How to beat your winter travel payments blues

January 8, 2019
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It’s January. We’ve made it into the New Year, but we’re still stuck in the depths of winter. And if you’re a travel operator, you know better than most that travel thrives on sunny weather. With some extremist exceptions, holidaymakers don’t generally want to visit somewhere new only to spend their time hiding indoors from the rain, sleet, or snow.

It’s from this traveller tendency that the traditional delineation between the warm, sunny, and expensive ‘high season’ and colder, rainier, and cheaper ‘low season’ comes. Understanding and formulating a comprehensive approach to tackling travel payments in winter is key for any operator hoping to make it through the season.

The travel industry has been grappling with the issue of driving business up during low season since there’s been a travel industry. So how do you get people out of their homes and onto a plane when the weather outside is frightful (and the fire is so delightful)?

Overcoming Conversion’s Summertime Sadness

Luckily, there’s a set of handy tips and tricks that travel businesses can use to overcome these challenges and then some. As it stands at the moment, travel websites have an abandonment rate of an enormous 81.6%. Sure, you’re never gonna catch them all, but numbers like that hint at a broader problem than simple customer capriciousness, and part of that problem is the confusing design of a great many travel websites. In fact, 21% of those people abandoning their carts are doing so due to issues with the sites they’re using.

It’s vital to ensure that the layout of your travel payments journey is as smooth as can be. That means understandable error messages, intuitive interfaces, and a straightforward path from the A of ‘Add to Basket’ to the Z of ‘Checkout’. Any speed bumps in the process are speed bumps on the road to a travel business receiving its payment, and that means no more popups like ‘Error 59CB2.6: Code Ezekiel: Strike Team Deployed’, or labyrinthine payment processes, and it especially means a quality user experience regardless of device. A system that minimises the potential for error and, if errors do occur, explains how to fix them in short order, is the absolute best way to avoid wasting customers’ time, and your own.

A smaller, but still important factor in maintaining high conversion rates lies in the ability to accept a variety of payment methods. 7% of people end up dumping their cart when they discover that they can’t actually pay for its contents in their preferred manner. With tourism from Asian countries growing year by year, it’s more important than ever for travel operators to broaden their payment horizons and expand beyond the familiarity of Visa and Mastercard. Customers are sure to flock to the only sites with the forethought to accept methods like UnionPay or AliPay while everyone else caters exclusively to older methods.

Winter is Coming and Your Customers are Going

Though low season is higher than ever before, with plenty of young people embarking upon a variety of winter getaways last year, it’s still harder to snag customers when it’s darker and colder outside. Keeping those revenues high in the low season is a matter of delegation and understanding, making sure that what can be done by computers is done by computers and that your smartest people are free to work on keeping your customers engaged and interested. Travel operators need to get creative in the winter months to keep customers coming back, meaning clever marketing, audience segmentation, and automation.

A strong social media game and seasonally-themed marketing can work wonders for your winter revenues, while being ultra-clear on who you’re marketing to and when, for example targeting ‘adventure tourism’ ads at gap-year-aged young adults during autumn and winter, will ensure you maximise returns and minimise unnecessary costs. To be glib, you’ve got to know your customers if you want them to keep coming back!

Automation in particular is something a strong partnership with a good payment service provider can help with. Many hotels still rely on the manual input of staff members for a number of tasks related to the processing of payments and stopping fraud. To put it lightly, that’s a significant waste of resources on something that could be achieved far more efficiently, and cheaply, by a well-implemented and secure process for accepting travel payments.

Freeing up your staff to do the things they’re good at while leaving the security to the computers is vital for any business in the 21st century, but especially for a travel company operating during the off season, when every misplaced hour and mis-spent pound counts.

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