E-consultancy has just released its Travel Website Benchmarks Report - an interesting insight into the good and not so good practices being adopted by travel agencies, car rental firms, hotel aggregators and airlines on the web.

Compiled by Adam Goodvach of Global Reviews, it looks at ways travel sites are enabling users to search for and book products and services, while minimising abandonment rates.

We’ve listed some of its recommendations after the jump…. 

1. Enable customers to choose how to sort results when they first start a search.

Customers will often choose to sort by price, but other options are useful, such as star ratings of hotels, departure times, direct flights and so on. Allowing customers to sort these features in their initial search will make the process smoother later on.

2. Do not allow customers to select dates or times which occur before which a booking can be made.

An obvious one – but many sites still allow users to search for tickets and holidays that are too late to book and only inform them once the booking process starts. To avoid this, state clearly when bookings can be made.

Pre-empt customers’ choices of travel dates. 

For example, if a customer selects a departure date for a flight in October, and the return date doesn’t default to the same month, the customer then has to click through the calendar to October or input the date. That’s annoying.

4. Allow customers to restrict searches to weekends or long weekends.

Many sites will allow customers to book flights and hotels three days either side of their selected date. However, many customers want to travel on a weekend only, so a more useful choice may be plus or minus three weekends.

Prevent people from entering nonsensical dates.

Make sure customers cannot enter a return date that is before the departure date. Otherwise, you’ll get the blame. 

For more advice and information, see the full Travel Website Benchmarks 2007