Holidays Could Push Online Travel Higher

The popularity of using the Internet to book travel has soared in the past year, and the upcoming holiday season will go a long way to help sustain this growth, according to a pair of surveys.

The 1999 PhoCusWright Travel eCommerce Survey found the number of travelers booking online has soared by more than 80 percent to 11 million in the last year. The random-sample telephone survey finds sharp increases in both online purchasing and intentions to purchase among online travelers (defined as Americans who have flown by commercial carrier in the last year and visited Web sites in the last month).

“The rapidly growing number of airlines and Internet companies providing discount travel bookings and improved customer service are keys to travel e-commerce success,” said Lorraine Sileo, vice president of information services at PhoCusWright, Inc. “The potential for online travel is enormous. Eight million American travelers are poised to make their first online purchase, prompted by rising consumer confidence and improved credit card security safeguards.”

The PhoCusWright survey also reports that for the first time ever, the number of online travelers usually using offline agencies to buy airline tickets for leisure travel has fallen below 50 percent (to 47 percent, compared to 55 percent last year). More than half (53 percent) buy some travel online and some through a travel agent.

Other findings from the PhoCusWright survey include:

  • 58 percent of online travelers bought some product over the Web, and 26 percent have bought travel online
  • 19 percent of online travelers “usually” buy airline tickets online, up from 10 percent last year
  • 65 percent of online travelers “shopped around” before buying airline tickets online
  • Travel remains one of the most popular e-commerce categories, with 45 percent of online buyers saying they purchased travel online. It is outpaced only by books at 54 percent
  • About half of online travelers who have visited travel sites have looked at airline fares or availability online, but purchased that travel offline
  • 65 percent of non-buyers say they’d be interested in buying travel online, a whopping 20 percent points ahead of the next most compelling products — computers and books.

A Flash Survey™ by revealed that a majority of online shoppers plan to make their holiday travel accommodations using the Internet this year.

The two-day survey, which drew more than 7,700 respondents, reveled that 85 percent of those surveyed intend to use the Internet exclusively or in conjunction with offline resources to schedule airfare, hotel, and car rental reservations for the holiday season. Nearly 90 percent of those planning to purchase travel online will secure airfare, followed by hotel (52 percent) and car rental reservations (42 percent). Of those who plan to make travel arrangements on the Web this holiday season, 25 percent say this will be their first online purchase in the travel category.

More than 75 percent of respondents indicated that discounts would motivate them to purchase future travel reservations online. Thirty-nine percent said earning frequent flyer miles or points would also be a strong influence to buy travel online. Frequent flyer incentives are more likely to attract online travel purchases from buyers with higher household incomes, found.

Online travelers plan to spend more than $1,000 on average for holiday trips, with men outspending women $1,160 to $885.’s survey also found women are less likely than men to purchase travel reservations online without an incentive. Online buyers with lower level incomes are more likely to purchase travel reservations on the Internet if offered online coupons, rebates, gifts, or online sweepstakes entries.

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