A window to the World: What makes a good travel website?

As someone who remembers life before the Internet, I still recognize it as a magical thing. I remember traveling when the Internet was still in its infancy and it was a very different experience. When we traveled to Cancun in 1999, the only thing we had preplanned was our hotel and that was because we had a discount at the Holiday Inn. Upon arriving we had little knowledge and few expectations about what to do and where to go. My computer at the time, a 486 DX 33, was far too slow to upload images and there wasn’t much to look at anyway. If plans weren’t made for you, you traveled blindly.

Jump ahead five years and my then computer (a Pentium II – impressive right?) allowed me to perform extensive research into Thailand. I spent the better part of the winter of 2004-2005 researching as much about Thailand as possible, looking into destinations, accommodations, and transportation. The idea that I could book an entire three week vacation from the confines of my home in snowy Winnipeg was mind-blowing and by the time we got to Thailand, my research had worked to near perfection; we got to all identified locations, stayed at all the locations I pre-booked, while transportation, for the most part, was flawless. (I was even able to become well versed on many of the local scams).

From that original trip and through many subsequent trips, I started to recognize important traits in webpages that made me return and ultimately book accommodations versus those thousands of others I passed by. Undertaking research into an entire country is an ominous prospect, so I developed a method of scanning and skimming that I still use today. It goes like this:

  1. I start with a general search of a country to find out the most popular or most appealing places to visit.
  2. I focus on several areas by creating bookmarks in my browser for individual locations. (Accessibility, cost, and uniqueness are some of my criteria).
  3. I start identifying accommodations by saving them under the location bookmarks.
  4. I then compare all the accommodations and delete the ones that are not ideal or not available.
  5. I keep focussing until I decide to book an accommodation then I try not to look back!

The important thing for this scanning and skimming technique is that I spend no more than 30 seconds to a few minutes on each webpage before deciding whether to bookmark it or move on. I imagine that most of us use the Internet in this way. Studies show the average person spends less than 15 seconds on a webpage.

If you are in the travel or tourism business it is vital that you are getting bookmarked, so what makes a good webpage? These are components I look for:

  1. Visuals–It has to draw a person’s eye immediately through pleasing colours, a simple layout, and enticing photographs.
  2. Descriptions–The opening page must have just enough vital information that it can be quickly perused in under a minute. Information like access to a train station, bus terminal, parking or local tourist sites, make a difference. Two or three beautiful, descriptive sentences helps create interest.
  3. Simplicity–A link to room rates is vital. I do not have patience to hunt around for rates or, worse yet, have to contact someone for available rates. At the very minimum, provide a link to booking sites where the accommodation is listed.
  4. Content–It is important to have enough content within your webpage so that when I return to the site, I can get more details, but blocks of text should be short and accented with professional photographs.
  5. Honesty–This is vital because the majority of negative comments from booking sites result from unmet expectations.
  6. Writing–Websites must be well written. The first few words on a website create excitement and paired with excellent photographs are dealbreakers for me. As I delve deeper into websites I am always impressed by highly descriptive, yet simple and concise language. If you are marketing to an English audience, do not trust your website to an online translator.

This is a simple formula for successful tourism web marketing. Whether you’re a museum, a park, a store, a hotel, or a B & B, the important thing is that you STAND OUT. Professional photography and a professional writer make a difference and now is the time to update your webpage, because when COVID-19 is over (it will end eventually!) there is expected to be significant spike in travel and tourism. Be ready!

If you feel your website needs to be better written or edited for grammar then contact me. I have already researched and traveled to the following countries, so have knowledge of each:

  • Japan
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Italy
  • Laos
  • Cambodia
  • Thailand
  • Cook Islands
  • Guatemala
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Antigua
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Ireland
  • United States
  • All provinces in Canada except Newfoundland. (Coming soon!)

For more information, see the following link:

https://paulpanchyshyn.com/business/

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