Buying travel on the Web has become the most common way to book accommodations, flights and vacation packages. When you make reservations on the website of a major hotel chain such as Marriott or an online travel agent (OTA) such as Expedia, trust is a given. Yes there are the occasional news reports of hacking, but that is a risk of all online activity.
In addition to the well-known travel sites there are thousands of hotel, tour and travel booking websites which have a “Book Now” button. How do you determine if a B&B, independent tour operators or specialty travel agency is trustworthy?
Planning your next vacation should not require worrying about booking safely. Before you go any further, review these online trip planning tips. You will be able to quickly decide if a travel website can be trusted with your vacation time and money.
Our number one rule for judging whether a travel business is reputable and trustworthy is whether they list a real address on their website. Of course hotels and tourist attractions always list an address since they must reside in a physical location. However tour operators and travel agents sometimes fail to share their mailing address. An email address is not enough, so what are they trying to hide?
Often the lack of a listed mailing address is an oversight, but sometimes it is for other less than trustworthy reasons. For example the business may be located in a foreign country and wishes to give the impression that it has an office in your country. Other times it is to avoid the appearance of being a home-based or online-only business.
Those reasons are not cause for concern by themselves. However by not being upfront and sharing a postal mailing address, travel businesses are harming their trust factor. While it is unlikely you will have to mail them a letter or visit their place of business in person, sharing a legal business address highlights their level of professionalism. It is also piece of mind in case issues arise before, during or after a trip.
Anyone can launch a travel e-commerce site these days including a holiday home rental, day tour guide or specialty travel agent working from home. For independent and otherwise unknown travel businesses, proving there is a human running the business is essential. When you browse to the website for a tour guide or any other travel service-oriented site that is new to you, go directly to the About Us page.
The first thing you should see is the name of the business owner(s) and possibly staff members. Reputable travel websites should be proud to display their full name up front for everyone to see. You also want to know who is responsible for leading tours, selling accommodations and delivering the advertised vacation experience.
The next thing to seek out are photos of the people who own the B&B, lead travelers on tours or book vacation packages offered online. A photo is an important sign that the tourism business is serious about standing behind their travel services. Be a little suspicious when the only photos are generic stock images and not of the actual owners and employees. Remember that you are paying for the expertise of a travel agent or tour guide. A friendly photo offers reassurance that the business is passionate above providing trustworthy travel services.
Searching online to discover an adventurous tour or cozy B&B is a big part of the thrill of planning a trip. So how can you quickly tell if a tour operator or unique place to stay is a trustable choice? Travel businesses that care about earning your bookings must earn your trust. One way to do that is by offering current travel content, dates and rates.
Every business has a website these days but it must be maintained regularly. When was the last time fresh content was added to the site? A stale website is one that has not been touched in months and has clear signs of neglect. Here are the obvious ways to determine if a travel website is past its expiration date.
Nothing promotes trust better than actual customer testimonials and tour operators and travel marketers know it. The best travel businesses welcome customer feedback and post quotes on their website. While there is nothing wrong with booking a brand new hotel or tour, it is more difficult to gauge this “likelihood of vacation success” trust factor.
Look around the site for quotes from past (but not too far in the past) customers and guests and read what they have to say about their vacation experiences. When the testimonial includes a name, photo and date it is even more trustworthy. Of course a testimonial could be faked so that brings us to our next telltale sign of travel trust.
TripAdvisor has become the most influential source of hotel, restaurant, tour and tourist attraction reviews, but it is not the only one. Every major online travel agency website posts reviews and allows you to rank search results by rating. Like testimonials, it gives you valuable insight into actual customer experiences. Unlike testimonials, it is a bit harder to fake as suspicious reviews are actively monitored and removed. Some travel sites like Booking.com and Expedia show reviews from “verified” customers which offers the highest level of trust.
When you find a travel company and need to quickly determine if it is a good place to stay or book a tour package, search the Web for reviews. Simply open Google or Bing and search for the name of the travel company plus the word “reviews” and check out the results. Often the first result will be their TripAdvisor reviews page followed by popular review and booking sites that publish reviews.
Scan through a few pages of reviews to quickly determine if the trust signs are clear. Do people complain about payment problems, cancellations, delays, not being as advertised, lackluster staff or an overall lack of quality and service? Don’t believe everything you read, but do take the general travel review consensus into account. Before going further, be sure to feel comfortable that a particular tourism business can be trusted with your vacation budget.
Booking accommodations, tours and vacation packages online is as simple as clicking “Book Now” and having your credit card ready. Before you take that step, follow the above tips so you know whether to trust a travel business. If you feel unsure and there are other alternatives for booking travel, keep searching and move onto the next site.
Travel websites that do not promote trust online will lose bookings. Now that you know the VacationCounts rules, your trip planning efforts will save you time and worry. Post your own trust tips below to continue the conversation and share this article online if it was of help to you!
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