There’s no doubt that the travel industry has been revolutionised by the advances that the Internet offers. Travel companies and those involved in all areas of tourism, from city centre hotels to regional tourist boards now have new and exciting ways to build brands, reach potential customers and take bookings.
The High Street travel agent has declined as people use the internet for ideas, research, reviews and transactions. In fact, the 2012 Global Online Travel Report reported that almost half of British travellers now book their trip online – a figure that is only likely to increase.
A crowded market place
A major priority for any website is to be found, which is why search engine optimisation, or SEO is such a vital part of site development and maintenance. The competition is only going to intensify, which means the commitment of increasing levels of resources to keep a site competitive. This increased commitment is due in part to Google’s behaviour, as well as to the success of social media. Now, to rank well on Google, a travel site not only needs great content with good quality back links, but has to play an off-site content competition game, churning out reams of articles and blog posts every month. This is in addition on-going work to increase the engagement level of your site’s visitors, your blog and social media accounts.
Once the potential traveller has found your site, the goal is to capture their attention and make them stay. Website designs up to the start of the new millennium were rudimentary, hindered by slow download times due to dial up. Broadband has brought massively improved speeds which has wrought huge changes in the online travel industry. The design bar has been raised substantially, so in 2012 a strong visual impact with enticing images is an essential part of any travel website. Faster download enables the use of interactive features such as virtual tours, live weather reports, video and webcams.
The place of social media
The success of social media sites like FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube adds a whole new arena for travel companies, and Google’s latest ‘Penguin’ updates to its ranking algorithm are starting to embrace the importance of such sites. Ultimately, if your competitors are proactively engaging in social media, you will have to do it too. Potential customers like social media: it provides an opportunity to interact with a company, and to share the information, pictures and video with their friends and family, adding a new viral marketing element.
An ongoing commitment
Over the last 15 years, it has become clear that the most successful sites involve high levels of engagement, requiring time and budget to continuously improve the site, SEO, social media and general internet presence. Experience has proven that this is what makes the difference to a site – and ultimately a business - and it is becoming more important every day. Where a third party developer like Freetimers is used, engagement should ideally be with both site owner and the developer. Using this model, we have been able to ensure increases in visitors and sales, with our best so far being a 7,500% increase over five years.
As one of the most competitive sectors around, travel companies need to make use of technology and stay well ahead of the changes, taking account of how they impact on their customers’ needs, demands and behaviour. The companies that do so successfully will be the ones that survive and thrive in an increasingly crowded market place.