It is now possible to see more up-to-date information on travel sites and apps. Businesses are also moving to better software and technologies to make sure their services are always up and running.
Different cancellation policies
Different travel agencies provide different cancellation policies. Some demand a cancellation fee on cancellation of tickets. These fees can be as high as a one night room stay fee + taxes. Few travel agencies don’t allow canceling after the stipulated time. Few companies ask you to cancel only individual tickets, for example, a travel agency might cancel only your hotel room bookings but not your flight tickets if it has given you both a flight + hotel stay package. Some companies might allow canceling the entire package only! Thanks to the tough competition today, these policies have been less strict and focus more on user convenience. Because customers will usually shift to a competitor if a particular businesses doesn’t provide convenient services. travel businesses are now coming up with new and more convenient ways to cancel or refund your bookings.
Inability to know more about hotels
Although all the information is available online on the internet, it is still easier to know what kind of service you will get in a hotel depending on how the person who answers your call speaks to you. You can judge this based on how quickly they answer your call, how they talk to you, their mannerisms, how they listen to your requirements and if they are ready to go an extra mile to provide more convenience to their customers. It is found that a hotel can offer negotiation up to 40% on the room rates. You get this discount only when you talk to the salesperson personally. Most travel agency websites don’t offer the discounted rates as they have to manage commissions. No matter what travel agencies do, there is still nothing that beats calling the hotel directly (except for saving some time). However, travel agents are trying to search for more innovative ways to make it more appealing to book hotels online.
Despite all of these challenges, the travel industry is growing rapidly. According to J.D. Power 2014 Online Travel Agency Satisfaction Report, 58% of people book hotels online, 52% make flight reservations online, 33% of people purchase vacation packages and 31% book rental cars. The customer satisfaction, in spite of the many problems that they face while booking online, is 788 on a 1,000 point scale! And this figure will surely rise as travel software advance and travel agencies are able to provide better more convenient services.