Travel planning - why finding the right destination comes before finding the right hotelNews / Technology | OnlineBy Viewpoints | September 24, 2013Share This article was originally published on A good holiday comes together when you find the right destination and the right hotel in it.However, if one were to look at travel planning websites across the world, the focus of those sites would be mostly around accommodation options. The information these websites provide is very useful when a traveller has already found the right destination.So, if a traveller is not able to identify the right destination then it is pointless to help him find the right hotel. Right hotel and wrong destination doesn’t make for a great holiday.Even in India, most travel planning sites focus on hotels and other accommodation options rather than destinations.Barring the top 10 destinations, there are, on average, about 22 accommodation options per destination. Choosing where to stay from these destinations isn’t really as difficult a task as choosing the right destination for you in a country with 1500+ destinations.So, should helping travellers find the right destination be the first step in travel planning?We, at HolidayIQ didn’t know.There is a famous Japanese proverb that says: “If you understand everything, you must be misinformed”.Share this quote We didn’t want to be misinformed. So, we chose to find a statistical and well researched answer to our question by looking into sources of data.1. Travel request submitted via form in HolidayIQ.comVisitors to our site submit enquiries at various stages of their travel. One of the fields they fill in when completeing the enquiry form is 'Other Requests'.When we dug out this raw data from all the enquiries submitted over the past three years, we discovered many Indian travellers weren’t sure about where they wanted to go. Quoting some of them below: “We want to start our trip from Bikaner to surrounding tourist places with transport facility." “Give me more weekend destination suggestions around Surat.”Share this quote We thought we were onto something.2. Travel related searches by Indian travellers on search enginesLooking at the phrases travellers used in the process of engaging with our ads on search engines such as Google, we created two buckets of keywords: Category 1 – keywords that travellers used with a specific destination in mind. Example: “Hotels in Jaipur”, “Kolkata to Darjeeling by road”, etc.Category 2 – Keywords that travellers used without a specific destination in mind. Example: “Weekend destinations near Ahmedabad”, “Jungle safari near Delhi” and so on. Extrapolating our search ad impression volume onto the market, we found that travellers belonging to Category 2 formed 38% of total travel related searches in India.3. Call recordingsFrom our mobile site (m.holidayiq.com), users can call travel agents from our 1,000+ travel agent partner network to book a hotel. When we analyzed the call enquiries, we often heard users enquiring about different destinations instead of a hotel in a particular destination.After listening to what users are telling us and validating hypotheses with data, we created a two step process to help Indian travellers find the right destination for them.Step 1We gave travellers a set of destinations in the form of simple-to-consume destination groups: weekend destinations around your city, destinations by themes, destinations by season, awarded destinations and destinations by region/state.Step 2Once travellers pick a list, they can evaluate individual destinations in the list using our destination pages. These pages are powered by user-generated content and include insights to help travellers check if a particular destination will suit them or not.With the above two processes, we cracked a formula that will help Indian travellers find the right destination for their holidays.The revampIn late 2012, we realized that our destination pages could be made even better to answer the Indian traveller’s questions much better. Our old or let’s say 'retired' destination page looked much different to what we have now.Key points that we noticed in old destination pages were: It started with editorial content and an enquiry form.We were not leveraging the unique and valuable insights that all UGC had accumulated on destinations.User had to scroll multiple times to read all the reviews posted.It took, on an average, 5-6 minutes for a user to consume the content and decide whether the destination will suit him/her. Before we could start redoing our destination page, we wanted insights from actual travellers. So, we conducted traveller meetups and user testing sessions to identify what an Indian traveller looks for while evaluating a holiday destination.These exercises and going over reams of on-site activity data gave us some very interesting insights, which resulted in developing three key features for our new destination page: Adding reviews from travellers. Answers - “What do other travellers think about this destination?”Ability to read a Facebook friend’s review. Answers - “What do my friends think about this destination?”Read reviews written by travellers from your city. Answers - "What do travellers from my city/town think about this destination?"Also, we consciously ensured editorial content didn’t overwhelm the page. We shortened the editorial content and pushed it to the lower half of the page for those users who want to read it in detail.ResultAfter the new destination page launch, we have seen improvement in the following metrics:1. Pages per user visit Earlier – 4.06After re-launch – 5.63 2. Time spent on the destination page Earlier – 4 minutes 2 secondsAfter Re-launch – 10 minutes 15 secondsUp by 2.5 times 3. Bounce rate Earlier – 50.48%After re-launch – 18.74% The increase in pages per visit, increase in time spent on destination page and reduction in bounce rate data proves that helping travellers choose the right holiday destination before choosing a hotel facilitates easier holiday planning.NB 1: This is a viewpoint by Hari Nair, CEO of HolidayIQ.com, India's holiday information portal.NB 2: Kashmir image via Shutterstock.