One in three adults regard speed as the main advantage of booking holidays online.
This rises to 51% among 16 to 24-year olds but falls to 16% among over-55s, according to TNS research for Travolution sister publication Travel Weekly.
However, respondents rated the best reason for choosing any booking method as “face-to-face contact” with a high street agent – selected by 35%.
Presented with a choice of 10 reasons to book holidays online, regardless of whether they planned a trip or how they would book, 32% agreed “it’s quicker”, 25% said “cheaper prices” and 22% picked ease of booking at home. Respondents were allowed two choices.
One in five (19%) regarded “easy price comparison” as an incentive, 15% “better value” and 10% “greater choice”.
Price appeared most important to those with children, 33% saying cheaper prices and 21% “better value” led them to book online, against 21% who named price and 12% value among those without children.
There was little variation by income, as reflected by social class.
Londoners seem more likely than others to rate the convenience of booking online the prime attraction: 48% of respondents in London said it was quicker, against 36% in the southeast, 28% in the Midlands and 26% in the north.
Given a similar choice of reasons to book with a high street agent, young adults (16-24) rated face-to-face contact more highly than adults aged 35-54, by 42% to 34%.
Londoners valued face-to-face contact less than others, just 28% citing it against 37% in the north and 40% in the Midlands.
One in five respondents valued agents for “good advice” (19%) or for providing “someone to research and book for me” (18%). A similar proportion (17%) regarded the value of a high street agent as “someone I can come back to”.
The latest TNS research shows a widespread “perception that there is a price advantage” to online booking, according to group director of travel Tom Costley.
However, half the 2,000-plus respondents agreed price was of secondary importance.
One in 10 (11%) said they would not go on holiday without getting a cheap price, 12% said a low price saved money they could spend elsewhere and 7% equated cheap with “good value”.
Young adults were most likely to rate cheap as “value”. However, two in five respondents (37%) explicitly rejected this, agreeing “good value is more important than cheap prices”, and a further 11% expressed “less concern” about cost because “holidays are very important”.
The focus on value rather than price rose to 45% among 35 to 44-year-olds and 47% among the better-off.
But there was less variation by region than might be expected.
The emphasis on price ranged from a prime concern of 26% in the southeast to 30% in London, 32% in the north and 33% in the Midlands.
TNS interviewed 2,079 adults face-to-face during the period February 8-12 as part of its TNS Omnibus survey.