A recent online survey read that about 60% of online business goes to travel industry in the form of hotel bookings, travel tickets, honeymoon packages etc. It was then, when I thought of how to start a travel website like expedia, yatra, makemytrip etc. I visited many travel websites with regard to this and found some general qualities and characteristics of travel related websites. Here is a short list of tips on how to start a travel website.
Make a master plan on services offered through your travel website
You should have a perfect plan on products or services you are going to offer an end customer. Will your site be an informative site, promoting certain products for monetisation? Or, is your site a full fledged website offering travel packages, tour packages, vehicle rentals etc. Also, decide the area of operation of your website. It is better to start small and grow big in course of time. It will give you time to study market, and the investment needed will also be minimal at the beginning. Hope, you have settled on starting a full fledged travel website. Deal with local authorities for starting online businesses. This may differ from country to country and place to place. You may even need a physical office for starting an online business. Now, comes the following points.
1. Choose a good domain name
It is the backbone of your website and the entire travel business. Your domain name should be of .com ending and the name should be short and sweet. Investing a week or two on getting a sweet <10 letter domain wont be a loss. Use domain checker tools like www.who.is to check availability of domains.
2. Choose a reasonable hosting plan to start with
Now you need a shared hosting with unlimited bandwidth as you should not run out of resources. You can find a lot of good providers right from padaar.com itself. Use a recommended provider and it is done
3. Get your website up with a travel theme/template
Now, all you need to set your site up is – time. Select a good travel agency template and use it for your website. Make sure that you get good support and regular updates for the template/theme. I recommend wordpress due to its SEO friendly setup and ease of use. You can use custom templates based on HTML5 or other platforms like Drupal, Joomla etc. too. Here is a list of top travel agency themes working in wordpress.
4. Graphics and media works too
Now, prepare your own logos, captions and titles. Apply them on your website where it is necessary. Design some business card templates too. There are a lot of photo editing software available around you to help you with. Try shooting and uploading a youtube video for the promotion of your site as well.
5. Social networking is a must
Once you have done with the basics of website, it is time to prepare for a social media workout. Create pages on all popular social networking sites like Facebook, twitter, google+, linked in etc. and club them with your website so that you can get real stats of followers from your website itself. Don’t do any promotional activity now, as your site is not yet ready to work.
6. Do your offline work at hotels, can rentals etc.
Offline work is the hardest part of our project. You will have to meet hotel managements, travel operators, car rental services etc. for a direct talk with them. Take photos of rooms, get tariffs and ensure commissions for bookings coming through your website. Fair deals with merchants is the key factor in the success of your business. Make tie-ups with as many hotels and cabs as you can. It will help you re-allocate your customers to an alternative hotel/cab if one is already filled. Make a list of similarly priced providers to track catering of orders.
7. Add collected data to website
After collecting sufficient data, say 50-100 hotels, 20-40 cabs and 50-100 tour packages, it is time to publish them through your website. Carefully add the details of each package with necessary terms and conditions. Missing some data means you are gonna miss some customers. Don’t think of commissions for the first 2 years. It is time for you to kick start the business. Start with as much low commissions as possible. It is your reputation that you should build first.
8. Check everything functional
Make sure everything is working fine by testing yourself. Check for all options, terms and conditions, facilities and payment system. Try mock payments to see whether money is credited correctly. Check the refund system too. If everything is going fine, next step.
9. Promote business
We can start promoting business from now. For online businesses, best methods for publicity is via online itself. Google ads can help a great deal with this. Publish free content for information, on your website and promote them too via social networks and article bookmarking sites like Digg, stumble upon etc. If the promotion is done well, you will not have to look anywhere else for traffic.
10. Be prepared for irate customers
There will occur a handful of issues with your website, on a daily basis due to many factors. It results in angry customers as well. Be prepared for that with a dedicated customer service. Live chat, telephone support and email support are the main options for webmasters, to deal with such issues. Publish a dedicated telephone number in your website and be present at the other end always. Be passionate to your customers and try solving their issues at the earliest. Offer refund or better service if they are dissatisfied. A satisfied customer is more valuable and effective than a full length TV advertisement. Give them back more than what they could expect. This will help you build a strong customer base as well.
11. Further management, expansion
Once your website is in limelight, just doesn’t stop working. Expand its frontiers by adding more hotels, destinations, service providers and tour operators. Once you become a full fledged system, you can hire hotels at bargain prices and offer bargain prices to end customers as well, which will be beyond imagination of your competitors. Always keep in mind that more business with less profit is better than less business with huge profits.
Hope this guide was useful and informative. Feel free to suggest your tips and suggestions through comment column below.