Booking dot stress

Bob from Nature Travels muses on his recent experience of booking a hotel room…

In April this year, Sofia and I are going to the Azores to spend 10 days as volunteers on a whale and dolphin research project – we’re very much looking forward to it. The flight connections mean that we need to spend an overnight in Lisbon en route, so we decided to make the most of it and spend two nights there.

Next step was to find a place to stay, and in my Google search I quickly arrived at a well-known hotel booking website. Hard as it may be to believe, it was my first time there.

And so my search began. I was presented with a wide range of options which were easily searchable/comparable and accompanied by attractive images and useful descriptions, the reservation process was smooth and painless, and in no time at all I had secured my room in Lisbon and had my confirmation in my inbox. I’d been on the site about 10 minutes, and the job was done. Hooray!

So why on earth was I left feeling so rattled, on edge and plagued with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction?


I sat back to ponder on how I’d spent this 10 minutes of my life.

What’s clear is that the booking experience was an almost perfect exercise in persuading me to make a decision to purchase. The very best that marketing theory, consumer psychology and shopping cart design can offer had been unleashed on me to make sure that I didn’t leave without handing over my card details, and in the face of such an onslaught, I’d found I was frankly powerless to resist.

Throughout my time on the site, my screen had been filled with little pop-ups and messages giving stats relating to my search, “There are just 2 rooms left for your chosen dates”, “Don’t delay! 66% of our accommodation in Lisbon is now booked for the dates you are viewing”, “20 other people are currently viewing this hotel for your chosen dates”, “The last booking made for this hotel was 15 minutes ago from Germany”….and on they went.

The messages quietly but very effectively ramped up the pressure as I browsed, until by the end they had whipped me into a frenzy of uncertainty, desperation and self-doubt and I was a quivering wreck, silently screaming, “Just let me pay! Take my card details now and get me a room before it’s too late!” Delaying a minute longer would surely mean I’d be forced to choose the only overpriced flea pit still left with a space.

Am I exaggerating? Well, maybe a little. But I realised that what had been missing from the process of choosing and booking this important piece of my holiday had been any sense of fun or enjoyment. I have no doubt that, when we arrive in Lisbon, the hotel will be just fine, and I certainly can’t fault the efficiency of the booking process or the price I paid. But had I enjoyed choosing it? No. Was I now looking forward to enjoying the product I had purchased? Not at all. When the last card number was entered and “Book now” button pressed, all I felt was a palpable sense of relief that it was all over.

Is there something special about purchasing a holiday compared to other products? What is the purpose of a travel website – simply to facilitate the process of choosing and booking a component of your trip as quickly as possible? If so, then the website I used did its job almost flawlessly. Or is the planning and the dreaming part of the fun, extending that precious holiday feeling to make arranging the trip an integral part of the enjoyment? Should we really be using the same approach to buying our holiday as we do to renewing our car insurance?

Nature Travels is of course also a travel company, offering products which we hope our guests will find attractive and wish to purchase. So is booking with Nature Travels any different? We would like to think so. We may never be able to match the technological sophistication of the website I used. But we would hope that the experience of researching, discussing, planning and (hopefully!) booking your holiday with us can be an integral part of the overall enjoyment of your trip, and perhaps heighten the sense of excitement and anticipation as you prepare for your adventure.

Oops, no more time to chat…my car insurance expires in a week…but just one final thought:

“Stressed” is just “Desserts” spelt backwards…