Hitwise: Searches for flights down 42% on last year

Hitwise, the leading online competitive intelligence service and an Experian company, today reveals that UK Internet searches for flights have fallen by 42% over the last 12 months.

January is a key month for the travel industry, as UK consumers’ thoughts turn from Christmas shopping to booking their summer holidays, but the economic downturn means that consumers are being more cautious when booking flights abroad this year.

As a result of the weak pound, people are switching from holidays in the Eurozone or USA and considering cheaper destinations such as Turkey and North Africa, or considering taking their holidays at home.

UK Internet searches for flights increased by 58% between the weeks ending 27/12/08 and 03/01/09, but they were down by 42.4% when compared with the equivalent post-Christmas week last year (i.e. the week ending 05/01/08).

Flights to the USA experienced the biggest annual fall in searches of 52.2%. Searches for flights to countries that use the Euro fell by 44.8%, while searches for flights to the UK and the Rest of the World also fell, but at a smaller rate.  

Change in searches for flights to different geographical areas between 05/01/08 and 03/01/09:

USA: -52.2%
Global average: -42.4%
Rest of the world: -34.4%
UK Domestic: -32.7%

“It looks like the weak pound is putting people off flying to the Eurozone and the USA, and they are looking at destinations with more favourable exchange rates instead,” commented Robin Goad, Hitwise’s Director of Research.

“There have been big falls in searches for flights to all of the most popular European holiday destinations over the last 12 months: France is down 45.4%, Spain 42.8%, Portugal 41.7% and Italy 41.2%.

Change in UK Internet searches for flights to popular destinations between 05/01/08 and 03/01/09:

• Turkey: -24.6%
• Dubai:  -27.1%
• Thailand: -32.2%
• Australia: -32.8%
• South Africa: -32.9%
• Caribbean: -34.6%
• Italy:  -41.2%
• Portugal: -41.7%
• Spain:  -42.8%
• France:  -45.4%

Australia and Turkey the top non-Euro/Dollar destinations for UK tourists

Of all the major holiday locations favoured by Britons, Turkey experienced the smallest decline in flight searches over the last 12 months – a fall of 24.6% compared with an average of 42.4% for all destinations.

At the same time, Turkey overtook Canada and Thailand to become the second most popular non-Euro/Dollar destination for British tourists.

Goad commented: “UK Internet users are becoming more sophisticated in the way they search for Turkish holidays. Increasingly they are searching for particular towns and resorts, such as Dalaman, Bodrum and Antalya, rather than generic terms like ‘flights to Turkey’ or ‘Turkish holidays’.

This is similar to the way people search for Spanish or Portuguese holidays, and illustrates how Turkey has become a mainstream destination for British holiday makers”. 

Australia remains the most popular non-Euro/Dollar destination for British tourists, accounting for almost a quarter of all searches for flights to destinations outside of the UK, USA and Eurozone.

Searches for flights to Australia have fallen by 32.85% over the last 12 months, but this is at a lower rate than for many other destinations. The recent release of the Nicole Kidman film “Australia” has had an impact on this behaviour.

For the week ending 05/01/08 the Dubai based airline Emirates, which is currently running a joint marketing campaign with Tourism Australia, ranked 11th in Hitwise’s Commercial Airlines category, up from 17th during the equivalent week in 2008.

Increase in searches for flights to Scandinavia, Brazil, Morocco and Cuba

Only five destinations have experienced an increase in flight searches over the last 12 months: Norway, Denmark, Brazil, Morocco and Cuba. Robin Goad commented: “The two areas that have benefitted most from the Pound falling against the Euro are Scandinavia and the cheaper sunshine destinations.”

The Scandinavian countries may still be expensive by global standards, but in relative terms their cost for UK consumers has fallen compared with other European countries. In terms of warmer destinations, the weak pound is encouraging people to look further afield for bargains, with places such as Brazil, Morocco, Cuba, Kenya and India all moving up the rankings over the last 12 months.

Destinations with the biggest increase (or smallest decrease) in flight searches between 05/01/08 and 03/01/09:

1. Norway +30.9%
2. Denmark +20.3%
3. Brazil  +19.5%
4. Morocco +2.1%
5. Cuba  +1.2%
6. Kenya  -7.8%
7. India  -12.7%
8. China  -12.8%
9. Hungary -13.7%
10. Singapore -14.6%

More information:

* Hitwise

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