Nearly 70% people booking trips online – New digital platform services threatening tourist agencies
People are visiting tourist agencies less and less, opting instead to book accommodation and transport themselves, from the comfort of their own home. Trip planning has become much simpler with the development of digital tourist platforms. In addition to booking, travelers can get information about the destination, the quality of accommodation and other things at only a few clicks, and tourist platforms announce that they will go a step further and expand their service to include the organization of additional features.
At the recently held Hotel Summit Belgrade conference, Ines Lasic, Account Manager at the company Booking, one of the leading world platforms for accommodation booking, presented a survey showing that nearly 70% of people book their trips online. The research included 17,000 subjects from Europe.
The Association for Tourism of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, however, says for our portal that there are no exact data about how many Serbian tourists use digital tourist platforms, but that the number of online bookings is noticeably rising. At the same time, with the appearance of online reservations, Serbian hotel owners have become much more visible and available, the CCIS believes.
Vesna Vlatkovic of A hotels says for eKapija that both local and foreign guests come to their hotels, Izvor in Arandjelovac and Sloboda in Sabac, through Booking.
– Around 10-13% of the total number of guests who book individually come to A hotels through Booking. Of the foreign guests, the largest number of those who book accommodation at Hotel Izvor come from Russia, whereas Hotel Sloboda is booked by guests from Germany, Italy and Slovenia the most.
Penetration into “each segment of traveling”
This digital platform is certainly the vanguard of the “digital tourism revolution”. Founded in 1996 in Amsterdam, Booking has transformed from a small Dutch startup into one of the biggest companies for online accommodation booking in the world. This website now features more than 1.6 million items on offer, and the company estimates that the number will soon reach two million. Serbia has 5,767 accommodation facilities registered.
A total of 1.5 million overnight stays are booked daily through their site.
In order for the platform to be as useful as possible, the company invests the money from the fees it collects into continually innovating the system and implementing new tools and features for ultimate user experience. Sonja Ergic, Senior Account Manager at Booking.com, says that, this year, in addition to standard services, they’ve directed their service to enabling travelers “to experience the world”.
– The focus so far has been on providing people with the optimal experience of using our pages, making the process of booking the accommodation and staying there as easy and safe as possible. We now want to get involved in each segment of the trip. In addition to booking accommodation, we want to secure for our clients the transport, museum visits, field trips and whatever else they want – Ergic says and adds that such services are a logical continuation of their operations.
(Photo: Kikalishvili Mamuka/shutterstock.com)
The said survey carried out by this company shows, among other things, that nearly 50% of people still book accommodation separately from transport, field trips and museum visits, and the company sees an opportunity and room for progress in it.
This sort of development of digital tourist platforms will not, however, be without impact on tourist agencies.
As Tijana Maljkovic of the CCIS says, the impact is reflected in reduced demand for agency arrangements, especially in Europe and Serbia.
– The trend in the world, including Serbia, is for travelers to organize their trips online, and consequently, a drop in the interest in tourist agencies and a reduction of the number of employees in them are noticeable – our interviewee says.
– However, agencies can also be partners to these tourist platforms, as some already are. Another opportunity for them lies in long-distance trip, multi-country tours, as well as group trips – says Tijana Maljkovic, Secretary of the Association for Tourism at the CCIS.
Mobile phone as main associate
In addition to a rise in the number of online bookings, the company projects that, in the future, the majority of bookings will be carried out through mobile phones, not just regarding accommodation, but also rent-a-car services, movie theaters, restaurants...
– China is leading the way in this field. Last year, 60% of online bookings were carried out through mobile phones in this country – says Ines Lasic of Bookings.
That mobile phones are the future is also shown by the fact that two out of five bookings for the Balkans region at Booking are made through this device. Some of the guests in Serbia who make booking through mobile phones come from China, Turkey, Russia...
The survey carried out by Booking.com shows that, in 2018, travelers prefer private accommodation (38%) compared to hotel accommodation. Trip lengths will remain unchanged throughout the year – 15 to 19 days – whereas stays will shorten, as people opt for shorter trips lasting only a few days increasingly often.
As for accommodation features, travelers prefer free wifi, bed and breakfast, restaurants and transport to the airport or the city center.