Technology

The biggest challenge facing Booking.com and other OTAs

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

While it may sound simple to do, removing friction from the traveller experience is the toughest challenge for online travel companies right now, according to Booking.com’s regional boss.

Speaking at the Travel Tech. Summit 2019 in Sydney last week, Tracey Foxall said it was vital for Booking.com to build the connected trip in order to stay relevant.

“We don’t see yet a full-connected trip on any platform,” she said.

“There are some elements of a trip where it’s already being done, but removing that friction and making sure everything moves seamlessly is something that all travel platforms are working towards at the moment.

“It’s something that is both the hardest and most important thing we’re looking at right now – where are the friction points and how can we resolve them?”

Foxall said the rise of in-stay and extra services is helping Booking.com, Expedia and other platforms achieve this by educating customers on all the things they can do while staying within one destination.

Booking.com’s Tracey Foxall speaking at the Travel Tech. Summit 2019

Booking.com’s regional manager for Oceania also noted the importance of attractions in creating a seamless experience for travellers.

“Where we sit today, we’re able to show consumers a range of activities and to suggest things, but where we really want to move towards is in the future is to integrate things like weather and the business of a destination to make better recommendations,” Foxall said.

“For us, we have a buffet of attractions, but I think we still have a long way to go to really making that a frictionless experience for customers.

“Travellers tell us that one of the most frustrating parts of their journey is transportation. We now have the ability for customers to book that in advance or to make suggestions when they head there, but where we want to be able to get is giving these recommendations in real time.”

Booking.com runs thousands of experiments every day to see what and where the customer wants the platform to change, and Foxall said machine learning and natural language processing is fundamentally transforming the way consumers interact with the site.

“We view instant messaging as incredibly important,” she said.

“On average, for a property that interacts with a customer within a 12-hour window, we see an up to 10 per cent reduction in cancellation rates. It’s really changing the way customers want to interact with brands.”

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