The obvious decline in walk-in travel agencies has caused an undeniable rise in online travel sites in its wake. Hotels, airlines, rent-a-car centers, activity centers, all of the above, can be found in one-two clicks, with results in virtually every inch of the world. Online travel agents (OTAs) reinvented the way consumers browse, select, and ultimately purchase travel amenities. But today, it’s easy to get lost in all the buzz with so many options to choose from.
In a 2014 report, Neilsen found that 40 million people visited a travel site just in the month of April alone. That’s no typo. Forty million people visited top sites like Trip Advisor, Priceline, and Expedia, in search of the perfect summer getaway; the average American spending 17 minutes browsing several sites at once. To rise above the noise aroused by the plethora of OTAs, travel sites need to cater to their audience in three very specific ways. Luckily for you, we created an acronym to help you remember them: MIT.
According to Neilsen, travel apps saw the highest increase in time spent by consumers from 2014 to 2015, increasing 40% from 1 hour and 28 minutes per person to 2 hours and 3 minutes during the period. While websites can provide more, in terms of both text and imagery, consumers favor apps over desktop sites because of how easy they are to use. Apps also require OTA’s to insert only the most relevant information in the app itself, as the screens they’re viewed on are often smaller than desktops.
Travel industry leaders can also use social media to “strengthen connections with existing clients, and even attract new customers,” says Accenture. In other words, tools like Facebook and Twitter should not only be used as an outlet for information, but also as a way to engage with all types of consumers—happy, frustrated, curious, or upset. Staying active on these platforms shows browsing vacayers that you’re capable of staying relevant and that their business matters.
Despite the desire to book a trip as easy as 1-2-3, most American travelers jump between sites to gather the most accurate and pertinent information for their vacation-as many as 38 travel sites according to a 2013 Expedia Media Solutions study published by Skift. To ensure vacationers stay on your site, and only your site, you can’t give them a reason to leave. Think about what you want to know when you’re booking a vacation: price, hotel location, and overall trip quality probably come to mind first. But what about, the firmness of a particular hotel bed, or local attractions that cost less than $20, or gluten-free dessert options in the area? People want, and quite frankly, desperately search for these personalized answers all the time, and are disappointed when they’re not clearly stated on travel sites. Anticipate the path from which these questions derive and execute the answers accordingly.
Often travel sites disregard the one thing vacationers spend the most time reviewing: reviews themselves. According to Econsultancy, 61% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. Last minute vacayers definitely spend time reading and re-reading reviews: hotel reviews, trip reviews, airline reviews, etc., and they’re not all good. But even with bad reviews, 68% of consumers trust the reviews more when they see both positive and negative comments, says Econsultancy in the same report. Client advocacy has become so crucial to purchasing decisions that consumers often schedule trips based on the positive or negative feedback left by other travelers.
It’s imperative for travel sites to not only remember each part of MIT but also implement each into their websites, strategies, and campaigns. People will always value easily-to-use apps and will often prefer them over websites. They shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should they be forgotten once they are up and running. Vacayers also love information. Plain and simple. Give them the information they’re seeking and you’ll be rewarded and positively reviewed in a big way.