Leading travel websites have taken a huge hit in October, fuelling growing concerns in the industry that the economy is affecting consumer confidence to greater degree than expected.
Hitwise figures for October 2008 obtained by Travolution reveal that the total market share of visits for the top ten websites in the Travel Agency category plummeted by 17% against the same period in 2007.
The sudden drop has been blamed on a number of factors including a lack of consumer demand and switch, in some cases, to other buying channels.
The travel sites included in the top ten for October included Expedia, lastminute.com, Thomson, Thomas Cook, First Choice, Travelsupermarket, Cheapflights, Travelrepublic, Skyscanner and Ebookers.
However, Ebookers and Skyscanner were new entries into the top ten in October, having moved up from 13th and 15th positions respectively in September, at the expense of Teletext Holidays and On The Beach.
Other Hitwise figures for October have supported the sudden slump, Travolution has found.
The percentage of the term “cheap holidays” as a percentage of total search terms year on year has dropped 30% and “holidays” by 30%.
The market share of visits from traffic for the term “travel agency”, against all internet categories, dropped from 0.69% in October 2007 to 0.57% in Oct 08, another drop of 17%.
Another reason for the overall fall, some senior figures have suggested this week, could be a general shift by consumers to other sites.
The boss of one leading travel site said consumers could be moving to specialist sites “thinking they get a better service and deals”.
Matt Cheevers, managing director of Teletext Holidays, said: “The statistics that have come from the most recent Hitwise data is proof again that the market seems to be in an awful position.
“Contrary to some misguided reports the market is nowhere near on a par with last year and it is presently a real struggle.
“These figures show that demand at the start of the online booking process is down by a huge amount compared to last year.
“Like many companies this current situation simply forces us to look at every area of our business to make sure we are doing what we can and generating new ideas.”