Setting up any business in the current economic climate can be tricky, and the travel industry is certainly no exception. We specialise in websites for tour operators, which we truly love making, but get lots of enquiries for people wanting travel agency websites and unfortunately these are not as simple.
Before delving in to why, it’s worth mentioning that by a travel agent website we mean one that sells package holidays and flights, often one that link to a central database with thousands of options; think Expedia or Teletext Holidays.
Compare this to a travel company that sells a handful of personalised holidays to a specific area, these can make great websites and these are what we do.
Now a local travel agent with a brick and mortar premises offers something that a mainstream travel agent website won’t; a personal touch. Obviously the holidays still come from a central computer system, but customers still get the personal touch, they can pop in and ask questions and as such the local travel agent certainly have their place.
What people often ask us to do; however, is link a website to this computer system so that they can extend their offering online, and this is where the issues come in.
Without trying to get technical there are three ways in which a travel agent can do this. Firstly they can approach the company who manages the computer software where their bookings come from, and buy an off-the-shelf system, or can ask a web agency to use small snippets of code or widgets to link a website to their system. Both of these methods produce a low quality website, that looks the same as every other one that is using the system, and as it has no unique content has realistically no chance of every getting up the Google rankings. Even if it did get traffic, it would offer less than the likes of Teletext Holidays, and have no personal touch. It is hard to make this a success.
The third way would be to create a bespoke website and link to an underlying database of holidays using an API. This is what the big players do, and this means you can have a unique offering. The downside however is cost; you can be talking £50,000, £100,000 or more, and this wouldn’t even include marketing. Yes, believe it or not Expedia have spent obscene amounts of money to get where they are. Most people who contact us don’t have these budgets in mind.
So what should you do if you have travel agent and want a website?
Well, the idea of course is to get people through the doors, so make a website without the link to the holiday database, either by selling unique holidays that you can’t buy on most travel websites (like the tour operator websites we build; selling walking tours in Ethiopia, cycling holidays in France, or family tours in Sri Lanka) or by using your website as a shop window.
What I mean by that is creating a brochure site about the travel agency, letting customers know where you are and why they should pop in, and promoting special offers similar to the deals that you may put in your shop window. For example “14 days half board in Turkey for £350”, with a nice picture of the resort. These are what grab people’s attention on the high street, and these are what will make people want to come in to see you. You should not be trying to sell online, but more getting people through the door where you can do what you do best, add the personal touch.
If you need the personal touch when it comes to websites, please let us know.
The Travel Web Design Blog