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Travel sites: The worst of British

Thinking about booking that last minute flight to Paris, online? According to research company Shelley Taylor & Associates, it really isn’t worth the bother!

Embarrassingly, a recent survey of 46 international travel sites has revealed that without fail, the sites at the bottom of the heap all hail from the UK.

The culprits?

· FlyBe

· Ryanair

· Bridge the World

· Holiday Autos

· Travel Bag

The top ranking five, however, are all American-owned:

· Expedia

· Travelocity

· Hilton

· Orbitz

· American Airlines

But less of the back slapping you Yanks, according to Shelley Taylor the whole online travel industry ought to be looking shame-faced.

"At first it seemed as if online travel was coming of age but the websites remind me of the first corporate websites in 1997, with a lot of the same problems," says Taylor.

"None has anything like the features of the good general retail sites, such as Amazon."

The study assigned scores to critical elements such as ease of navigation, home page design, pre-sale assistance, ease of booking and the post-transaction experience.

It was found that sites are losing a share of the lucrative business travel market by failing to deliver an international service.

For example, only 13 out of the 46 sites reviewed provided prices in more than one currency and few offer information in multiple languages.

For example, British Airways only lets users buy a ticket if their credit card billing address matches the country of departure.

Whilst international sites, such as Travelocity, typically have a design, look and feel that changes for each country, this results in great confusion for travellers - and conversely, loss of sales.

And though a common facility provided by bricks-and-mortar travel agencies, few online arms provide "dynamic packaging, “ where services, such as car hire and day trips, are offered to create a complete package - despite the fact that the web creates greater opportunities for cross selling.

Considering that online travel is currently the single largest category of consumer spending online, it’s astonishing that more hasn’t been done to refine the industry’s service offering.

One thing’s for sure, with corporate online bookings expected to double over the next few years, there's plenty of scope for a travel company with a well-designed, well-managed site to take the lion’s share of the market.

Sources: Guardian Unlimited, Shelley Taylor & Associates

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