About Scott Petoff, President of BookingCounts

That’s my desk in the photo to the left, where I am usually hard at work developing and marketing BookingCounts web applications.  I must have been on a trip when this photo was taken.  Besides running Meliovation (the company behind BookingCounts and VacationCounts), my favorite activity is browsing tourism and booking websites to plan trips online.

I enjoy the challenge of discovering the best hotels, destinations, booking sites, tour operators, and other sellers of travel online and answering the three most important questions:

  1. What type of travel business is it?
  2. What is their Unique Travel Proposition (UTP)?
  3. Does it fulfill the travel booking Hierarchy of Needs (Reputable, Trustworthy, Secure)?

First, let me explain a bit about my background as a software development leader, expert vacation planner, travel technology entrepreneur, and tourism marketing blogger.  If you prefer you can scroll down to my Travel Experience and Technical Experience summarized bullet points.

History of Travel Planning on the Web

I have been planning both holidays and business trips online as the Web evolved to become the premier travel planning platform.  During those Wild West times websites were static, speeds were slow, and booking was error prone.  Let’s say more than error prone.  Clicking the “Book Now” button and entering credit card information was a worrying endeavor.  Many times I would try to complete a reservation and the process would fail due to technical reasons hidden behind cryptic messages.  Other times I would take one look at the booking page and feel a sense of uneasiness about the trust and security measures in place.  During those situations I could try to get in touch by phone or email (and incur more time and frustration) or take the smarter option and book my travel elsewhere.

A lot has changed since 1993 when the first web browser launched us into the online travel marketing age.  The travel industry was one of the first to realize the game-changing power of the World Wide Web to not just research destinations but to book travel (even complex itineraries) online.  Back then we were happy if a travel company just had a website, and ecstatic if they had a way to (reliably) book online with instant availability and secure confirmation.

The Evolution of Travel Technology

For me the online travel eye-opening moment occurred in 1996 when I started planning my honeymoon and realized that most of it could be done on my home computer (an expensive and bulky Gateway 2000 Window 95 PC).  At that time successful tourism businesses were building travel brochureware websites to attract customers to this new medium, with serious booking functionality to come later.  Surfing the Web to view hotel photos, print driving directions, read restaurant reviews, and reserve tropical day tours (we were vacationing in Hawaii after all) awakened my passion for crafting the perfect trip itinerary online.  It wasn’t long before I became my own travel agent and an expert in booking travel online.

Every year since has brought us game-changing travel technologies such as smart airfare search tools, user-generated trip videos, verifiable hotel reviews, and the connectedness of social media to plan custom vacations.  Fast forward to today where all major travel brand-names publish impressive content and offer streamlined booking sites.  Travel start-ups are launched all the time, employing innovative ways to guide us to our trip planning goals.  Established online travel agencies (OTA) are also hard at work targeting every aspect of the travel ecosystem with power and efficiency.

Online Travel Marketing Challenges Today

With the Travel Web in constant flux, where does that leave the typical tourism business?  Most travel companies are small to medium-sized businesses with limited time, budget and Internet expertise to compete at the level of a Top 100 Travel Brand.  That is why it is time for travel SMBs to return to the basics of tourism marketing on the Web.

Fortunately the core of promoting your travel business online has remained the same – your own website.  While the Web may seem more complex, technical, time-consuming, overwhelming and a moving target, it does not have to be that way for the independent minded tourism operator that wants to get more bookings.  The fact remains that your website is still your most important asset, and promoting your business as Reputable, Trustworthy, and Secure will convince more people to make a booking.  That is why BookingCounts and Tourism Website Optimization™ were created.

Scott, President of Meliovation and BookingCounts

Scott Petoff, Travel Expertise

Following is a brief overview of my travel life experience and technology solution expertise.  This is what made me who I am today and the reason why I have a passion for helping tourism businesses get more bookings.

  • Traveling domestically and internationally all my life, with greater frequency every year (took 23 trips in 2011), and no plans to stop.
  • Researching trip ideas for myself, family, and friends since I was 13 (a vacation to Disney World in Florida with just me and my Dad).
  • Planned my first trip on the Web and using software tools over 15 years ago (my helicopter wedding and tropical honeymoon in Hawaii).
  • Valued variety by booking a diverse group of trips around North America and overseas such as driving tours, budget trips, luxury vacations, city breaks, and national park visits.
  • Launched the VacationCounts WordPress blog to encourage everyone to take their paid time off from work (especially Americans for whom this is a huge issue) for family, travel, and enrichment.
  • Wrote and published dozens of practical how-to articles for VacationCounts on work-life balance, HR paid time-off policy, online travel planning, and simply how to take more time off to enjoy life to the fullest.
  • Relocated to Europe in 2010 to embark upon a different approach to travel with low-cost flight options for weekend and longer getaways across countries, languages, and cultures.
  • Visited thousands of tourism business websites and know from real experience about meeting and exceeding consumer expectations when researching and booking travel online.
  • Visited 40 countries around the world so far, bookings trips every way imaginable: direct and with online travel agencies, via email and fax, utilizing translation tools, and with numerous payment methods.
  • Official Organizer of the Dublin World Travel Meetup and Member of the San Francisco World Travelers Meetup groups.
  • Created the SubscribeDublin website, an event directory that tells you how to stay informed about the best things to do in Dublin, Ireland.

Travel Technology & Software Expertise

  • Earned an honors Bachelor’s Degree in business psychology with economics and certified in multimedia development with expertise in software engineering.
  • Connected to the Internet since the start of the Web, browsing whatever websites I could find (search engines were a new concept) and hand-coding HTML web pages.
  • Accomplished software engineer having developed numerous applications for Windows, server, database, and the Web used by hundreds of thousands of customers.
  • Progressed up the up the ladder in multiple corporations to such roles as Director of Development and Technical Product Manager.
  • Designed and built an SQL indexed database of over 3,000 tourist destination and attraction websites, categorized and mapped for places in North America and Europe.
  • Developed an award-winning* software product to help independent travelers research, plan, and print the perfect trip itinerary (*Won the award for Best Personal Interest SoftwareVacation Designer 2006 for Windows).
  • Led the design and engineering of numerous productivity-enhancing software applications for Windows, Web, phone, and smart devices, targeting end users with the right mix of visual interaction, organized content and goal achievement.
  • Consulted on complex technology solutions to deliver software excellent in medical testing management, user interface component design, interactive document management, and employment forms compliance.  View my full LinkedIn profile here.
  • Software/Web Product Highlights: photo-based landscape design tool, talking e-book reader, health testing management interface, trip itinerary scheduler, new hire onboarding web portal.
  • Tuned in to the latest on travel technology tools, online travel marketing advice, and conversion optimization to constantly be at the forefront of this industry.

Passion for Travel Planning Excellence

Starting BookingCounts is a result of my passion for travel and user experience perfection.  Every interaction in life whether online or in person comes down to an actual and memorable experience.  Experiences in life and while traveling have a mix of positive, neutral, and negative aspects.  Often times we as consumers look for the positive, ignore the neutral, and focus on the negatives.  As I look around and interact with this amazing world I do the same, but I also add a fourth dimension to the mix: improvement.

My approach to life is to appreciate the wonderful array of positive experiences all around me (especially while traveling) while at the same time constantly thinking up innovative ways to improve upon those experiences.  Striving for perfection is a never-ending quest, but I fervently believe that every user experience has room for improvement.  Some of my ideas are simple and obvious while others are new and creative ways to meet and exceed consumer expectations.

Travel User Experience Perfection

How does this apply to travel you might ask?  As someone who treats travel as an essential part of everyday life, I tend to have many experiences as an end-user of travel.  I am constantly delighted and amazed by the possibilities and endless variety of travel.  At the same time my tendency to analyze every situation means that my brain is endlessly pondering ways to improve and perfect every experience.  It does not matter whether I am browsing a destination website, in a Wi-Fi connected coffee shop, taking a bus tour of historic sites, staying at a locally run B&B, attending an annual festival, or visiting a popular tourist attraction.  I can always think of at least one idea on how that business that sells travel experiences can do even better.

It is this striving for travel user experience perfection that makes my approach and the BookingCounts.com website unique in the field of tourism marketing.  Specifically, optimizing travel websites to exceed online visitor (someone planning a trip) expectations is the key to getting more bookings.  For small to medium-sized travel companies, Tourism Website Optimization can turn out to be the easiest and least time-consuming way to convince more travelers to book with you and not your competition.

BookingCounts Approach to Getting More Bookings

To increase your look-to-book ratio, your business needs to put 100% into the total online booking experience.  How?  By returning to the core of online marketing for your tourism business – your website.  This is the one place where you have total control over your sales message and Web reputation.  Regardless of how visitors find out about your company or how they go about making a booking (direct, online travel agent, in-person, by phone, mobile, social), it is critical that your travel user experience delivers professionalism, confidence, and customer-focus.

By following the techniques promoted by the blog posts, articles, tools and resources on BookingCounts, you will learn how to showcase your reputation, trustworthiness, and security online.  That is what I look for each and every time I browse to a site to research, envision and plan upcoming trips.  Visitors should book travel with you solely because there is a good match between your travel products and services and their vacation goals.  When there are flaws with your website (i.e. flaws with the travel user experience), visitors will perceive (whether it is true or not) a lack of reputation, trustworthiness, or security.

By optimizing your tourism website for the online booking experience, visitors will be much more likely to click the “Book Now” button and become a valuable customer.

It’s About Your Travel and Tourism Business

Remember that your website is the best representation of your tourism business.  As travelers plan holidays and vacations from home, the office and while on the road, they will turn to your website and quickly make a decision about what they see and what you say.  By embracing the concepts of Tourism Website Optimization that you will learn about on this site, you too will seek travel user experience perfection in everything you do online.  Welcome to BookingCounts!

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