Doug Logan

Upgrading the Hotel Booking Experience

Cutting-Edge Trends & Features to Explore

For years, technology has shaped every aspect of the travel experience, beginning, of course, with the process of planning and booking a vacation. The proliferation of booking websites ushered in a huge shift from the once dominant concept of the travel agency, empowering consumers to craft their vacation experiences exactly as they saw fit.

Now, we are poised to enter another new era of travel planning and hotel booking. This will be supplemented by several cutting-edge tools and technologies, including not only our dependable smartphones, but also, artificial intelligence and even the Metaverse. These solutions will make booking a lot more convenient while also giving us an enjoyable preview of the upcoming vacation experience.

With the right tools and technologies, travel planning could be something that most vacationers genuinely look forward to. This expectation is epitomized by the exciting hotel booking opportunities highlighted below:

Mobile Optimization

Today's travelers strongly prefer to book air travel, car rentals, and hotel stays online and, increasingly, via mobile. Strategy Analytics' Travel Demographics Report Series reveals that younger consumers, in particular, prefer to book vacations via mobile apps, especially when advanced solutions are implemented to limit booking friction.

Looking forward, mobile optimization will go beyond simply making travel websites responsive in terms of layout and design. Consumers will also expect a cohesive, streamlined process that allows them to easily book and pay via mobile.

Key strategies for boosting convenience (and ultimately, conversions) include:

  • Fully integrating payment solutions. Multiple payment solutions promise to improve the online booking experience. These may even facilitate a smoother check-in experience if, upon booking, customers are able to store digital room keys. PayPal remains a favorite among customers and booking sites alike, although many also incorporate Apple Pay or even accept crypto payments. No matter the preferred payment solutions, customers need to feel confident that their information will be secure through every step of the booking process.
  • NFT-based reservations. Non-fungible tokens bring cryptographic solutions to the travel industry, where they are appreciated as both marketing solutions and tools for customer management. While travel NFTs were previously limited to hotel-oriented artwork, blockchain technology could prove downright revolutionary for check-in processes, customer loyalty programs, and even facilitating secure payments.
  • Responsive design. The absolute minimum threshold for appealing to mobile users involves responsive design, in which users enjoy a seamless browsing experience no matter which type of device they rely on. Above-the-fold content is increasingly important for booking websites, as this provides a distinctive and impactful greeting, encouraging users to stick around to learn more and, eventually, convert.
  • Boosting page speed. Today's consumers have high expectations and are quick to abandon websites they deem too slow. As rich media takes over, however, the potential for frustratingly slow websites will increase. This provides a great opportunity to gain an edge: impress website visitors with rich content that is also quick to load. Our study on high-end properties and growth opportunities highlighted mobile page speed in particular as a top area for improvement: scores from Google average just 28 out of a possible 100 points. Google's PageSpeed Insights analyze load time and responsiveness, but a score of 28 suggests that properties are underperforming in this area.

Easy Access to Customer Reviews

Social proof is a critical component of practically any purchasing experience these days — and that definitely extends to travel and hospitality. Consumers want to know that their preferred destinations have been thoroughly vetted by others. Reviews provide valuable insight into the customer experience at accommodations or attractions, along with much-needed peace of mind.

Most consumers are perfectly willing to search for reviews on their own, but they also appreciate when these are readily available and easy to view before they book. If they are displayed directly on the booking website (or if it's easy to navigate to third-party review resources), it makes it abundantly clear that travel companies have nothing to hide. This may even indicate that brands are proud of the positive feedback they've received thus far.

Presenting reviews directly on booking websites limits the need for customers to navigate to other sites, instead allowing them to immediately get the feedback they crave and then promptly move on to the booking process. This, in turn, reduces the potential for abandoned shopping carts and increases the likelihood that would-be travelers actually follow through with their vacation plans.

A common solution involves TripAdvisor widgets, which bring ratings from one of the most trusted review sites directly to travel websites. These are easy to add but can be highly impactful, especially for brands that have earned solid feedback or even awards.

Extra Insight and Support From Chatbots

Conversational AI is increasingly prominent across booking sites and services of all kinds. Chatbots are more sophisticated than ever, capable of bringing warmth and prompt service to everyday customer interactions. Translation has long been part of the equation, making it easier for travelers from all backgrounds to book trips even when they speak seemingly obscure languages or dialects. Beyond this, today's solutions can provide personalized recommendations that boost customer satisfaction and may also increase spending.

Top benefits of chatbots identified by iLink Digital include:

  • Responsiveness. Chatbots are available whenever and wherever consumers want to book. This 24/7 approach means that aspiring travelers from all around the globe can book when and how they want — and if they run into any hiccups in the process, these can be quickly resolved, no matter the time of day.
  • Reliability. AI-powered chatbots can be trusted to provide the correct answers to customers' most complex queries. Their insights can expedite the booking process while also ensuring that customers know exactly what to expect. They provide trustworthy feedback on everything from payments to check-in, allowing customers to feel more confident as they book hotel stays online.
  • Empathy. Traditionally, empathy has been the main advantage of sticking with the customer service status quo. New generations of chatbots come across as surprisingly compassionate, however, expressing an understanding of underlying emotions that many humans would struggle to match.

Capturing the Power of 360 Content

Today's website viewers increasingly value immersive experiences, which bring real-world sensibilities to digital exploration. This can be especially valuable for travel content, which, ideally, will convey exactly what it's like to spend time on a particular property. Equipped with 360-degree content, consumers can enjoy a walk-through experience from the comfort of home.

This transition has been powered by the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) revolution, which brings a decidedly science fiction component to the process of planning and booking a trip. Recent data from reveals that over one in four travelers rely on virtual reality to inform their vacation decisions, with nearly half admitting that they are more likely to visit locations in person if they've first had the chance to experience them virtually.

Consumers are definitely not ready to make the full leap to Metaverse-exclusive travel, but there's no denying that VR and AR have the power to improve the travel planning and booking process. This may eventually, shift, however, with over one-third already telling that they would happily take part in multi-day Metaverse travel experiences.

For now, most travel enthusiasts are content to use 360 solutions to better understand the intricacies of their upcoming travel experience. This is where they learn just how luxurious their accommodations will truly be, while also gaining insight into the full scope of amenities and other features. This immersive approach is far more memorable than simply viewing photos or lists of amenities.

Already, many hotels and resorts are making excellent use of 360 content. We've highlighted a few impressive examples below:

  • Planet Hollywood Cancun. Offering a 'virtual rollercoaster,' Planet Hollywood makes digital visitors feel as if they've actually traveled to the brand's iconic Cancun property. The 360 walk-through experience is nearly as evocative as visiting in person. In addition to providing a true feel for the suites and lobbies, the virtual walk-through also reveals the unique vibes of the onsite restaurants, pools, lounges, and even the kids club.
  • Rand Tower Hotel. There's no denying the value of 360 walk-throughs for vast resorts, but they are also useful for contemporary spots such as the Rand Tower Hotel in Minneapolis. This particular tour takes future guests through all the essentials: the various types of guest rooms, the lounge, the fitness center, and even the foyer. Intuitive navigation makes exploring the hotel as easy virtually as it is in person.
  • Hotel Monte Cristo Paris. International travel can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but planning takes a step up with the virtual tour of the Hotel Monte Cristol in Paris. This tour immediately feels immersive, with plenty of prompts provided along with video footage that brings an even more realistic feel to the experience. There is even a prompt at the front desk that leads visitors to the reservation portal if they like what they see during the tour.

Pursuing a Brighter Future in Travel Booking

Travel booking has come a long way, but there are still plenty of improvements to be made. As AI and immersive opportunities continue to expand, we can expect a big shift in how we travel — and especially in how we plan for dream vacations. Hospitality businesses that leverage these emerging opportunities will be poised to improve confidence among would-be travelers while also boosting engagement and customer satisfaction.

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