Despite ongoing disruption and uncertainty, industry experts predict an upcoming surge in travel once COVID-19 restrictions lift. It’s a rush already being documented in China. After strict lockdowns, the number of domestic travellers surged in late 2020, passing 2019’s whole-year figure by September.
That’s why we believe it’s vital to pip your competition to the post and prepare for high levels of demand before the world opens up again. And what’s one of the best ways to do that? With a high quality, user-friendly travel website that gets customers eager to travel with you.
To help more travel start-ups with their online presence, 3Sixty built Wanderly – an easy-to-use platform that allows you to create a website in days, not months. And I chatted to two companies using Wanderly to find out what they believe makes an effective travel website.
1. Prioritise high res images
Ben Eddon-Carruthers is the co-founder of LGBTQ+ luxury travel agency, Huben Travel. Ben considers any website to be your “shopfront, CV and window to the world” – and making a strong first impression starts with high quality images.
“Websites need to show high-res images of beautiful places. It needs to tell a story about the trips,” he says.”
Holidays and trips can also cost a lot of hard-earned money, which may be why 43% of British travellers spend longer researching a holiday than the duration of their trip. The right image selection can help “reassure people that we are a reputable company to book their holiday with.”
Emma Durkin, founder of travel start-up Where The Wild Is – which specialises in bespoke holidays across northern Europe – agrees.
“Customers will make a judgment in a split second on whether they like the look and feel of the site, and, if they do, they will continue to look around. Incredible pictures are absolutely vital,” she says. “They bring the places to life in the mind of the consumer.”
2. Keep imagery authentic
As tempting as it may be to use all the glossy, alluring photographs, however, it’s important to keep them authentic.
“There is always the expectation that you are buying exactly what you see from the pictures,” adds Emma. “What customers don’t realise is that in many cases when they are looking at accommodation images, the very best rooms are shown – Deluxe Suites or Junior Suites. Then when they book a standard double room they can be disappointed on arrival, as it’s not what they expect. As a tour operator, we share the images of the exact rooms we have booked them and often up-sell.”
3. Study what makes good travel copy
A picture speaks a thousand words, but good copy compels visitors to act. Your copy should be as inviting and reassuring as the pictures, but should focus on clarity above all else so that people can find the information they need. Remember, people may first discover you on Instagram, but a website is where they’ll want to go for all the important information. It’s your job to make this information easy to find and follow.
“Whatever marketing we do – newsletters, social, even print – it naturally leads people to our website. It’s our most powerful tool,” says Emma. “Unique and captivating copy is important – we use a team of travel copywriters and write some in-house and it has to be perfect. The copy must be displayed in a clear and attractive way.”
To see what good travel copy looks like, it’s worth studying other travel websites. Adjectives work in travel copy to paint a picture of luxury and indulgence. But too many can have an off-putting effect and look like you’re trying too hard to impress.
4. Make the layout predictable
Any web designer will tell you how important user experience is. But it’s essential for travel websites, since there are a lot of actions you want customers to take – from booking accommodation to dates and activities. If your site makes this process challenging or frustrating, they’re likely to leave.
“The website needs to be simple to use for both customers and whoever is creating pages,” adds Emma. “The layout needs to be predictable so that customers can find what they are looking for quickly. I think it’s worth designing pages and a navigation on paper and making sure the components you need exist on the platform you intend to use.”
5. Learn from others – what you like is often what others will like too
You may be a travel company. But you’ve also been a customer. When it comes to websites, you know what you like on certain sites and what frustrates you on others.
“Spend time looking at other websites and decide what you like and don’t like,” suggests Ben. “And don’t be afraid to tell the web designer if you don’t like something. This is something they are used to and, at the end of the day, you don’t want to pay for something you don’t actually like.”
6. Try an easy-build, cost-effective platform like Wanderly
You know everything there is to know about the world of travel. But tech? That’s likely a different story. Many talented travel professionals let their website slide down their list of priorities due to their lack of IT skills – or even due to high costs.
Emma revealed that many website building platforms left her scratching her head. “I tried Squarespace and I had a look at WordPress. Even though there is lots of help and guidance online, I’m not a techy person. I struggle to understand some of the jargon used and to navigate the back office areas.”
But with Wanderly, it’s been a different story.
“I love Wanderly – and I actually enjoy using it. The drop and drag feature of the various components makes it easy to use and a real joy to work with. The way in which the CMS is set out is so logical. It has everything you need to get started and look professional, and you can request new and different features and get elements created exactly as you like – like we have with our new map component.”
Ben agrees, calling the platform Huben Travel’s “one and only choice”.
“The product works and is really easy to use, the level of support is great and our website looks amazing. We always get comments about how nice it looks.”
If you’re interested in exploring Wanderly for yourself, you can discover everything you need to about the platform here: www.wanderly.travel/