The travel industry is seeing a significant increase in overall sales from online bookings and reservations, with mobile bookings driving the largest growth. More and more travelers are moving away from desktops and laptops and starting to book their reservations on tablets and smartphones. As this mobile market continues to expand, the importance of mobile booking capabilities in a company’s website is increasing along with it.
In a recent 2014 Travel Flash Report (http://www.criteo.com/resources/travel-flash-report-online-travel-never-looked-so-mobile/), the findings showed a large increase in travelers using mobile devices to book on travel websites. This included bookings for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises or apartment rentals. The report found that in the first 6 months of 2014, 21% of hotel bookings were made on smartphones and tablets. This is an increase of 20% from the previous 6 months, despite a somewhat sluggish start to the year in travel sales as a whole.
Digital travel sales in the U.S. will grow at 5.9% by 2017
A separate study by eMarketer estimates that digital travel sales in the U.S. will grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 5.9% between 2012 and 2017. The study stated that by 2017, mobile travel sales are expected to total nearly $50 billion and account for almost 30% of all digital travel sales. Google has also predicted that U.S. hotel searches would be up 24% in 2013 overall, with a 68% uptick in searches from mobile devices alone against a 4% decrease in desktop queries. Searches from tablets, in particular, were expected to increase by an impressive 180%. A similar report also shows mobile bookings for the popular travel website, Booking.com, grew 160% in 2013. Other major booking sites such as Priceline, Orbitz and Expedia have seen similar growth and have worked to be more mobile friendly.
And what about the smaller players in the industry? There is still vast untapped potential for single entities and small to medium sized businesses that rely on bookings and reservations to sustain their revenue. Unlike before, there are now software solutions that have the features and capacity to meet the largest companies demands but are also available at affordable rates to these smaller businesses. RezEZ, for example, is a powerful platform that can be installed for as little as $99 a month.
It’s easy to see why businesses of any size in the online travel industry would be eager to get a piece of such a large market. But what exactly is needed to tap into this mobile booking market? Let’s take a look at some of the most important capabilities:
- Website Optimized for Mobile: the first step is to have a website that utilizes a responsive design to ensure your content looks great no matter what kind of device your customer’s are visiting your site on.
- Mobile Bookings: being able to search for and complete bookings and reservations on a mobile device is the key here. Make sure your site can easily complete search functions, display results and accept booking information (and payment, if needed) to finalize the reservation.
- Different Devices, Same Inventory: the inventory of all booking, reservation, and customer data needs to be linked to the main database to ensure all information on availabilities is updating in real-time.
- Native Mobile Apps: another method to take advantage of the mobile market is to create native mobile apps built specifically for your business. This way your customers can refer directly to your app for their bookings and not have to bother with any mobile browsing. In 2013, Expedia said they had over 90 million global downloads of their mobile apps to date.
The most important aspect to keep in mind is to make the booking and check out process as simple and seamless as possible for these mobile users. Once they are on the site and ready to make a booking it’s vital to have as little friction as possible in order to keep them engaged. If they have to leave their mobile device to make a reservation you risk missing out on a large number of potential bookings and a growing source of income in the online travel industry.
Author Bio: Thomas Kish is an expert in online and mobile marketing and loves following the latest trends in the industry. He is currently the Marketing Manger for Arca Solutions, a software development company responsible for creating the eDirectory and RezEZ software platforms.