ONE APP, MANY FEA­TURES

Does an all-in-one travel book­ing app ex­ist? App users weigh in.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Living - El Nido on the is­land of Palawan in the Philip­pines. — Pho­tos: TRAVELOKA

NOT too long ago, trav­el­ling to far-flung des­ti­na­tions was usu­ally quite ex­pen­sive for most peo­ple – it was a lux­ury saved for hol­i­days that were few and far in be­tween.

How­ever, the me­te­oric rise of mo­bile and on­line tech­nol­ogy this past decade has made it eas­ier for bud­get-con­scious trav­ellers to find the best flight and ho­tel deals at the click of a mouse or a swipe on a touch­screen.

Even in th­ese few short years, we’ve gone from hav­ing to open mul­ti­ple tabs in our browsers to com­pare prices to hav­ing apps that will do all the com­par­i­son work for us.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted by Google, 70% of trav­ellers who own smart­phones use them to re­search their travel op­tions, and when the time comes to make their book­ings, 31% of leisure trav­ellers say they use their smart­phones to make the pur­chase, while 53% of busi­ness trav­ellers say the same.

In a 2017 sur­vey, Cri­teo , a com­merce mar­ket­ing com­pany, found that tech-savvy con­sumers in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion are shift­ing to­wards a mo­bile-first life­style, in­clud­ing travel – mo­bile travel sales al­ready ac­count for half of the to­tal travel sales made so far this year, and is ex­pected to take an even larger share of sales in com­ing years.

With a mul­ti­tude of apps avail­able on the mar­ket, but a limited amount of stor­age in our smart­phones, it can be a has­sle to have dif­fer­ent apps cov­er­ing var­i­ous func­tions; in­stead, users of­ten look for a con­ve­nient allin-one app for all their travel book­ing needs.

But sep­a­rat­ing the wheat from the chaff can be a hit-and-miss: Google’s data has also re­vealed that 88% of trav­ellers with smart­phones would switch to an­other app if the one they’re us­ing doesn’t sat­isfy their needs.

So what are the top fea­tures trav­ellers look for when choos­ing their go-to travel book­ing app?

Value-for-money deals

Who doesn’t love a good deal? For trav­ellers who are count­ing each and ev­ery sen, pro­mo­tions and dis­counts can be life­savers.

Ac­cord­ing to Sarra, a busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive from Kuala Lumpur, try­ing out a travel book­ing app that she hadn’t used be­fore helped her cut costs for an up­com­ing fam­ily trip.

“I man­aged to save around RM250 per ticket when pur­chas­ing flight tick­ets for my fam­ily to fly to In­done­sia for a rel­a­tive’s wed­ding, thanks to an on-go­ing pro­mo­tion,” said the 29-year-old.

Nor Shahi­datul, a 23-year-old stu­dent from Kuching, said that as a stu­dent, one of the main fac­tors in­flu­enc­ing her trav­els was cost.

“The first thing I’ll look at when I’m plan­ning a trip is the price of a flight ticket or ac­com­mo­da­tion, which is why it’s re­ally handy to use a book­ing plat­form that reg­u­larly of­fers good value,” she said.

Man­ag­ing edi­tor Nu­rul Ee­man, 35, agreed that af­ford­abil­ity was a ma­jor fac­tor when plan­ning a trip.

“When I was look­ing for a cheap roundtrip flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tehran, I saw that one par­tic­u­lar on­line book­ing plat­form of­fered the same price as a low-cost car­rier, but on top of that, it also had a flight pro­mo­tion with up to RM50 off. So of course I went for the one of­fer­ing the dis­count!”

Up­front prices with no hid­den fees

For most, it can be an un­ex­pected sur­prise (and not the good kind, ei­ther) when they head to the pay­ment page, only to find that the price that they had ex­pected to pay was in­flated with sur­charges and fees that hadn’t been clearly dis­played ear­lier.

Rokiah, 58, said that she’d pre­vi­ously had such an ex­pe­ri­ence on a travel book­ing web­site.

“Af­ter choos­ing my flights, I sud­denly saw that I had to pay a lot more than I ex­pected. While I still went through with the pur­chase, the ex­pe­ri­ence put me off book­ing through such sites,” ex­plained the home­maker.

“Ever since com­ing across a travel book­ing plat­form where the price dis­played is in­clu­sive of charges such as air­port fees and there’s no ad­di­tional book­ing fee, I ap­pre­ci­ate the trans­parency in be­ing able to see the fi­nal price be­fore pro­ceed­ing to pay­ment.”

User-friendly

It can be frus­trat­ing when the app you’re us­ing isn’t par­tic­u­larly user-friendly.

Com­mon app user gripes range from a messy and con­vo­luted user in­ter­face to the app not be­ing able to work at all.

Rokiah com­mented that a good travel book­ing app should make it easy for cus­tomers to do re­search for flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion all in one place by hav­ing a fea­ture that se­lects the best com­bi­na­tion of flights for value.

“When it comes to choos­ing a place to stay, there are so many op­tions, so hav­ing a cus­tom­iz­a­ble search fea­ture with a va­ri­ety of fil­ters is great, be­cause you can tai­lor your search based on your pref­er­ences like bud­get range, star rat­ing, avail­able fa­cil­i­ties, and type of ac­com­mo­da­tion,” she added.

Nor Shahi­datul shared that pre­vi­ously, she had tried var­i­ous apps to book her trips, but fi­nally found one that was easy and quick to use.

“I was hav­ing dif­fi­culty mak­ing pay­ment for a book­ing, so by chance, I down­loaded this other app, which is far more user-friendly. I man­aged to se­cure my book­ing and have been us­ing it ever since,” she said.

Flex­i­ble pay­ment op­tions

Not ev­ery­one has a credit card or uses on­line bank­ing, so hav­ing se­cure al­ter­na­tive pay­ment meth­ods, such as be­ing able to pay in cash, can be a real boon. For ex­am­ple, MOLPay CASH is a pay­ment method where you can pay in cash at a nearby 7-Eleven within a cer­tain time­frame.

For many trav­ellers, pay­ing for a group hol­i­day or a long-dis­tance trip can also be quite costly, so be­ing able to pay for it in in­stal­ments is a use­ful op­tion. How­ever, de­spite travel book­ings be­ing such a big-ticket item, not many travel book­ing apps of­fer much flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to pay­ment.

Gov­ern­ment ser­vant Ab­dul Hakim Ali, 30, said when mak­ing a ho­tel book­ing for six rooms re­cently, he came across the op­tion to pay for it in in­stal­ments.

“It was quite a big pur­chase, so when I got to the pay­ment page and saw that I was el­i­gi­ble for a six-month in­stal­ment plan, I went for it, as it’s eas­ier to di­vide the cost over six months,” he said.

Re­li­able in any sit­u­a­tion

Can you count on the app you’re us­ing in good times and in bad? No mat­ter the cir­cum­stance, it should be a rel­a­tively smooth and sim­ple process to search and book a flight or ho­tel, whether you’re leisurely book­ing your next hol­i­day or need to make a last-minute book­ing.

But even af­ter you’ve con­firmed your book­ing and made pay­ment, if you face any is­sues with your flight or ac­com­mo­da­tion, the dif­fer­ence be­tween a medi­ocre app and an ex­cep­tional one is its cus­tomer ser­vice.

In a com­ment, Herni Henry said that one on­line travel agency pro­vided help­ful 24-hour cus­tomer ser­vice that al­lowed her to make changes to her book­ing quickly and eas­ily.

“They helped expedite my hus­band’s flight from Syd­ney to Kuala Lumpur with­out any has­sle, which I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated,” she said.

So, is it pos­si­ble to find all th­ese handy fea­tures in a sin­gle app?

Ac­cord­ing to the users in­ter­viewed, it is. They’ve named the Traveloka App as their pre­ferred travel book­ing app, as it ticked all the boxes above and made trav­el­ling a breeze for them.

Sarra said that while Traveloka is sim­i­lar to a flight ag­gre­ga­tor, “you can di­rectly book the flight at the same web­site. Plus Traveloka of­fers spe­cial prices and dis­counts for flights and ho­tels!”

Nor Shahi­datul added: “The app is very easy to use and it’s much more con­ve­nient to make a pay­ment with it com­pared to other apps I’ve tried.”

Ac­cord­ing to Nu­rul Ee­man, great deals on the Traveloka web­site got even bet­ter when ac­cessed through the app and rec­om­mended mak­ing pur­chases on the app to max­imise sav­ings.

“I’ve been us­ing Traveloka since 2016 and have been able to save a lot of money through their deals and dis­counts,” she said.

From tech startup to South-East Asia’s emerg­ing travel ex­pert

Founded in 2012 by a three-man team of en­gi­neers, Traveloka has grown from strength to strength over the years, spe­cial­is­ing in flight and ho­tel deals.

From its hum­ble be­gin­nings in the bustling In­done­sian cap­i­tal of Jakarta, Traveloka has since spread its wings to be­come a lead­ing on­line travel book­ing plat­form across South-East Asia, set­ting up of­fices in Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land, Viet­nam and the Philip­pines.

Fuelling its rise is the in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion of its ex­cel­lence: Traveloka has won sev­eral in­ter­na­tional awards, such as the pres­ti­gious Top Brand Award for Flight Ticket and Ho­tel Book­ing Ser­vice in 2015 and 2016, in ad­di­tion to be­ing named as In­done­sia’s top Cheap Flight and Ho­tel Book­ing Ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to comS­core.

While cus­tomers can make their book­ings through Traveloka’s var­i­ous plat­forms, such as desk­top web­site and mo­bile web­site, it’s through the Traveloka App that users get to see the full ex­tent of its con­ve­nience and ease, with spe­cial fea­tures and deals you can only get in the app.

Traveloka has es­tab­lished part­ner­ships with more than 100 do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional air­lines, serv­ing more than 200,000 routes world­wide. It also has the largest di­rect ac­com­mo­da­tion in­ven­tory in South­East Asia, vary­ing from ho­tels, apart­ments, guest houses and home­s­tays to vil­las and re­sorts.

With what’s es­sen­tially your own per­sonal travel agent in the palm of your hand, app users can ac­cess a smart search for flights with a va­ri­ety of fil­ters at your dis­posal and a handy fare-based cal­en­dar for those who are more flex­i­ble with their travel dates.

Choos­ing which ho­tel to stay in is also a cinch, with user re­views and a map in­clud­ing the near­est at­trac­tions and fa­cil­i­ties to help you make the right choice.

With all th­ese fea­tures and more, it’s easy to see why over 20 mil­lion peo­ple in South­East Asia have down­loaded the Traveloka App to se­cure good value deals and make their trav­els ef­fort­less.

To ex­pe­ri­ence it for your­self, down­load the Traveloka App for free on Google Play Store and Ap­ple App Store or check out www.traveloka.com to learn more.

Koh Sa­mui in Thai­land.

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