Simon Powell, chief executive, Comtec (Europe)
The web is now firmly established as a mainstream distribution channel for the travel industry. Research conducted by Comtec’s strategic partner, Amadeus, reinforces the view that the online channel is now foremost in consumers’ minds when they plan and book travel. Consumers have driven the growth and they will shape it by demanding improvements to their online experience.
Travel companies now compete in a marketplace where the online channel is the most important information source for consumers when planning and booking trips for pleasure. More than double the number of consumers browse for information and advice on travel agent and tourism sites compared with those who contact an agent (59% compared to 24% for their last leisure trip).
Brand remains important to consumers conducting travel-related searches, with 60% of the 100 most-used travel search terms being brand specific and the top 10 search terms including leading travel brands. However, consumers can be fickle and will consider alternative suppliers according to their online experience.
Some 56% of consumers state an ability to book online influences their choice of supplier and Hitwise UK reports an increasing trend towards movement between travel websites. Around 33% of visits come from other travel-related sites, the highest level of comparison shopping of all e-commerce sectors.
However, growth results in stronger competition and to compete effectively online, travel companies need to offer consumers new products, richer content, an optimised booking journey and the personal touch.
Leading travel companies leverage technology to create website stickiness and promote customer loyalty. In our experience, consumer-friendly features (such as providing a comparative search across types of product), offering travel essentials at precisely the right time and optimising the search and booking journey path are fundamental requirements for travel companies to compete effectively online.
Fig 1: When planning your last trip for pleasure (i.e. not for business purposes), which of the following, if any, did you turn to for information or advice?
Fig 2: When selecting a flight provider, which of the following services influence your choice of provider?