how-website-themes-are-being-used-in-the-travel-sectorOf all the sectors that have been radically transformed by the digital revolution, travel and tourism is one that has been most profoundly affected. High street travel agents now seem almost quaint relics of a bygone age, and relying on piles of brochures or blindly booking a package deal without really considering what’s involved are definitely activities of the past. The first stop for the modern vacationer is the Internet, and browsing websites has replaced flicking through brochures or walking from one travel agency to another in search of the best deal.

Empowered Consumers

Although package deals still exist, vacationers increasingly prefer to book their own flights, accommodation, and itinerary separately, making full use of the control and choice the web offers. This way, they can seek out the cheapest deals in each area while making sure that they get a vacation tailored exactly to their wishes and requirements. Of course, this also means that the competition among travel-related websites and blogs is fierce, and attracting interest through themes and styles is the first part of the battle.

One way that travel websites can attract custom over the competition is to use the phenomenon of empowered consumers to their own advantage. These vacationers are less likely to invite their friends round for a slideshow or a perusal of the photo album on their return from a trip, and are more likely to post on social media or even write their own blog posts about their experience. This can feed back into the travel and tourism online sector in the form of user-generated content.

Real Stories

Twitter and Facebook are also part of this “sharing economy” and are recognized by the traveling community as valuable sources of recommendations. In 2013, 92% of consumers worldwide said that they trusted word-of-mouth recommendations more than other forms of advertising. 70% said that online reviews were their second-most-trusted advertising form. Popular websites have made this the whole basis of their business. People believe that accounts by real people about their experiences will be more truthful and unbiased than professional reviews. Vacation photos on Flickr, Pinterest, and Instagram, as well as YouTube videos, can also all be linked to as more natural marketing options than old-fashioned hard-sell advertising.

Friendly and Engaging

Website themes should reflect this approach, and should be friendly and engaging rather than stern and authoritative. While an older generation of travelers prized the reliability and consistency of established hotel chains alongside the paternal advice of major travel agents, the younger generation value informality, novelty, and the sense that they’re getting the inside scoop. Engaging these Millennials, who will make up 50% of the travel market by 2020, requires the use of themes that reflect the hoped-for travel experience.

A great example is WorldEscape, which uses bright, attractive photos of actual accommodation and an engaging animated introductory video. WorldEscape’s peer-to-peer approach, of allowing travelers to book accommodation around the world via other site users, also reflects the informal way that today’s travelers like to go about arranging their vacations. Millennials, in particular, hate to feel like they’re being sold to. They’ve grown up with the Internet as a two-way conversation, and any attempt to talk down to them or overwhelm them with a big sales pitch will just turn them away.

Easy to Use

Travel websites need to be easy to use and navigate. The key feature should be a versatile search engine that enables the customer to search out flights, accommodation, or other features relating to the destination of their choice on the dates they intend to travel. Being able to filter out unwanted information is as important a feature as having a wide range of options. While ease and functionality are paramount, the theme should constantly reinforce the reasons the customer is there in the first place, with images suggestive of sunshine, exotic experiences, fun, and adventure. The website Skyscanner gets this mix just right, as well as reflecting the theme of empowering the traveler by allowing them to search hundreds of other sites for cheap flights.

People take vacations to escape from the daily grind, so a travel website should never feel like hard work. A coldly professional look just won’t work. Having said that, even the most adventurous and carefree traveler wants to feel that the website they’re booking through is trustworthy, and that the accommodation or travel they’ve paid for will be secured and exactly as described. Again, this careful balance is often achieved through the choice of theme, and so this is particularly important within the travel sector, where adventurousness and reliability must go hand in hand.