JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct at VisitBigBend.com: Not “direct”, doesn’t “book”, just more hops to make a reservation.
The Brewster County Tourism Council (BCTC) has just spent several months and several thousand hotel occupancy tax dollars – as well as sacrificed significant website performance – to embed the JackRabbit Systems Book>Direct booking engine in the web pages of VisitBigBend.com (VBB). They did so, no doubt, with good intentions – but in this case good intentions may have once again paved the way to you-know-where.
JackRabbit Systems promotes Book>Direct as “a powerful referral engine [that] allows visitors to search for accommodations directly from a destination website and book directly with the destination’s lodging partners”. They claim Book>Direct helps DMO (destination marketing organization) websites like VBB “become relevant” with benefits for lodging vendors and consumers alike. But in the case of VBB, at least, we believe their “BOOK A ROOM” booking engine embeds more bother than benefit.
Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Big Bend National Park and want to book a night’s stay in Marathon along the way. From the VBB home page you might hover over “LODGING” then select “Marathon” to land on the Marathon Lodging page. Upper right (or bottom) you note the “BOOK A ROOM” form and then start browsing through the Marathon area lodging options. You eventually choose “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”, then scroll back to the “BOOK A ROOM” form to book your stay:
First you enter your “Check-In” and “Check-Out” dates. Then not knowing how “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast” is classified, you accept the “All Lodging” default and click “SEARCH” (as there’s no other choice). A new window opens up – not just for “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”, and not just for Marathon area lodgings, but for every matching vendor in the VBB database.
All your keystrokes up to now have taken you nowhere – except to a point where you can start your lodging search over again…
Let’s say you’re patient enough to do so. Again you select “Marathon” as your Location and filter the results, which you browse through until once again you find “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”, then click “BOOK>DIRECT” to make your reservation. Yet another window opens up – but it’s not a reservation screen: It’s the home page of “Eve’s Garden Bed and Breakfast”.
Which you could’ve gone to with one click from the Marathon Lodging page by avoiding the “BOOK A ROOM” form altogether.
Choose any lodging venue or vendor VBB BOOK>DIRECT has to offer, and your experience will likely prove similarly – and irritatingly – inefficient. In fact, of the 34 BOOK>>DIRECT listings we tested, 33 required we restart our booking from scratch:
- 22 linked to lodging vendor web pages but passed no parameters;
- 7 linked nowhere;
- 2 linked to error pages;
- 2 linked to reservation pages but passed no parameters; and only
- 1 linked to a reservation page with our check-in/check-out parameters passed.
We concede there might be some marketing benefit to having a “book a room” pitch on every VBB web page. But from both presentation and performance perspectives, the VBB BOOK>DIRECT form is more wart than widget. And if all it’s doing is linking to lodging vendor web pages, there are many cleaner and faster ways to accomplish that.