comScore Network recently released an analysis of the online travel market in the U.S., finding that nearly 150 million consumers visited a travel Web site in 2005, a 35-percent increase over the previous year. Annual online travel revenues exceeded $60 billion in 2005, representing a 20-percent increase versus 2004, with all travel segments posting gains.
Sara Stevens, director of comScore Travel Solutions, said "The Web is extraordinarily well-suited to helping consumers make travel plans, and increases in home broadband penetration should continue to fuel growth in the online travel sector.”
As the online travel industry has grown and matured, consumers have been slowly migrating from online agencies to branded airline, hotel or car rental supplier sites, though both online agency and supplier sites are growing as well.
Over the last three years, online agencies have experienced greater competition from supplier sites in the airline and hotel segments and, to a lesser extent, in car rentals. Supplier sites, which accounted for 53 percent of airline ticket sales in 2003, have grown in popularity in recent years to capture 58 percent of airline ticket sales in 2005.
A similar pattern has emerged in the hotel segment, where supplier sites have grown from a 52 percent share in 2003 to 59 percent in 2005, with the growth from 2004 to 2005 being particularly strong.
As part of the Travel Industry Overview, the comScore survey revealed that travel shoppers visit approximately three sites when planning leisure travel. The dominant reason is to search for the lowest price. Few respondents cited rewards programs or flexible dates and times as reasons for "shopping around."
Among people surveyed, 72 percent indicated that they begin their planning for leisure travel within eight weeks before taking the trip, with only 28 percent saying that they start researching and planning more than two months ahead of time.
46 percent of the searchers indicated that the first site they visited was either Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz - nearly double the proportion of people who reported starting their research at a branded airline, hotel or car rental site (24 percent).
The top reason stated for beginning at Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity was efficiency in seeking the lowest price (22 percent), with an additional 17 percent indicating they expect these sites to deliver "the best deal."
The complete release is available here.