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Travel.co.uk launched a package holiday comparison site last week, with a focus on providing a better user experience than existing competitors.
We have taken a look to see how it measures up...
Searching for holidays
The search tool on Travel.co.uk is easy to use, and the booking engine has been kept simple. Users just need to specify departure dates, destination, number of travellers and length of holiday.
There are further search options for people who want to specify board basis, star rating, or search according to a price range. The 'flexible dates' option is also pretty essential on this kind of website, and avoids too many searches returning no results at all.
Results can be displayed by a list view, as below, or plotted on a calendar. The calendar is useful, as it allows users to look at holidays two weeks either side of the selected date.
All in all, the search function works well and avoids errors like letting customers enter nonsensical dates. I tried a number of searches, but only a few returned no results, and these were when I entered specific destinations, e.g. Athens.
Comparing / deciding on a holiday
The holiday search results are well displayed and users can easily compare different holidays. With the calendar view above, users can select the best price for the date that suits them, clicking on a date for more details:
If users prefer, they can see results in a list view, which can make it easier to quickly see holiday details.
One thing lacking here is the ability to further sort and filter the search results. For example, on a search for holidays in Majorca, the site returns 80 results split over 8 pages.
The results are ordered with the cheapest first, but it would be useful to give users other options, such as sorting according to dates, star ratings, board status or user rating.
I looked at Thomas Cook's website recently, finding that it lacked useful background information on its holiday destinations.
This is something that this site does well, with a wealth of information on the selected resorts, destination country and local places of interest, as well as valuable information on average temperatures, local transport services and more.
Adding user reviews from TripAdvisor is a good move, giving customers some useful first hand information on the hotels and resorts, where available:
The photos on some of the product pages could be better to give customers more of an idea about the resort, though this probably a fault with the resorts and tour operators rather than the site.
Videos are provided where available, though maps showing the proximity of hotels and resorts to airports, beaches and places of interest would be a usefuk addition, to help users decide on the package they want.
Users can add holidays they are interested in to a shortlist which can be saved for return visits to the site if users register:
These shortlisted holidays can be viewed via a table which allows you to view the different features side by side:
Unlike some other travel comparison sites, customers stay on the website to complete their bookings, rather than being transferred to partner sites for payment:
In line with checkout best practice, the process is kept to three steps, and progress is shown by an indicator at the top of the screen.
The first page allows customers to select accommodation and flight options, the second page is for personal details and payment options, while the third page confirms the payment and summarises the holiday details.
Customers can easily click on the wrong option, so the summary of the holiday and extras selected is useful for people to review the choices they have made while they still have a chance to change them.
Users can skip back and forth between the first two stages of the booking process without losing information, which is good.
However, the site hasn't enclosed the checkout by removing links to other areas of the site, which means that customers could click on a link to the homepage, leave the booking process and lose the information they have already entered.
The range of holidays on offer on Travel.co.uk was impressive for most of the destinations I entered, and this should improve when the site adds separate flights and hotel bookings and the ability to compare these with package holidays.
The search process is easy to use, while the results pages provide plenty of useful information about the holiday, hotel and destination.
There are a few things which could be improved; search results could be made easier to sort and narrow down, while the site could do a better job of displaying special offers or promote recommended destinations to appeal to people who are browsing the site without a firm idea of the holiday they want.
These criticisms aside, Travel.co.uk is an easy to use travel site with some very useful search and comparison tools, and a good intuitive interface. It should prove to be a useful entrant into the travel comparison market.
Travel Website Benchmarks 2007