Search volumes are up but conversions are suffering as consumers are put off by rising prices and are shopping around, according to members of the Travolution editorial advisory board.
The board met last week in London following Tuesday night’s Travolution Awards and discussed the current state of the UK travel market.
Google’s travel head Dan Robb said the search engine giant was seeing double digit growth in terms of inquiries but cost per click rates have fallen as customers become more promiscuous.
“The cost of converting those clicks could well be escalating because it’s taking more clicks to make a booking,” he said.
Francesca Ecsery, Cheapflights Media global sales director, said: “We have seen search activity grown double digit versus last year.
“Activity is there, people are interested, but in terms of conversion that’s a different matter. Prices are stopping people converting.”
Ecsery said now the industry has entered the winter long-haul market prospects looked better than they had during the more discount-driven short-haul summer market.
She said browsers were looking for deals, citing a recent Facebook campaign Cheapflights ran in the US in partnership with Vayama.
This saw Cheapflights double the number of ‘friends’ on the social networking site, Ecsery said.
Ian McCaig, Lastminute.com chief executive, said August had seen a strong lates market but that demand had softened in September and he predicted next year will be as tough as this year.
“I think we are going to see a tough demand situation. It’s broadly going to be soft demand for the next period of time,” he said.
“We had a good August, I’m happy with where we are but when you look at how hard we are having to work to get acceptable results, it’s taking a huge amount of work.”
Travel Counsellors managing director Steve Byrne said the agency , which has 800 UK home-based agents, was 14% up in September and was running at 7% up on 2008 figures.
“Our experience, and that of others like Trailfinders and Kirker, shows you are either in the super service relationship game or the commodity game; you cannot be between the two.”