Bookable Travel Website - 10 Important Things to Consider!
A Bookable Travel Website is one of the best investments any travel agency can make. It can lead to very high profits, from very little resource and investment when compared to opening and managing a new branch. It gives you flexibility to grow and develop your business while the costs stay the same.
However, while there are so many benefits when a bookable travel website is done well, if it is done badly, then it can simply be a waste of money. So in this article we discuss the most important factors you should consider and implement when you are planning a bookable travel website to make sure it’s a success.
1. Think Long Term
A bookable travel website is a big investment and a complicated project. It’s very likely that you will be committing to this website for many years. When you are calculating your budget, the resources you can put towards it and your required ROI, you should factor in the length of time your website will need to establish itself and become successful.
Remember, the time, cost and work involved can be large, but if you put it in, the rewards can be substantial.
2. Look At The Web Company First
Your relationship with your chosen web company is one of the most important factors of any website development, and even more so when you are ordering a bookable travel website. Your web company are not just the people who will technically build the website, they are going to be there to host your website, support you and give you advice. That’s if you have a good relationship and they are a good company. Try to look passed the sales talk, the price and even the technology itself that they may ‘wow’ you with and think more about;
- how you feel about the people you are speaking to,
- the advice they are giving you - do they really know what they are talking about,
- how much you can trust them and
- what they are going to do for you after it’s launched
This final point is very important. So often the focus is given to the build and the build cost. In fact some companies tell you you’ll have all the tools you need to manage your own website and won’t need them post-launch, thereby attracting you with low ongoing costs. This is a false economy! You will need help post-launch no matter what they tell you.
3. Don’t Skimp
When ordering a bookable travel website, it is not a good time to skimp. That’s not to say that you have to pay more than you need to, nor does it mean you should look for a good deal. However, cutting back on the costs is not a good idea. Don’t try and get as many features as you can for as little money as you can. The inescapable fact is that a bookable travel website is a complex website that takes a lot of work to build and develop. This takes time and ultimately time will cost you money. So if you try to get something too cheap, you will either get a website with loads of features, but each feature being rubbish and not working, loads of bugs in the booking engine, or a development team based in India that have been handed your contract specification but don’t really understand anything to do with the UK Travel Industry.
Another reason not to skimp goes back to the previous point about your relationship with your web company. If you have stripped out all their profit and made them work for practically nothing, they are;
- not going to see you as a particularly great client
- not want to help you in anyway outside the contract
- not give you much priority outside of their contractual obligations
In short, they are not going to do you any favours at all. You will be familiar with this exact scenario in your travel business. If you have a client who skimps and gets as much out of you as they can for the same money, while you have another client who appreciates the service and doesn’t mind paying for it, you will naturally become closer and more helpful to the latter. Again, you need your web company on your side, it’s worth a little extra money in the first instance for long term gains!
4. Phase it and Build Up The Specification
It’s easy to say, ‘don’t skimp’, when you have a big budget to spend, but what if you don’t? Well that’s OK, there is still a better alternative to not skimping. You should be able to work with your web company to prioritise certain specification points and features, leaving some out for a later date when you have received some return on your investment. No doubt your idea of ‘minimum requirements’ are different to your web companies advice, but you should be flexible because they have likely launched many bookable travel websites and have a better idea of what works and what is essential in the first launch.
This also tests out your web company because if they are ‘real’ developers, not just selling you a rehash of someone else’s website, they should be able to do this phasing and ongoing specification development without much trouble. You should even be able to agree on a phasing schedule which will allow you to know the roadmap you’re on. If the feedback you get from your website tells you that you need a feature sooner, just review the phasing schedule with your web company.
5. Get A Support Contract
This may sound repetitive but you will need your web company after the launch of your website. Most web companies will likely offer you a support contract and if they do, you should take it. The reason for this is two fold;
- It ties your web company to you. If you don’t have a support contract you are absolving the web company of any responsibility to you after they have fulfilled the contract specification. No doubt they will have to supply hosting as part of the contract, but that could be it! It would take quite an unscrupulous web company to abandon you after the website is live, but it could happen. By taking out a support contract you are solidifying your relationship with the people that built your website and that is a good thing!
- It’s usually very cost effective. It may seem like a big unnecessary expense when you first see the quote, but that is usually because most people don’t think they will need help after the website is launched. That is completely wrong! In our so far 13 years of building websites, we have never sold a website without a support contract and it has always worked out to the benefit of the client. If the client had paid ad-hoc for the work they received, they would have paid far more money.
A support contract is usually a small monthly fee relative to the build cost and is always worth the money (assuming you’ve chosen a reputable and honest company).
6. It’s Not A Secondary Business
Some travel agents start doing well in their main agency business and think, ‘I guess we should have a website to provide extra income’. That’s true, but don’t see it as secondary to your main business. If you do you won’t get the most out of it and you then are likely to put even less effort into it, leaving it destined to failure.
Your online business will need time, effort and resource from you. It needs to be considered as a main business, another branch and given the same importance and attention as any other part of your business.
7. Be Original and Different
There’s nothing wrong with launching a bookable travel website that just has simple, standard features and information. However, to really be successful, try to find an edge on your competition. Find a way to stand out, to be original, to be different. Think about what the reasons are that a customer should choose to book with you rather than anyone else. Looking at it in this light will help you to prime your website to highlight your USPs to a customer, whether that’s product, price, service or anything else. If you do this right, the SEO will just follow along with it because all Google is doing when it comes to look at your website is to look for reasons why it should send searches to your website compared to any other. Give Google good, clear reasons and it will reward you by improving your rankings for those relevant search terms.
8. Showcase Specialities
Along the same lines as point 7 is the importance of showcasing your specialities. This isn’t just about being original and different, this is more about making sure to include and show off all the information you have that you specialize in. Typically, this will be a destination or a product line such as weddings etc. If you are a specialist in weddings abroad for example make sure you include this in your website, give original and well organised content and information. Again this will help not only your customers but also Google will see your information and reward you with Google ranking improvements.
9. Spread Success Points
To have made your highstreet business successful you no doubt have worked closely with your suppliers, supported your preferred suppliers, kept a window updated with the latest offers and probably invested in a range of marketing solutions. You also will look after customers who walk in the door, directed them to relevant information and brochures and gently pushed them towards a booking where possible.
Whatever methods you’ve implemented that have made your high street business successful, you should try to apply these to your online business. Again, a good web company should be able to help you do this.
10. Be Patient
Of course, the dream is to invest in a bookable website and then from day one, start competing with Expedia and retire early to an island while bookings just keep coming in through your website. Unfortunately, inless you invest at the same level as Expedia, the reality will not match this dream. Don’t expect vast amounts of bookings overnight. A website takes time to establish and a lot of work from both you and your web company. Do not be downhearted if the sales in the first few months don’t match your targets, because this attitude could lead you to give up and pull back on funding the website with either money or your time. This then in-turn means the website will likely continue to fail.
If you’re going for a bookable website, be patient and look for the rewards to come down the line. That’s not to say you should let the website drain your pocket, but do expect it to take a bit of time for Google to rank it and for customers to book on it.
Don’t worry though, once you get passed this initial phase or maybe even the first year, you’ll be surprised how quickly it turns around and that’s when it all comes back and you get your reward!
How Ease Technology Can Help You With Your Bookable Travel Website.
Of all the points listed here, hopefully one of the strongest points that was repeated in some way, was that you must choose a good web company that isn’t only capable, but that will be there for you in the long term.
This is an area of pride for us at Ease Technology because we are very serious about post launch care and making your website successful. We believe that the build of your website is just the first step and that the hard work comes in priming and developing your website to grow and be better than your competitors, offering your customers a quality experience.
We have 13 years of experience in building travel websites and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to advise you in the best course of action.
Please give us a call and talk to us on 0121 442 2500 or use our contact form. There is no obligation and no sales pressure, simply advice and help.