Internet Transforming Canadian Travel Habits

The Canadian travel industry has undergone a dramatic transformation at the hands of the Internet, according to a study by Ipsos-Reid.

Seventy percent of Canada’s 21.8 million adults have Internet access, and more than half of say they have used the Internet to gather travel information. Eighteen percent (nearly 3 million Canadian adults) say they have used the Internet to book an element of their travel plans, including air travel, hotel stays, or car rentals.

The study also found that 26 percent of those who have not yet booked travel online plan to do so in the coming year. Because of this, Ipsos-Reid says the online travel booking industry has the potential to double in the next year, should all intenders follow through with online booking. When compared to other online transactions, such as purchasing other items or online banking, online travel will be the No. 1 growth area for the Internet in 2001. In addition, 12 percent of Canadians with Internet access will research travel for the first time in 2001.

“It goes without saying that in a remarkably short period of time the Internet has had a major impact on the travel industry in Canada,” said Chris Ferneyhough, vice president of technology research at Ipsos-Reid. “These figures show that Canadians are embracing the utility of the Internet as a means to make their own travel arrangements. At the rate of online travel booking is advancing, there is a strong possibility that over half of all Canadian adults will be using the Net to book their travel by the end of 2003.”

As might be expected, travel agents have the most to lose as Canadians book more of their travel on the Internet. According to the survey, 92 percent of Canadians who have booked part of their travel online say they are now using travel agents less because of the Internet.

The favorite site of online travel bookers in Canada is aircanada.ca. Twenty-nine percent of online bookers say that aircanada.ca is their favorite site, which puts it far ahead of Travelocity (11 percent), WestJet (6 percent), and Expedia (5 percent). Two percent of online bookers chose Tripeze.com as their favorite travel site.

“Air Canada enjoys a wide lead in popularity, but given how lucrative this market is I’m sure it is going to be a dog fight among all of the players,” said Ferneyhough. “Due to the lack of brand name recognition in this market for everyone other than Air Canada, it will be increasingly important to have a site that is intuitive and easy to navigate. The future growth in this market lies in the inexperienced Internet user, who can get easily frustrated and is more inclined to move on to the next site than to try and figure out what they are doing wrong.”

For its study, Ipsos-Reid conducted 1,500 telephone interviews with Canadian adults and 1,000 online interviews with Canadian Internet users.

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