There are many types of travelers in the world. The passage of time has consolidated a very heterogeneous sector that includes profiles of all kinds, from the most traditional to the most digital ones. Generations previous to the year 2000 used to reach, exclusively, for travel agencies when wanting to plan a trip. Consequently, travel agents became personal counselors, destined to help customers with their search to build the perfect vacation itinerary. Where to go? Egypt? Singapore? London? The whole world was available and the agent could guide you through the choosing process in order to make sure you picked the perfect place. Or perhaps you already had a destination in mind because a friend recommended it to you.
Currently, travel agents and friends are no longer the epicenter of the travelers’ decisions. Since the irruption of internet, experiences and opinions have been centralized and shared in an online travel community. Pages such as Tripadvisor or Booking, for example, are one of the main sources of reference for travelers.
These types of platforms were responsible for the emergence of new ways of traveling, where each space helps users from different points of view in the purchasing process, and where opinions and comments shared are decisive and affect our final decision. Users' impressions are carefully taken into consideration prior to deciding on a hotel or destination. Their impartial and transparent feedback offers the community a clear vision of what to expect. In a few words, it paints a more trustworthy picture.
This modern scenario have turned online travel agencies (OTA’s) into a reference in the tourism sector. Currently, travelers behaviour consist on consulting various platforms in order to find references. According to Vector ITC Group, an average user visits 38 websites to plan a trip. Even among those who do not book their holidays online, the same pattern of action occurs. Moreover, the growth of reservations through mobile devices makes the interactivity in the network become stronger. According to a report provided by Phocuswright, the United States and Europe are experiencing promising growth in mobile bookings, but it is China that is leading the most exponential rise with 60% of users that book online. Presently, around 35% of the reservations are made through mobile, a figure comparable to those of the United Kingdom and ahead of Italy, Germany, France or the Scandinavian countries.
The influence of comments
The type of comments that can be found gathers several moments of the customer journey. Talking about the service quality, support and also showing the positive and negative experiences during the purchasing process. Topics such as agencies lack of dedication or the need for more resources to enjoy their trip are commonly brought up. Consequently, by being able to compare all the possibilities, travelers feel empowered and more certain of their decision.
With that, and taking into account the influence that the travel community has on the customers' decision, industry players were forced to rethink strategies. Hotels, agencies and even airlines found the need to have a holistic view of the customer experience and upgrade services by monitoring the online feedbacks.
Technology is molding travelers' current needs to adapt their holidays to what they are looking for, with a positive impact on the personal experiences.
A study on the Spanish traveler made by Travelport in 2017, shows that 85% of the Spaniards use online reviews sites when planning their trip, positioning Spain as one of the most digitized countries in Europe. Even so, due to the impossibility of knowing if the opinions are true or not, having a professional help continues to be an important pillar in the vacations planning. In fact, the numbers show that 73% of the respondents plan their vacation according to the recommendations of the travel agents.
This proves that the online world has not yet replaced the traditional market, but it is a strong piece of the puzzle that continues to expand its presence in the traveler’s decision-making process. Nonetheless, the impact of this new interaction can clearly be noticed. As a result, it allows the industry to develop its customer service skills, putting the customers' needs in the center of their strategies and offering a better response to their claims.
All in all, companies are able to spot the most relevant moments of truth during the customer journey. The constant analysis of feedback was and still is able to provide insights on where and when customers need more interaction during the trip planning phase. Most importantly, it leads businesses to offer a better-customized service. Precisely, Smartvel helps companies with the digital transformation of the customer touchpoints, enriching the current interactions and creating new ones thanks to the up-to-date content designed for the traveler.