The travel industry has been told to view search engines as brand-building vehicles instead of a distribution mechanism.
Yahoo Search Marketing UK category development director Nick Jones warned the industry it is missing a trick if search engines are measured purely on the number of direct bookings they generate.
Jones cited US research showing 50% of people said search made them consider a brand they would not have before.
The research also highlighted that 23% of people book travel six weeks after their first search, compared to only 22% who book within two weeks.
“Don¹t view search as a price-driven distribution metric,” he said. “The users’ experience of the brand is more important.
Hotels.com marketing director Patrik Oqvist labelled online search “the supermarket shelf of the Internet”.
He also criticised travel companies for failing to take advantage of the branding opportunities offered by search engines.
“Travel companies are starting to use search engines to build their brand. However, it’s still an afterthought,” he said.