Visitors Returning to Travel Sites

Traffic to Internet travel Web sites was beginning to return to normal following the events of Sept. 11, but it remains to be seen if the U.S. response will change this going forward.

During the week ending Sept. 30, audience levels to travel sites, especially air travel sites, surpassed the pre-crisis audience levels reported from the week of ending Sept. 9, according to data from Nielsen//NetRatings. The traffic gains appear to wide ranging, with Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Hotwire, Expedia and American Airlines all posting sizeable traffic increases.

Delta Airlines claimed the largest gain in audience share for the week ending Sept. 30 compared to the week ending Sept. 9. The site surged 32 percent and attracted 627,000 unique visitors. United Airlines grew 30 percent to 474,000 surfers, while Hotwire jumped 11 percent, capturing 444,000 unique visitors. Expedia jumped 7 percent, drawing nearly 1.8 million unique visitors. American Airlines grew 5 percent to 595,000 surfers.

“Online travel has been one of the best vertical markets on the Internet. With several travel sites recently posting considerable traffic gains, as compared to three weeks prior, consumer interest in travel has begun to rebound from the turmoil surrounding recent national events,” said Sean Kaldor, vice president of analytical services at NetRatings. “Discounted fares and heightened promotions are enticing surfers to continue to use the Internet to plan and book travel arrangements.”

Data from Internet performance company webHancer also found that the efforts by the airline industry and public officials are getting consumers’ attention online, even if they aren’t yet attracting their dollars.

Preliminary data gathered by webHancer from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5 found that traffic to travel sites actually exceeded the levels of Sept. 3 to Sept. 7. From Sept. 11 to Sept. 14, traffic fell to 57 percent of pre-attack levels. It gradually rose to 63 percent of pre-attack levels from Sept. 17 to Sept. 21. By Sept. 24 to Sept. 28, webHancer found that travel-related traffic leapt to 87 percent of pre-attack levels.

WebHancer also discovered an interesting pattern with the site of United Airlines, which has remained at or above pre-attack levels. Traffic to the United site actually reached 424 percent of pre-attack levels from Sept. 11 to Sept. 14.

Traffic to Air Travel-Related Web Sites
Rank Site Unique Audience (000) Percent
Week Ending 9/9 Week Ending 9/30
1. Delta Airlines 475 627 32%
2. United Airlines 364 474 30%
3. Hotwire 399 444 11%
4. Expedia 1,644 1,758 7%
5. American Airlines 566 595 5%
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

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