January Puts Travel Sites Back on Their Feet

Nearly 95 million people worldwide visited online travel sites in January 2002, according to comScore, making it a record month for traffic to the travel sector.

The 94.3 million visitors to travel sites account for more than 30 percent of the worldwide Internet audience. Overall, traffic to travel sites was up 9 percent from December. Non-U.S. travel site visitors grew nearly 14 percent from December to January, while U.S. visitors grew less than 5 percent. The old record for travel site visitors was 94.0 million in August 2001.

ComScore’s data found that traffic to all the major travel sites was up in January, with particularly noteworthy increases at full-service travelocity.com (32 percent from December 2001) and the discount site cheaptickets.com (up 27 percent from December 2001). Traffic to Orbitz.com, which experienced one of the most successful launches of all time when it went live during the summer of 2001 (see Orbitz Launch Among Best in E-Commerce History) leveled off in January, although its U.S. audience still increased by 6 percent. Hotwire.com posted an impressive 25 percent increase to 4.5 million users worldwide.

“After four challenging months, we’re encouraged by this performance in online travel,” said comScore vice president Dan Hess. “Certainly some of January’s activity is likely due to delayed demand following the holidays. But it also might be that Americans have started 2002 with renewed confidence in travel – and an appreciation for the attractive prices and convenience that abound online.”

The growth in traffic from outside the United States to travel sites is not surprising. As the world’s most advanced e-commerce market, the best growth days for U.S. e-commerce are likely behind it. Travelers in the United States are also more likely to remain wary of air travel since the Sept. 11 attack than those from other countries.

Jupiter MMXI estimates the European online travel market will be worth more than €20 billion by 2006, and given the growth the sector has seen in the past year, that’s a reachable goal. According to Jupiter MMXI, in the year from January 2001 to January 2002, audiences visiting travel sites across Europe increased from 11 percent in France to up to 75 percent in Spain.

Among the travel sites in Europe that have more than doubled their audience in the last year are Expedia.co.uk, Go-fly.com and OTC-UK.com in Britain; Lastminute.com in Germany; Renfe.es, Iberia.es and Viajar.com in Spain; and Myswitzerland.com in Switzerland.

Britain is the biggest online travel market in Europe, with almost 6 million unique visitors to travel sites in January 2002. Germany and France followed with 5.1 and 2.5 million unique visitors. Italy and Sweden both had 1.2 million unique visitors to travel sites and Spain had 645,000. Europeans spent on average 26 minutes on travel sites in January 2002. Britons spent the most amount of time, at 37.4 average minutes per unique visitor per month, while the Swiss spent the least amount of time at 17.9 average minutes during January.

Top 10 Travel Web Sites
(Worldwide, Jan. 2002)
Rank Site Unique

Change vs.
Dec. 2001
1. expedia.com 16,069 15%
2. orbitz.com 11,827 1%
3. travelocity.com 10,922 32%
4. travelzoo.com 6,567 -10%
5. priceline.com 5,518 11%
6. southwest.com 4,832 13%
7. milesource.com 4,692 5%
8. cheaptickets.com 4,557 27%
9. hotwire.com 4,506 25%
10. travelnow.com 4,053 40%
Source: comScore

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