Booking.com: The best global travel website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 24 travel websites:

  • Air France
  • Airbnb
  • American Airlines
  • Avis
  • Booking.com
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Enterprise
  • Expedia
  • Four Seasons
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Hotels.com
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Marriott
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Sixt
  • TripAdvisor
  • Uber
  • United Airlines

This is the third year that we’ve combined web-based travel services companies with the travel companies they represent. And while OTAs (online travel agencies) have long dominated this category, we’re seeing airlines and hotels become much more competitive in the fight for customer relationships, and not just in developed markets.

Booking.com emerging number one overall. It leads all other websites with support for 41 languages and  leverages global templates across all local websites. The mobile website is also lighter (in kilobytes) than most competitive websites giving Booking.com a potential performance advantage. Following close behind in score is Hotels.com.

The travel industry is by definition a global industry. When your customer may be located anywhere in the world and traveling to any other place in the world, you need to support not only a significant number of languages but also currencies, time zones, and mobile devices. A number of the companies in this sector have been aggressive in using geolocation and content negotiation to greet visitors with the right language, region and currency. But they also provide a great deal of flexibility. For instance, Booking.com and Hotels.com allow you to change your currency using what I call the currency gateway:

But Booking.com is far from perfect. It buries its global gateway on its mobile website, which is not ideal for visitors who need to quickly change settings. Instead, I recommend including the global gateway link in the header, as shown here with Emirates:

I recommend a more generic globe icon than the one used by Emirates, but this is far better than most other mobile travel websites.

American Airlines does not use a globe icon, but does at least make its global gateway available in the header, as shown here:

I do not recommend using flags for navigational purposes and many travel websites continue to use them today. Flags do not scale well and flags convey meaning that often goes far beyond mere navigation — a reason why a number of websites intentionally leave the Taiwan flag off of the global gateway, even though it includes all others.

A number of companies have been quite busy expanding their linguistic reach; websites that added languages over the past year include:

  • Emirates
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Uber

KLM, by the way, leads all airlines with support for 28 languages. And Hilton leads all hotels with support for 23 languages (though if you include Airbnb as a hotel brand, it emerges on top).

Websites that scored on the negative end of this list include Four Seasons, Enterprise and Avis.

To learn more, check out the Web Globalization Report CardTravel and travel services is the largest sector covered by the Report Card, a section more than 50 pages long.

The best global travel websites

lionbridge_travel_2013

I’m pleased to announce a new (and free) report focused on the globalization of travel websites.

From American Airlines to Kayak to Wyndham, this report highlights those websites that have the widest global reach and are the most user friendly — regardless of the user’s language or nationality.

Lionbridge sponsored the production of this report and is making the report available for free (registration required).

Lionbridge suggested the websites they wanted to see included but they did not play any role in the analysis of these sites. I’ve been studying many of these companies for years now through the Web Globalization Report Card.

Even if your company is not a member of this industry, you may find this report valuable. Included are a number of general web globalization best practices.

Furthermore, the travel industry includes a handful of companies that have really innovated in regards to the globalization of websites and mobile apps, companies like Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Kayak.

In all, this report scores 71 companies across a seven segments, including hotels, airlines, rental cars, cruise lines, and online travel agencies. Companies include Starwood Hotels, Delta, United, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Avis, Sixt, among others.

You can download your copy for free by registering here.

Best global hotel web site of 2011: Accor Hotels

We included nine hotel and resort web sites in the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card.

The Web Globalization Report Card is an annual benchmark of how effectively companies internationalize and localize their websites and applications for the world.

Out of those nine companies, Accor Hotels emerged on top, unseating InterContinental Hotels (which won last year).

Even though Accor won the category, it still ranks #80 out of 250 web sites, which means the hospitality industry still has a ways to go in terms of improving their global web sites.

Accor emerged on top this year in part because it improved its global gateway — such as adding support for language negotiation. Language negotiation is the process of identifying the language setting of the user’s web browser and then responding with content in that language, if available. If you use language negotiation — and many companies should be using it — you must first have a visual global gateway in place so users can change the language setting if needed. Accor’s visual gateway is well positioned in the header. If you look at the example above you’ll see the Russian flag — as this is the Russian home page. I don’t recommend using flags, preferring instead to see a globe icon positioned next to the pull-down menu and text-only links for each local web sites. For more on this, check out my book on global gateways.

Accor also added Russian and Polish support over the past year. Regarding languages, Best Western leads the hotel category with support for 19 languages (excluding English), followed by Accor and InterContinental. While 19 languages may seem like a lot, this number is actually below the average of 23 languages for all 250 web sites. I expect many hotel web sites to continue to adding languages at a good pace over the next few years.

Finally, though Hyatt did not emerge on top, its global gateway deserves mention (shown below):

This is a new gateway for the Hyatt web site. Note the map icon at the top — a  very nice touch!

Also note how the gateway offers two “abridged” web sites (at the bottom of the menu). I know it’s never easy for a company to admit that a local site is not fully localized, but it makes good sense to do so. After all, users aren’t stupid. They’re going to find out anyway. By being upfront with them, you build credibility over the long run. I wish more companies were so transparent about their local web sites — a subject for a future blog post.

Here are the nine professional services web sites included in the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Accor Hotels
  • Best Western
  • Four Seasons
  • Hilton
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Marriott
  • Radisson
  • Starwood Hotels

The best global hotel web site: InterContinental Hotels

We included nine hotel and resort brands in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card.

The Web Globalization Report Card is an annual benchmark of how effectively companies internationalize and localize their web sites and applications for the world. It is now in its sixth edition.

Of the nine hotel/resort companies studied, the InterContinental Hotels Group emerged on top.

The corporate home page, www.ihg.com, is included below:

InterContinental is a conglomerate of seven hotel brands, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.

The company does a nice job of positioning its global gateway in the upper right corner of not only its corporate home page, but also the home pages of its many brands.

Here is Crowne Plaza:

crowne plaza global gateway

InterContinental:

And Holiday Inn:

There is still plenty of room for improvement. Notice the reference to “Queen’s English” in the Holiday Inn gateway. I’ve rarely seen this description used in a global gateway and I’d recommend against it. “British English” or “English UK” is more common.

Even though InterContinental emerged on top, it did not lead by much. Accor, Radisson, and Starwood all finished within a few points of it.

The hotel industry as a whole is not one I would call a leader in web globalization. Not yet.

Nearly all of the companies could improve on global consistency as well as depth of localization. I also found it odd that a few of the most global hotel chains supported so few languages. Hotel web sites support an average of just 10 languages — less than half the average of all 225 web sites studied.

Best Western stood apart, however, with support for more than 20 languages.

We did notice a number of incremental improvements since the last Report Card. For instance, two of the hotel web sites have since added support for geolocation. And I’m optimistic that we’ll see language growth accelerate this year as hotels step up their efforts to attract tourists from around the world.

There is reason for optimism — the World Tourism Organization forecasts growth in 2010, with more than one billion international arrivals.

Here is the full list of hotel/resorts included in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Accor Hotels
  • Best Western
  • Four Seasons
  • Hilton
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Marriott
  • Radisson
  • Starwood Hotels