The UK saw a 44% rise in the amount of time people spent consuming digital travel content to 2.4 billion minutes this year.
Figures for the US, UK and Canadian markets were presented last week by Expedia’s Media Solutions division at the OTA’s annual partner conference in Las Vegas.
Expedia’s 2016 Path to Purchase study, the fourth since it was launched in 2009, analysed the 45-day period leading up to a travel booking in the three markets.
As a proportion of the online population the UK outstripped the other two in terms of how many people consume digital travel content at 75%. Canada was 70% and the US just 60%.
Matthew Reichek, global vice president at Expedia Media Solutions, said: “People are really valuing content. They are hungry for it and they really want more of it. The audience is big, it’s also much more mobile.”
A comparison for the month of February 2016 against 2015 showed in the UK 82% of content consumption was on tablet or phone, up from 67%.
Only in Canada was desktop usage higher although this year the gap had narrowed to just one percentage point. Reichek said in the UK over half of the audience is multi-device, whereas in Canada and the US that figure is just under a third.
Mobile passed the “inflexion point” against desktop in the US in September 2015 and is due to do so in the UK within months and Reichek said Expedia sees this switch to mobile as being a durable trend.
He said it remained to be seen whether the US and Canada will move towards the UK In terms of multi-device use, or whether the UK will move towards the US and Canada as smartphones become bigger, more powerful and ubiquitous.
“In a very short period of time, maybe six to nine months, mobile will be in the driving seat in terms of travel content consumption,” Reichek said.
Expedia also looked at the proportion of content consumed on a mobile browser versus an app. In the UK mobile browsers account for 64% of the content accessed while in the US apps accounted for 63%. In Canada the browser remains dominant on 74%.
Browsers were primarily used on tablet while smartphone users preferred apps. Riechek said this again raised the question of whether the UK will start to look more like the US in the future or vice versa.
Levels of engagement in the 45 day period before a travel booking also threw up some disparities between the three markets. The UK saw the fewest travel sites visited with 121, the most was in Canada, 161, and the US was in the middle on 140. “There is a steady build-up of engagement nearer to travel,” said Reichek.
Using Comscore data Expedia found, overall, OTAs had the highest level of engagement accounting for a third of all site visitations, ahead of travel information sites on 21%.
The data indicates that search engines and friends and family rank higher for inspiration near the beginning of the planning and research phase but as the booking come closer these decline in importance and OTA and airline sites become more important.
Social media, however, was found to be mostly used by those people inclined to use it at the top of the funnel, but across all three markets just 11% of people used it for travel search.
Brits were found to be the most open about destination choice with 54% considering more than one compared to just 35% in the US and 53% in Canada. OTAs were again found to be the most influential sites in terms of destination choice ahead of friends and family.
Advert recognition and recall was found to be higher early on in the research and booking process with 59% of UK bookers saying they recalled a travel ad compared to 64% of Canadians and 47% of Americans.
Asked whether they were influenced by advertising the numbers were much lower – 30% in the UK, 27% in the US and 38% in Canada – but Reichek said: “People like to think they know their own mind and it’s other people who are influenced by advertising. We think these numbers are a little bit understated.”
Reichek said it made sense that people are more influenced by advertising early on in the research phase as “you are more open-minded. Over time as you collect more information there’s a law of diminishing marginal returns.”
Drawing conclusions on the research, Reichek said: “There is strong double-digit growth in content consumption. Mobile is growing and in the US mobile has surpassed desktop and the UK is about to cross over. These trends are durable and not about to go back.
“At this time you are probably overinvesting in social you are underinvesting in mobile if you are investing equally in both.
“Consumers say they are influenced by advertising when they are searching more than one destination and you need to get them early on when as recall is at its highest.”