Do travel Web sites discriminate against non-English users?

Yes they do, according to a new survey by travel marketing firm Oban.

Travel sites ignore the needs of international users by offering English-only pages, the study concluded. That could be causing travelers extra frustrations — and costing these sites business.

Greig Holbrook, Oban’s managing director, says the findings surprised him.

What we had expected was that the travelers would say that they search in their native language. But instead, most of them admitted they were forced to search in English, since the travel sites often do not give them a multilingual option.

Nearly all the people interviewed by the company said they would prefer to search in their own language.

What languages should travel sites be offered in? Next to English, Spanish and Chinese were cited as the most frequently-used languages, followed by French and Dutch.

Take this poll and register your opinion.

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There have been efforts to legislate multilingual Web sites — most notably in Canada — but perhaps in the end, the best argument for a translation is the economic one.

On the flip side, I wonder how many English-speaking travelers have encountered language barriers when using a travel site.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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