More travel firms are growing their online business by launching new-generation websites. Our reporters click their way through these stores to give their reviews
Presentation The home-page is visually appealing with attractive images and large headlines. The main banner – a series of rotating photographs each featuring a different promotion – did not change too fast and offered enough time for me to read the package highlights.
The use of big font sizes to separate the different sections were useful in guiding me to what I was looking for. A navigation panel with drop-down menus displays information on additional products and services such as travel insurance.
Content The website offers information on a wide range of products and services, with terms and conditions, special offers and hotel details displayed in a clear, concise manner.
While the booking engine allows the reservation of flights and packages online, users cannot complete the deal immediately as they still have to fill up a supplementary booking form and await further response from the company.
Standout innovation The Abacus-powered flight booking engine is a standout, providing a list of flights and their respective prices to the chosen destination. Another standout is the online chat service. Within two minutes of submitting my name, phone number and address, a customer service representative connected with me online and responded to my queries with precise answers. On exiting the system I was even asked if I would like a transcript of the ‘conversation’.
Ease of use This site is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Transactions can be done online via direct credit card payment or funds transfer to the company’s bank account.
Verdict This website offers diverse products and services, and its well-structured layout is easy to navigate. It could, however, consolidate the number of different sections on the homepage and group them according to clearer-defined themes, such as domestic travel, international travel, international events and domestic events. – N. Nithiyananthan
Guangdong China Travel Service
Presentation The website design is modern and trendy with eye-catching icons and colourful banners. It uses vivid images to illustrate a product, compelling users to click to find out more. The online chat function stays at the top right-hand corner of the browser, hence saving search time should a user require the feature.
Content The site is informative with different service categories – from FIT, to ticketing and cruises – listed on the menu bar. Online transactions are possible through its partnership with Tmall.com, a B2C online shopping platform under the Alibaba Group.
The company has about 50 per cent of its products and service items listed online, but these are mainly confined to its signature products and regular itineraries.
Standout innovation As the first travel consultant in Guangdong to set up a website in the mid-1990s, the company has subsequently upgraded its site and added more functions over time, from just basic information in the beginning to providing promotions and consultation services in 2000 and launching online transactions in 2008.
In the next six months, the site will undergo a complete revamp to include a new patented system that will provide must-know information like weather and local emergency contacts. It aims to provide a one-stop experience for users.
Ease of use Its simple layout allows easy access of information, while the live chat function caters to urgent queries – I tried using it and the response time was quick. The website’s default language is Chinese though, and despite the option of switching to English, Japanese or Russian, only the company’s profile page is available in other languages.
Verdict Efficient, and one is spoiled for choice. – Prudence Lui
Presentation The homepage is cluttered with numbers and icons, which can be off-putting for some users. The site appears more functional than aesthetic; it was apparently not designed to inspire travel, but rather targeted at individuals who already have a destination or itinerary in mind.
Content Asiatravel.com showcases a comprehensive product range, enabling users to make instant bookings for flights, cruises, coaches, hotels, transfers, attraction tickets and tours. However, there is little to differentiate itself from other standard travel websites due to its lack of travel-related content such as client’s stories, travel news and destination images. Hotel reviews and testimonials from past clients are displayed on the site though.
Even though the homepage can be translated into 11 languages, linked pages will be displayed in English first until users click on the language tab to select their preference. There is also the occasional translation error and not all pages can be displayed in other languages.
Standout innovation A contrast to other Singapore-based travel websites, attraction tickets, tours and transfers can be booked in advance at this site. Itineraries targeting specifically business and MICE travellers are also available for viewing, but unlike the leisure products on offer, they cannot be booked online.
Ease of use The site is easy to navigate, with each section on the homepage divided into various sub-fields. The flight booking engine is a little more complicated to use as one has to be familiar with international airport codes, otherwise one can scroll down a (long) list of destinations to automatically generate codes.
Verdict Despite its broad array of travel products, the website should include more attractive visuals and additional content, such as travel stories by previous clients, to foster greater interest and generate higher traffic. The website design should be simplified to reduce graphical clutter. – Linda Haden
Horizon Travel & Tours
Presentation A B2B-B2C hybrid platform, the site is functional enough for its main users – retail sales agents – but not particularly attractive for consumers. It is packed with information for users to follow up with offline enquiries – they seem to encourage it with their office addresses and hotlines prominently displayed. Attempts to interact through social media channels are visible, with links to its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Content This content-rich site allows users to look up cruise promotions, international airline schedules and overseas tour packages, in addition to information on support services like travel insurance and visa application. This is significant considering the number of travel companies in the Philippines who still use their websites primarily for branding. The information provided goes beyond the initial-query types, cutting down on time customers have to spend on phone calls or store visits.
Standout innovation Horizon has clearly anticipated the needs of its different clientele. On the B2B side, Horizon has a separate log-in for retailers to check package rates and conditions before sending in their purchase orders to confirm bookings – few wholesalers offer this service.
Ease of use The horizontal-oriented layout allows users to obtain information quickly. However, the layout is not consistent across the secondary pages: some pages display social media widgets, while others highlight bargain tours.
Direct bookings are not possible as the website does not have a booking engine. An Adobe Acrobat reader is required to access information for overseas tour packages (most are attached as PDF files).
Verdict This website works better for partner agents and bargain-hunting consumers, as well as clients who prefer some kind of human interaction to assure them of service delivery. Package rates are regularly updated, but back-end improvements could be made to allow dynamic updates. Design could also be more appealing. – Marianne Carandang
Hong Thai Travel Services
Presentation Billed as a one-stop travel retail store, Hong Thai’s website reflects its branding fully with a simple, colourful layout and minimal use of distracting flash banner ads. Overall, the design is functional and straightforward, similar to other travel websites.
Content The site houses a rich array of content under one roof. Apart from standard packages and special offers, there are also destination videos, which were originally broadcasted on mobile advertising platforms on local buses. Transactions for flights, cruises, hotels, tours and even Airport Express train tickets can be made instantly through its online booking system.
Standout innovation Hong Thai was the first travel consultant in Hong Kong to develop its own group-buy platform, allowing clients to enjoy special offers with fantastic discounts within a limited time period. So far, packages rolled out include Macau’s House of Dancing Water, Shenzhen’s OCT East resort, and for destinations such as Taiwan and Singapore. Group-buying offers will be rolled out regularly for different products.
Ease of use Products and services are clearly categorised and colour-coded for easy identification. However, the site is only available in Chinese so this limits its target audience. Also, if you encounter any problem online, there is no live chat feature to provide instant assistance; instead, you have to contact its call centre.
Verdict Functional – you get what you want with a few clicks. – Prudence Lui
Presentation The website features an eye-catching colour scheme of blue, green and white. Its clean and crisp layout displays different sections clearly, with an additional sitemap at the bottom of each page for users to home in on information.
Content It offers a wide array of travel products, including domestic flight tickets, domestic and international hotels, domestic and international holiday packages, forex, visa and passport information, and corporate travel solutions. It also has an agent platform to attract B2B clients, while also being connected to major
social networks to reach consumers.
Standout innovation Its listing of domestic and overseas holiday packages on the extreme right column is unlike most Indian travel websites that only highlight their hotel and flight bookings. This site also offers 24/7 customer service support.
Ease of use User-friendly and provides easy access to information and services. For example, its flight booking engine allows users to select a flight easily according to preferences, including choice of airline.
Verdict A website with lots of potential but the quality of English can be improved. – Divya Kaul
This article was first published in TTG Asia, June 1, 2012 issue, on page 12. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.