Online Is Destination for Travel Booking

Consumers are going online to plan and buy travel in increasing numbers. Driven by low prices, most buyers search multiple sites.

Claria Corporation‘s Feedback Research division said 88 percent of consumers who have gone or plan to travel this summer use the Internet to research and purchase their trips.

In terms of actually purchasing travel, 61 percent indicate they purchased or planned to purchase an airline ticket online, up from 50 percent in 2004. Online purchases of hotel accommodations also increased this year to 52 percent, up from 40 percent in 2004.

Consumers frequent multiple general travel sites, according to the study. Respondents who visited Hotwire.com also looked at Orbitz (71 percent); Expedia (67 percent); and Travelocity (62 percent).

Of those who purchased travel online and researched at a general travel site, 73 percent indicated they went to the specific travel company’s site to actually make the purchase. Just over half (52 percent) report they go directly to the company site because they believe company sites offer the lowest prices. Forty-seven percent say company sites offer special deals, and 22 percent just want to get their frequent flyer points.

Airline-only sites record the highest number of repeat visitors per month. Southwest.com leads the pack with an average 9.31 visitor returns. AlaskaAir followed at an average 9.29 return visitors, and Northwest.com visitors came back an average 9.19 times.

Scott Eagle, Claria’s CMO, said the study shows consumers increasingly compare prices.

“While some consumers indicated that they purchase because of ease of use or frequent flyer programs, it’s clear that low prices will be a primary driver in online travel decisions,” Eagle said. “In an environment like this, the challenge for travel brands is balancing the costs of maintaining a competitive product with building brand equity and high brand awareness.”

Feedback Research analyzed data from its parent Claria’s network of users between April 1 and July 1, 2005. Additionally, users who had purchased travel in the past 12 months or viewed travel sites in the prior 30 days were surveyed.

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