Online Travel Bookings Expected to Hit All Time High This Summer: $54 Billion


Online bookings for online travel agents, airlines, hotel, and car rental services have reached an all-time high, setting up this summer to be a record-breaking travel season.  This latest Adobe Digital Index report, which looked at 51.5 billion visits, reveals overall trends that illustrate the movement toward booking travel online and provides insight into the seasonality of online reservations.

  • Both direct and indirect booking shows double-digit improvement:  car rental sites are experiencing the highest bookings growth at 17.4% year-over-year (YoY) and online travel agents second highest at 13.5%.
  • The percentage of return shoppers, a metric which is generally equated with greater revenue per visitor and lower marketing acquisition costs, is up 1% and steadily improving, likely as a result of increased use of targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Tablet average booking value is up nearly 10% YoY and yield an average well over $600 per transaction.

It’s going to be a hot summer for online travel.

Based on an analysis of more than 150 mobile and global travel (airline, hotel, travel agency, car rental, cruise line and casino) websites from January of 2009 to April of 2013, online bookings to these travel sites typically peak in mid-July with the U.S.- based companies expected to hit $54 billion in Q3, a 10.7% increase over last year. Q4, which typically sees a decline in bookings, is expected to also maintain an 8-10% YoY growth rate. The Q4 fall-off comes from the hotel and car rental segments; however, airline bookings peak in October as road warriors return home and holiday plans are booked farther in advance.

Average Monthly Bookings

Car rental sites are leading the pack. Travelers are becoming more loyal.

Current trends indicate that car rental websites will see the largest year-over-year growth at nearly 20%.  All categories will see growth rates in the double digits except for the airline category, which is already the leader in overall online bookings.  The trends indicate that money is moving from offline booking methods to online, but not all of the new bookings are going to online travel agents.

Car Rental - YoY GrowthOnline travel sites are expected to receive an influx of new customers and gain momentum in loyalty.

Returning Shopper Trends

Previous Adobe Digital Index return shoppers analysis in the retail sector highlights the enormous impact of return visitors to each site’s bottom line: a 1% increase in return visitors equates to an additional $39 million in additional revenue per site on average. Improvements to the site’s proportion of return visitors also reduce marketing acquisition costs.  As more travel sites adopt new digital marketing technologies, which can specifically target content and marketing to existing customers, the trends indicate that they are making good progress in bringing back more return shoppers.

Booking via tablets rising quickly

Tablets drive 7.5% of all bookings and have become a major factor for this industry, but not all sites have become good at servicing them.  An analysis of the distribution of tablet bookings across all sites, indicated by the width of the shaded areas, demonstrates a widening gap between the sites that have optimized for tablet versus those that have not.

Tablet Share of Bookings Growth

As usage climbs, so does the amount of money spent per booking.  Average booking value from tablets has increased nearly 10% since last year to $636 per booking on average.

Average Booking Value

Page views per tablet visitor and time spent per visit from tablet sites have declined over time.  This may indicate that customers are generally finding it easier to access the content they need or more likely that they are quick to leave a site which has not been mobile-optimized.

Page Views per Visitor_Time Spent on Site

Onward and upward

Increasing demand and the continued shift from offline to online travel bookings continue to drive a surprising amount of new opportunity since the current shift represents a fraction of $600 billion industry. Additionally, new online business models and an improved economy may shift transaction volume toward direct channels in the coming years. Travel sites are among the leaders in capitalizing on innovations in personalization, targeting, and optimization marketing technologies and the results appear to be paying off.  There is always more work to do, especially around the increasingly complex array of mobile interaction points.  Many sites haven’t begun to deal with smartphones or tablets and are now faced with game consoles, Internet-enabled eReader devices and SmartTVs.  The industry will be in constant evolution and will continue to surprise and delight personal and business travelers alike as they take advantage of innovative new approaches to selling and servicing our travel needs.

Do you feel like you’re becoming more loyal to certain travel sites?  Do you prefer to buy direct from the supplier, intermediary, or neutral? I love the new mobile boarding passes.  Have you found a new online feature that you can’t live without?

Follow me on Twitter @tamarag for further insights into the travel and hospitality industry.

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