Internet dominates consumers' holiday booking plans
More than half of internet users book their holidays directly online, with only 7% researching and buying holidays from travel agents in the High Street, and 1% booking through Teletext services, according to research conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings on behalf of marketing agency Harvest Digital and European advertising network Adviva.
Although the internet is used heavily for researching holiday deals and packages, it is not always the chosen channel for the actual booking, however, as 9% of internet users said they book their holidays in the High Street after researching online, and a further 17% said they research their holidays online before booking by telephone.
Customer frequency Two-thirds (66%) of online shoppers said they usually take two or more major holidays (of one week or more in length) each year, and one-quarter (25%) take three or more such holidays.
Older people in particular are likely to take regular holidays, with 23% of people aged 55+ taking three holidays per year (compared to only 16% of internet users overall). This group is also the most likely to book a holiday at the last minute, as 28% of those aged 55+ said they had booked a holiday one month or less before departure (compared to 25% of under-24s and 18% of internet users overall).
Interestingly, 60% of those who use a search engine to find their holiday packages said they book four or more major holidays each year, along with 38% of magazine readers (which contrasts with only 13% of those who visit their local travel agent).
Internet married with travel According to Mike Teasdale, planning director for Harvest Digital, "As the first truly global medium, the internet has always had a special affinity with the travel industry, and powerful new players are rumoured to be entering the market - perhaps most notably Google with a long-rumoured 'Google Travel' portal. Obviously offline media still has a vital role to play in the marketing mix, but once an online consumer is interested in a specific destination or holiday, they tend to use the internet to research and buy."
Fiona McKinnon, European corporate development director for Adviva, added: "The research revealed the degree to which the internet has changed consumers' means of booking and researching holidays. The most noticeable shift is from the High Street, with more than three-quarters of holidays now being researched or booked online. This is reflected in the high number of people booking late deals and taking more holidays than the average British consumer."
Recommenders and referrers Almost half of internet users book their holidays based on recommendations from friends and family, while one-third read the travel articles in magazines and newspapers. Another 15% use Teletext listings (information pages broadcast alongside the television signal) and 20% said they watch holiday programmes on television to get their ideas.
Teasdale observed: "Consumers are telling us that word of mouth is very important in terms of choosing a holiday package. In the past, that would have been a casual discussion, but now it seems that the online equivalent is web sites like TripAdvisor.com where an entire community of consumers are posting their tips and recommendations about good places to go."
Online holidaymakers Almost two-thirds of internet users said they use a search engine to find their travel suppliers, and other online sources also ranked highly:· 40% research on airline web sites;· Over one-third use travel agent web sites;· 28% said they seek out online 'local tourism' guides;· 27% ask a High Street travel agent for information.
Online travel booking and research is even more common for 25-34 year-olds, and for people booking within four weeks of their departure date. In both cases 68% said they would book directly through the internet. The survey also found that three-quarters (75%) book their own holidays. No major differences were found in the travel booking habits of men and women. In fact, the only group with a high number of respondents saying they make or influence the holiday decision despite somebody else making the purchase was the 16-24 age group.
The consumer survey was conducted in the form of a pop-up web browser window through the Adviva network to both test (exposed) and control (non-exposed) consumer cells. A total of 863 questionnaires were completed during September 2006.
For additional information: · Visit Adviva at http://www.adviva.com · Visit Harvest Digital at http://www.harvestdigital.com · Visit Nielsen/NetRatings at http://www.nielsen-netratings.com