Commentary

Travel Agencies Capture Traveler First, But Airlines Have a Shot

Travel Agencies Capture Traveler First, But Airlines Have a Shot

According to the latest Nielsen//NetRatings Quarterly Travel Benchmarking Survey, 54 percent of online travel shoppers begin travel research with an online travel agency, but then are evenly split between travel agencies and airline suppliers' Web sites when it comes to the actual purchase of online travel. In comparison, 37 percent of online travel shoppers begin research at a travel supplier Web site, and 9 percent begin with a travel meta-search provider.

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Heather Dougherty, senior Internet analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings, said "The wide selection of travel suppliers drive the majority of travel shoppers to begin their research with agencies... before directly visiting a supplier. At that point, suppliers are in a strong position to capture a potential sale as consumers visit their sites to confirm pricing and frequent flyer benefits before making the final purchase."

Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Delta ranked as the three most visited airline Web sites during April 2005.

Top 3 Airline Web Sites, April 2005 (U.S., Home & Work)

Airlines

Unique Audience(000)

 Visitor ConversionRate

Southwest Airlines

8,141

14%

American Airlines

5,663

9%

Delta

4,912

10%

Source:  Nielsen//NetRatings NetView, June 2005 and Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Travel, June 2005

Online travel agencies attracted up to twice the number of visitors as airlines during April 2005.

Top 3 Online Travel Agencies, April 2005 (U.S., Home & Work)

Travel Agencies

Unique Audience(000)

Visitor ConversionRate

Expedia

16,260

5%

Travelocity

11,714

3%

Orbitz

11,616

 4%

Source:  Nielsen//NetRatings NetView, June 2005 and Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Travel, June 2005

"... supplier sites are beginning to leverage their large customer base by becoming a one-stop shop for air, hotel and car reservations," continued Dougherty. "The addition of additional types of travel options elevates suppliers onto the same playing field as online travel agencies..."

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