Guest Post: Putting the social back into online group travel bookings
With nostalgic, feel-good holidays set to be a key travel trend for 2023, families from all walks of life will be keen to make up for lost time following the COVID-19 restrictions of recent years.
So it’s no surprise to learn that family travel is predicted to rise by 25% this year.
What’s more, just under half of people are likely to take a multi-generational family trip during the next twelve months, with a similar number planning to include extended family members beyond the traditional parents and in-laws.
With this in mind, what can travel sites do to ensure they’re making booking trips as easy and as attractive as possible for larger family groups?
Make group bookings accessible online
Traditionally, if larger groups wanted to book a holiday, they would typically use the services of a travel agent who would be well-versed in the complexities of group bookings.
But as customers have become increasingly adept with purchasing online, they are turning instead to online travel sites to fulfil their group booking requirements.
As Expedia discussed in their travel trends of 2023, travellers want the option to ‘book what they want when they want it’.
In fact, reports suggest that there are over 148 million travel bookings made annually, with online travel sales growing at a rate of 15.4%.
But here lies the problem; travel sites are simply not designed to be easily accessible to groups, particularly those who are dispersed across multiple locations.
In order to fulfil a group booking, a significant amount of dialogue needs to take place in order to agree flight times, hotels, travel arrangements, seating plans, additional baggage, parking fees, in-flight food orders and more - the list is endless.
In addition, if someone isn’t able to make one of the desired times or dates, the entire process invariably starts again from scratch.
Anyone who has been involved in trying to arrange a group travel booking with people who aren’t in the same room as each other will know that it can be a frustratingly long and exhausting process.
By their very nature, group bookings require greater organisation and coordination, which is why it is essential to provide a collaborative and immersive social booking experience for customers whilst they are ‘live’ on the site.
The trouble is most travel sites don’t offer this kind of functionality. A recent survey conducted by Arival of over 3,500 businesses, found that more than half of day tour operators do not use an online booking system at all.
This puts these businesses at an immediate disadvantage, given that 83% of US adults want to book their trips online and 45% of UK travellers are comfortable researching, planning and booking trips directly from their mobile.
Put the ‘social’ back into group travel bookings
In order to better cater for the needs of larger, multi-generational family groups with a preference for booking online, travel sites must look to incorporate real-time social interaction, effectively providing a ‘live booking’ experience and a real-time connection for users.
This process not only enables group members to share details of the journey with each other as they plan it, but make the final bookings together, too.
A truly social booking experience not only speeds up the process for the customer, but enables the travel site to make more sales and thus generate more revenue.
Furthermore, travel sites gain access to valuable data including price perception and sentiment analysis, giving them a birds-eye view of the customer’s entire booking journey.
Forward thinking online travel companies are already reaping the benefits of a superior customer experience thanks to their integration of this kind of social booking technology, including one of Europe's leading vacation homes rental companies, OYO vacation homes.
The new website add-on which enables online users to invite friends to collaborate in a private, on-site platform to discuss and book their group trip, has already gone live in Germany, The Netherlands, and Denmark, with plans for rollout across the rest of Europe during 2023.
The rapid rate of technology adoption in recent years has been attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing businesses and consumers to find new ways of doing business with each other.
In fact, a report by McKinsey revealed that companies have accelerated their digitisation of customer interactions by as much as three to four years.
Despite this advancement, online travel businesses cannot afford to take a breather.
They must continue to innovate in order to stay ahead of the curve and meet the evolving demands of digitally savvy customers, including the desire for a seamless, social online booking experience whether booking for two, ten or twenty people.
About the Author
Doron Luderis the vice president of sales at Joyned – a SaaS solution for travel websites that enables users to book together, taking the group booking experience to the next level.
He is actively involved in Joyned's collaborative initiative to better understand the consumer psychology behind online travel booking.
Specialising in developing a data-centred approach to sales in technology companies, Doron has worked in both enterprise-class organizations and start-ups. He has more than 15 years of experience in disruptive technologies as diverse as cyber security, cloud computing, and robotic process automation.
He has lectured on topics as varied as task automation for finance teams to visual test automation best practices. Doron has previously been an advisor for start-ups and VCs, as well as a judge on the prestigious Mass Challenge accelerator programme.