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Moving Your Travel Business Online
Creating or upgrading your online presence is a great way to supplement your traditional travel business, and making sure you have a clear plan in mind can help to drive sales in the right direction. As an offline travel agent looking to move forward into the online space you’ll need to first evaluate what you want to offer your customers, when they come through to your website.
Like many agencies you may already have a website, a site that has not been maintained regularly, a site that does not offer any online booking or have a way for the customer to interact with you. A website that is stuck in the 90s and needs to be brought into 2020.
You'll need to decide whether you going to update an existing website or build a brand new site from scratch? Do you want to offer all of your products online or do you want to offer a few products for online booking and still try to drive calls in for more complicated or bespoke sales?
Once you know which approach you are taking then you need to look into how you will be creating your website and the online tool your customers will be using. It may be tempting to try to bring in a development team, but this is expensive and can take many months if not years to complete. You’ll be better off saving both time and money by working with a third party supplier who has already done all of this and connected via APIs to the suppliers you work with. The money saved would be better spent on marketing and promotions for your site once live and on creating an online brand for your business.
Which ever option you take, you will need to make sure your website works across all devices, not just laptops or desktop PCs. In 2019 mobile web traffic overtook desktop/laptop web traffic, that means 53% of people visiting your website will be doing so on a smart phone. Your customers should be able to view and interact with your website on a smart phone or tablet without compromise, otherwise you run the risk of shutting your doors to 53% of potential customers.
Plan for the future and go with a company that will help you grow your business and be upfront with you about future charges or expenses. As a business you may want to integrate new APIs or add features into your site and having a clear understanding of the feasibility or costs involved will make planning far easier.
If I were to lay a very basic road map for an existing offline agency to move into the online space I would personally say, start simple. Offer an easy to maintain website that allows your customers to book flights, hotels and also a combination of the two with you; but keep this alongside pages on your site that tell your customers what you have to offer as an offline agency for example; enhanced customer service, tailor made holidays or additional services such as travel visas and groups bookings.
Both meta search and pay per click advertising can be fantastic ways of driving traffic to your website but these again can come at an expense and it may be wiser to drive traffic to your website by creating content that can inspire and attract visitors and promote this through all available social media channels. A visitor who finds inspiration content you've put into the "Social Domain" is far more likely to be a returning customer.
Either way it will be important to either appoint someone who is in charge of your online strategy going forward or dedicate time to this yourself as business owner, work to create a targeted marketing campaign, plan the first 3 to 6 months out in advance but be ready to adapt to changing travel trends.
Our team at SoftCloud have decades of experience and have worked with companies to help bring them online. If you'd like to now more about how you can either supplement your offline travel business with an online model or move your entire business online. Get in touch and we'll be happy to set up a call.