Nowadays, businesses in all industries acknowledge the need for a properly designed website. The travel industry and the different business categories it encompasses are no exception. There are many reasons for this, for starters travel agencies, hotels and tour operators want to deliver the best service to their customers, and in order to do that they need to keep their website in the best conditions.
Another reason to be up to date with web design trends is competition. The travel and tourism industry is highly competitive and is always finding ways to improve, so businesses are always searching for the best travel website design inspiration to be one step (or more) ahead of their competition.
There are many topics to consider for your travel site, and here is where we explore some of those topics for you. Whether you are tackling it in-house or looking for help from an agency like Forager Media Group, it is always good to have best practices in mind.
Branding for travel agencies and tour operators
Branding is the first aspect a tourism website needs to consider and it can be a bit tricky. You want your visitors to connect with your business and your brand, but you also want them to focus on the travel experience and the amazing destination you are located. Sometimes even beautiful design can be a distraction, and you don’t want your potential customers to get distracted before they book. You need to remember that in this case travel and tourism are your products and services. There’s no reason you can’t associate the experiences your customers will enjoy when they travel with your own brand, especially if your business adds to the experience.
Competition is another aspect of branding that can be hard for a travel business. After all, how are you supposed to compete with a business that covers the same places that you do? Well, differentiation here is key. You need to keep in mind that it isn’t about the tours and destinations, it is about the people that visit them. Keeping in mind the wants and needs of your potential customers makes the process of differentiating your travel business from the competition more straightforward.
The same applies when you’re designing your new travel site. If your key differentiator is comfort for example, your web design should reflect that from the moment your visitors first see your homepage. Other aspects of branding like consistent visual appearance are still essential for tourism websites. Arguably even more than for other industries because your customers can visit the same places when buying from the competition, so you need to be sure that they remember you.
If you are needing help with branding, you can always let Forager give you a hand. Our branding specialists have years of experience working with businesses in the travel industry to deliver effective branding and marketing strategies.
Keep your travel website user-friendly
Traveling is amazing, you enjoy new experiences, relax, learn new things, meet new people and collect a lot of new memories to share with your loved ones and treasure forever. But, planning a trip can also be a scary experience for some people. It might be the first time they do it in a while and want everything to be perfect, maybe they’re worried that the airbnb listing they chose ends up being a scam, or maybe they are full of work and don’t have the time to plan properly.
That, among many other reasons, is why you should never ignore user experience when you’re working on your website design. If you want travellers to choose you instead of your competition, start by creating a user-friendly website instead of a clumsy website full of clutter that makes it difficult and confusing to make a booking. In many cases, customers won’t choose the best option, they will stick with the best website and avoid the others.
The homepage for travel and tourism sites
Talking about user experience and keeping your site user-friendly, the homepage is frequently the first encounter your customers will have with your business. You need to seize the opportunity to capture their attention immediately. All elements of your branding should be present to welcome your new visitors immediately. All the functions they expect from a business like yours should be there. You need to research what your customers are expecting from you. A common trend in travel and tourism websites is to add a very small form over the fold asking about desired destinations and preferred dates to allow customers to find an available service in a matter of seconds.
The best web designs include all the expected functions and information without causing the homepage to look cluttered. Finding the right balance could be difficult sometimes but your effort will be rewarded with conversions and loyal customers.
Include a travel blog
This is one of those pieces of advice that have been repeated over and over again for years, but there’s a good reason for that. A travel blog is the best way to bring attention to the details that make the experiences you sell a great investment. It is an opportunity to attract new visitors interested in more specific topics and communicate directly with them through your content.
Most importantly, a travel blog is a way to turn your travel website into a lead generation machine. No matter how much effort you put optimising your web design, the majority of your visitors will most likely leave before making a booking and if that happens you won’t have a way to contact them. But, with a blog you can increase the chances of a subscription to a newsletter or other type of mailing list, keeping an active channel to contact your visitors and increase the chances of a future sale.
High-quality photography is a must
When the service you offer is connected to a travel experience, whether you provide your customers with a guided tour or a hotel to stay, you need to help your potential customers imagine what it is like to book with you. Photography is the most typical and useful way to achieve this, accompanied by great copy and video. The mental picture they’ll get will be as good as the photo you choose, so make sure that the one you use is a high-quality photo that reflects the experience in the best way possible. Aim for natural, well-illuminated photos showing people enjoying the service you offer.
E-commerce trends and the travel industry
Adding online booking to your site is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applying e-commerce principles to a travel business. Travel agencies, hotels, tours, airlines and car rental service providers are all evolving to capture the attention of travellers that desire for more information, simpler processes and better experiences. Studies suggest the global online travel market to exceed $1 billion by 2022. Your travel business needs to be ready for that.
Tourism website design needs to stay ahead of the changes in consumer behaviour and new technologies that affect it. One of the improvements that all tourism websites need to apply as soon as possible is making every bit of the website mobile-friendly. Currently, around 28% of the market’s revenue comes from bookings on smartphones, and that doesn’t include all the research customers do before booking. This number is expected to grow as trust in mobile payments increase.
Getting Google’s attention
Last but not least, your travel site will be competing against thousands of others, but only ten will appear on the first page of Google’s search results. SEO is more effective when planned from the beginning. Making a good website is easier than fixing a bad one. Search engines are the first tools travellers use to research destinations and offers. They often check what travel bloggers have to say about them. So, appearing on the first page of search results will give you a great advantage and send many more visitors to your site.
On the web design side, the first thing you need to check is performance. Visitors expect your website to load in two seconds or less, and Google expects it to be ready by the half-second mark. Bad design can lead to a slow website and a slow website can lead to poor rankings. This translates to a lot less bookings. Good design helps to reduce bounce rate and keep your visitors exploring your website. This gets you points with Google’s algorithm and helps you to earn and keep your rankings.
Travel web design takeaways
Each business is different. Web design tends to follow some general principles, but every industry has its own challenges and needs and you need to adapt to the requirements of your business. In the travel industry, you need to adapt quickly to the changes in consumer behaviour and new technologies or else your competition will surpass you during the busy seasons. Keep in mind the aspects we mentioned here and do your own research using analytics or tools like surveys and social media listening to understand your own target audience better and use the data you collect to test new ideas and improve the performance of your website week by week.