The complexity of online trip-planning and booking is the bugaboo of the Web. Consumers generally have to calculate baggage and beverage fees on flights, then figure out how much all of those "taxes and fees" will add to the total price of a hotel booking. After doing all of that, they may abruptly power down their PCs when they find out that the package they just spent hours to vet actually is unavailable.
Forrester Research travel analyst Henry Harteveldt picked up on that whole vibe in a just-released report, "Using Digital Channels to Calm the Angry Traveler."
In 2009, 15% fewer travelers enjoy surfing the Web than they did in 2007;
The number of travelers who feel that travel websites present choices in an appealing way dropped to about 33% in 2009, from 39% two years earlier.
Of course, the complexity of the Web presents a tremendous opportunity for traditional travel agents who can blunt consumers' angst by just handling the whole mess for them with ease and skill.
The online-travel booking process may get even dicier as airlines gear up to implement more ancillary services and accompanying fees.
"To reverse this trend and re-engage travelers, travel eBusiness professionals must recognize that travel eBusiness is comprised of four continuous phases -- not isolated, unrelated processes -- supported by the five pillars of merchandising, context, engagement, value and customer appreciation," Harteveldt wrote. "Expect travel eBusiness professionals to be asked to become more involved with customer data strategy and for GDSs to evolve into more useful global merchandising systems."
Some travel websites already are engaged in the uphill process of making online travel and booking a simpler process.
For example, TripAdvisor introduced a Fees Estimator, Orbitz.com now displays the total price of a hotel stay in the initial search results, and TravelMuse introduced Embedded Web Search to retrieve and use content from other websites for trip-planning.
Solutions to all of this complexity will not be, well, simple.
For more on the Forrester report, visit http://bit.ly/VKebu.