Holidays are a high value, discretionary purchase.
Travel agencies have traditionally relied on high-touch, personal service to effectively provide customers with the best holiday package.
What role do websites play in this human sales process?
We analysed 139 travel agency websites.
This is what we found about how they acquire customers.
The majority of travel websites company rely on calls to acquire customers.
55% of travel agencies only take bookings over the phone.
Most travel websites make it easy for customers to call them. 36% of phone numbers are freephone (mainly 0800), and the majority (60%) offer toll-free local numbers.
4% of companies require you to call a paid number. Fortunately only 2 companies actually make you call a paid number (13p/min) to make your booking!
Only 45% of travel websites have some form of the bookings process online. However, 98% accept bookings over the phone! 37% of companies use call tracking systems to understand how they are generating these valuable calls.
Some travel agencies have experimented with online booking checkouts, but have since withdrawn them from their websites. Phone calls let advisors connect personally with customers. Having a human touch to impart specialist destination knowledge is key for selling complex and high value holidays.
55% of travel companies have added web chat to their website in some capacity.
Of those websites, 82% have chat visible to users during office hours. Only 72% of these visible chat windows have operatives able to answer chat requests.
68% of travel companies are not actively using web chat to communicate with customers.
In an industry where calls are vital, web chat perhaps does not represent the same value to companies as live calls.
Web chat is great for segmentation and conveniently answering simple customer questions.
But perhaps less so for explaining complex products and establishing a human connection.
Most travel companies reviewed typically had two call to actions.
The first is a 'Call Us' or prominent display of a phone number. The other is an offline enquiry form or call back option.
This area of our research was harder to quantify.
29% of websites offer well-placed, quick call back options. More companies did offer call back options, but they were embedded and disguised, behind a variation on a lead capture form.
30% of websites offered well placed images of their travel experts to impute an personable impression behind the company.
We noticed two broad sets of 'blog' and content marketing strategies. Those that integrated their blog with their main product pages, and those that had a blog as an afterthought.
Tip: Travel companies would do well to consider creating power pages to boost their authority and traffic around their specialist destinations.
Only 32% of companies visibly use video as a marketing tool for their holiday packages. Videos hosted on YouTube can drive SEO gains and provide a lot of positive engagement.
There is a wide variation in how websites presented their trust ratings (e.g. Feefo, TrustPilot) and customer testimonials.
Some of the more luxury agents had no customer testimonials - but given how individual and personalised each holiday is, this makes sense.
The average home page size is 3.4MB and takes 4 seconds to load. The average product page is 1.4MB and takes 4.4 seconds to load.
Fast page times keep customers happy and help you to rank better!
Holidays need a lot of high resolution imagery - travel companies have an admittedly tight line to tread between graphical richness and page load speed.
Lazy loading is a technique worth investigating that ensures images don’t load until the user scrolls to them, keeping loading times fast.
Tip: The best performing websites used compressed images and leveraged browser caching effectively.
Only 55% of websites used HTTPS. HTTPS helps with search rankings, keeps yours site secure, and can be implemented for free.
The research was primarily focused on UK travel agencies. Airlines and venues were not included. Each website was visited several times, with the 'best' result of each visit being recorded. Page load time was the lowest time from 3 separate page loads. The latest version of Chrome was used, in Incognito mode with no extensions, and a high speed office internet connection. Chat requests were made during office hours.
The Internet has been around for over 20 years, so there is clearly a reason why the majority of travel agencies encourage users to book over the phone and offer no online checkout.
AI and self service is on the rise.
But calls matter.
Humans are still better at explaining and selling.
Especially discretionary, high value, complex items such as luxury holidays.
While we found this research fascinating to conduct, we also wanted to prove a point.
Voice is a powerful sales tool for high value products.
Travel companies are a fantastic example of this.
Talkative converts website traffic into inbound calls. Our webcalling product lets customers call you - from within your website.
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