Downturn has accelerated digital adoption, says Deloitte

Social media and review sites are having an increasingly powerful role in the holiday destination decision-making process.

New data shows that 86% of overseas and 91% of domestic travel transactions are now ‘digitally influenced’.

This includes direct online sales or multichannel transactions where consumers interact with travel agents, hotels or airlines across a number of touch points, including stores, online, social media, peer reviews and smartphone or tablet apps, according to research by Deloitte.

The study shows that 15% of UK travellers going abroad use online travel agents’ websites as part of their research before purchasing, 13% use package holiday websites and 13% price comparison websites.

By contrast, 12% of those researching for domestic travel went directly to a hotel website, 9% used hotel room price comparison websites and 9% browsed a catalogue or brochure.

Speaking at the Abta Travel Matters conference in London, Deloitte head of travel, hospitality and leisure Graham Pickett said: “The digital age has enabled consumers to broaden their horizons in their choice of holiday destination.

“The digital age has made a dramatic mark on travel purchases.

“Consumers have embraced digital media and are increasingly confident about interacting and making purchases online. They are turning to their peers or online communities for advice and to share information and opinions.

“Furthermore, the current economic uncertainty is accelerating the rate at which consumers are adopting digital behaviours as they rebalance their spending and turn to digital solutions to seek out savings and value.”

He revealed that increasing numbers are deciding to stay at home for their holidays this year citing the rising cost of Air Passenger Duty and a weak pound.

And with disposable income remaining tight, the affordability of long-haul travel is affecting consumers’ choice of overseas travel.

Though consumers are displaying restraint in their spending on big ticket items, research indicates 20% still plan to purchase a holiday in the next three months.

“Consumers are also waiting longer to book their trip in the hope of benefiting from a discount,” said Pickett.

“A 60% increase in last minute hotel queries year-on-year in 2011 has dramatically shortened the booking window. This has created the need for tour operators and travel agents to be smarter with the timings of their marketing activity.”

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