Take Me Away

It's President's Day, and in my town it's school vacation for kids. For most, it's hard to think of anything but (leisure) travel. For me, however, this is a bit of a non-reality. But I digress.

The Internet has become a major channel for online travel planning and booking. For leisure travelers, pricing is key. Online consumers can zoom through reams of content on multiple Web sites to find the best price to book a trip. Then, the weird thing is, they tend to call their travel agents to book the trip. Thirty-seven percent of consumers choose to go online and use a suppliers' Web site directly while 20% of consumers use online travel agency Web sites. Still, 43% of consumers say "it depends" which option they will choose according to a survey by market research firm eVOC Insights and RelevantView.

Don't let this sway your view just yet. The travel business online is big and growing. According to a new report from Burst Media based on data from PhoCusWright Research, this year the Internet will make up over half of all of the travel industry's transactions.



According to eMarketer, the U.S. online travel marketplace is estimated at $68 billion. EMarketer also reports on a study by Burst of 2,100 Wed users, all 18+, who plan to use the Web for travel in the next 3 months. Findings include:

  • 79% of respondents said they would be using the Internet to plan their upcoming personal travel.
  • 47% of respondents said it would be their primary travel resource.
  • Online travel planning skews a bit younger, with 53% of 25- to 34-year-olds planning to use the Web as their primary travel source.
  • Older Web users are the least likely to use the Web to plan and book travel. 41% of users 55+ say the Internet is a primary source for them.
  • 52% of respondents have household incomes of $75,000 to $99,999 annually. So income is a bit higher than the average person.
  • 67%, of the respondents who will use the Internet to help plan their upcoming travel will conduct travel research as well as make online travel transactions.
  • 33% will use the Web solely as an information resource.
  • Among respondents planning to make travel transactions online, 74% will likely purchase airline tickets.
  • 2.9% will likely make hotel reservations.
  • 40.4% will likely rent vehicles.
  • In addition, of the respondents making transactions online, 60% will also research destinations; 29% will research travel/tour operators.

    Now that you've sent the stats, are you convinced that the Internet is a valuable channel to reach out to folks planning online travel? I know we are only dealing with one study of 2,100 people but to me, it's a good sample of who's doing what out there.

    In the coming couple of years, I anticipate changes to this data. I still think younger users will flock to the Web as not only as a decision-making tool, but a travel booking tool. I think the ages will start to skew a bit younger. However, not too much younger -- you have to be 18 to own a credit card.

    I also expect the 55+ crowd to start getting more comfortable with booking travel online. After all this is one of the fastest growing online demographics.

    Travel sites -- be they booking engines, social networking, airlines and hotels, online travel agents (OTAs), you name it -- will all have to step up to the plate. Consumers are Web-savvy and want more. First and foremost, they want pricing and booking details to be easy to find and easy to use. Who could blame 'em? Sites should offer dynamic content, clear pricing, special dusounts and promotions. Consumers also want the flexibility of easily changing flights, adding rooms, booking cars, etc.

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