Catering to travellers: Part 1
This blog was written by Neil Emerick after returning from Thailand on a quest to experience online travel-, accommodation- and outing-bookings. Neil & Theresa are co-founders of NightsBridge.
Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Thailand, which was quite splendid. However, with our Nightsbridge caps on we made it a rather different experience. The difference was we made absolutely no bookings in advance other than our flights (which we did one week before we left) and our first hotel. Everything else was organized from Thailand.
Now, we concede this is not the way most people book their holidays. My brother would be horrified, planning his holiday eighteen months in advance and laminating itinerary cards for his family. We had dinner with one English couple who booked the same hotel, for fourteen nights, full-board. Moving around much was not on their agenda.
However, we intended to explore a bit and ended up staying in seven different hotels in our sixteen night stay. In this article, and the one following, I want to give you an indication of our online booking process and what things you might consider in catering to travellers who book like us.
Free WiFi is not optional!
So, here we go: firstly, every single hotel we stayed at had free Wifi. In fact, every coffee-shop and restaurant had free WiFi. We saw backpackers on the beach with their laptops, catching the Wifi from the restaurant behind them.
If, as a business, you don’t have free WiFi, you’re simply not in the game. This is an absolute must for your guests.
The research process
Secondly, our booking process: this broke down into two aspects, research and the act of booking. We did not know the country very well (the whole trip was spur of the moment), so part of our process involved reading blogs about location, but also reading what the guest houses said on their websites, about what was on offer in the area.
Useful information about travel arrangements such as taxis from the airport are important tips for travellers. Be as helpful as you can, given your expectations about your customer’s likely experience before he gets to you.
TripAdvisor was invaluable and the main source of information, although we made use of the review system on Booking.com and Agoda. We took note of what kinds of people were attracted to a hotel and how old the reviewers were. A bad review from a 21 year old that said the place was too quiet and boring was exactly the place we were looking for!
The guest houses’ own websites were also an important source of information.
Our advice here: don’t be afraid of saying what your hotel is and what it is not.
If it is a popular beach resort, say so; similarly, if it’s family orientated. You will win customers and lose some, but don’t be frightened of identifying your niche. You cannot be all things to all people and you don’t want to be. Nobody wants false expectations finding their way on to the review sites.
Making the booking
Finally, the booking process: many sites did have online booking processes. In this case we booked directly with the guest house.
However, if it didn’t look great, or was just an e-mail enquiry form then we either didn’t book, or we booked through one of the trusted brands (Booking.com, Agoda).
Interestingly, in the seven online bookings we made, we experienced only one double-booking. When we inquired as to how this happened, the manageress frowned and said: “I was on leave yesterday.” (Moral of the story: train your staff). She did make it up to us by letting us keep a suitcase there for a week.
Next week, I’ll talk about some of the ways the guest houses and hotels made a mark by doing something interesting or different to enhance our experience (and create a great review!)
Read part II here…