The major travel agencies continue to capture a larger share of the online market, according to the latest figures from web intelligence company Hitwise.
While the proportion of UK Internet users visiting an online travel agency grew 5% year-on-year for January, the top 20 sites experienced an impressive 16% growth in the market share of these visits.
Expedia.com remains the most popular travel agency destination for UK users, boasting almost 10% of all visits to online agencies, but last month saw Thomson Holidays, with 5.88% of visits, overtake Lastminute.com (5.31%) to become the UK’s second most popular online travel agency.
Overall, three of the top-five most-visited travel agency websites are traditional high-street
agencies, including Thomas Cook in fourth place and fifth-placed First Choice.
Hitwise’s research also showed the importance of ensuring travel websites achieve a prominent position on search engine listings.
In the week ending January 28, search engine referrals accounted for more than a third of all visits to travel agencies sites and 43% of visits to destination and accommodation sites.
A high proportion of visits to travel-related sites also come from other travel sites, indicating “a high level of comparison shopping as consumers actively compare deals”, said Hitwise director of research Heather Hopkins.
In January, for example, 27% of visits to travel agencies came from other travel agency websites.
Among the top 200 travel search terms used during January, 17 were for a specific destination, such as a theme park, location or airport.
Online maps also experienced significant growth with visits in January up 63% year-on-year. Hopkins attributed this rise to innovations such as satellite maps, as seen on sites such as Google Earth and Windows Live Local.