Webtrends Recommends Best Practices to Help Travel Sites Increase Bookings

insights_phocuswrightPORTLAND, OR–Marketwired – Aug 26, 2014

PhoCusWright survey highlights the online research and booking tendencies of travelers:

  • Consumers use an average of 6.5 sites and devices to research before booking travel
  • 41 percent of travelers research travel using mobile devices smartphone or tablet
  • 55 percent of travelers prefer to book using a desktop or laptop even if they research using mobile

Given the number of steps involved in today’s average travel purchase, online booking sites are faced with serious challenges when it comes to understanding customers. In a recent travel survey sponsored by Webtrends and conducted by PhoCusWright, travelers who have taken at least one leisure trip within the past year involving a hotel or airline purchase were asked to identify the number of touch points that led to their purchase. Touch points are defined as both sites visited and devices used during the booking process. Survey findings include:

Travelers search multiple web sources when preparing to book trips, and the preference is overwhelmingly in favor of using desktops — 79 percent of travelers use online travel agencies/apps for research compared to 14 percent who use smartphones and 11 percent who use tablets.

Frequent travelers 6+ trips/year, big spenders spend $6000/annually on travel, early tech adopters and mobile travel shoppers use more touch points than the mean, indicating that these travelers do more research than average before booking.

Consumers aged 25-34 represent the most mobile-heavy shoppers, making up 38 percent of the total users who book through mobile. As consumers age, the number of touch points used to book travel decreases, identifying a key opportunity for sites to capture market share within that age demographic.

Top reasons travelers give for not booking via mobile devices are that they prefer to book via desktop/laptop 55 percent, the mobile screen is too small 31 percent, not ready to book when shopping on a mobile device 30 percent, and they are not comfortable booking via a mobile device 26 percent.

Travel booking sites have an opportunity to increase conversions and customer loyalty by providing a personalized, easy-to-use experience for customers who are using multiple devices. The following are five digital best practices suggested by Webtrends to help travel booking sites better understand their consumers and better focus their marketing spend:

1. Discover what matters to each individual traveler. In order to deliver relevant and personalized experiences to visitors, travel sites must take a sophisticated approach to the digital booking process by knowing each visitor on an individual basis. This allows brands to create the most relevant user experiences. By leveraging visitor-level measurement and optimization tools, brands can personally assist each traveler with his or her search and avoid the risk of that visitor booking elsewhere.

2. Understand travelers across their entire journey and on all devices. While you can’t control how consumers interact with your site, you can learn from that interaction — and learn to read between the channels. It’s not just about what a consumer did on a website or a mobile device, it’s about the journey and interaction between devices. For example, research may be done on a smartphone, but the user may ultimately book using a tablet. By painting a cumulative picture of consumers that includes both action and intent, brands can understand cross-channel flows and make informed decisions on where to invest both effort and spend.

3. Test everything across all channels. Whether it is flight/hotel booked or Average Order Value, metrics are essential to the travel industry. Constantly testing and measuring results allows brands to improve the booking experience and drive up KPIs — ensuring brands get the most yield for every dollar spent on marketing optimization programs. Evaluate your campaigns constantly and make adjustments regularly to see which messages result in the greatest return. Brands should continue to evolve the booking process because there isn’t a one-time fix. Channels should evolve depending on season, visitor demographics, travel pricing and other criteria.

4. Take immediate action. Every traveler has a purpose when visiting a site and historical data only tells part of that story. Real-time data is the clearest indicator of current intent, and using those in-the-moment insights to see what travelers are searching for and clicking on is the best way for brands to provide a relevant experience while the traveler is still engaged, regardless of channel or device. By reaching out to a visitor while that person is still thinking about the purchase, whether it’s through a pop up ad, an email immediately after he’s left the site or an offer for a lower fare, conversion becomes increasingly more likely. 5. Leverage technology that plays well with others. . Booking sites must have the flexibility to change and adapt in order to improve experiences for travelers across digital channels. When selecting tools, make sure you are leveraging technologies that are compatible and open. Otherwise, you may be forced to make compromises in your strategy in order to conform to a closed system.

via Webtrends Recommends Best Practices to Help Travel Sites Increase Bookings.

Voice interaction is changing the face of travel marketing – Travolution.co.uk

call centreWe all want to acquire new customers and gain the loyalty of existing ones – but what is really the key to achieving this? Travel brands are increasingly focusing on the digital journey to support the customer objective, but this does not help anything if the offline customer journey is ignored. It’s not just all about online interactions; there is still a real value in doing business over the phone.

It makes sense to focus on online, especially as in 2013, 72% of all adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 2008. The constant evolution within social media have dragged businesses’ attention to social and digital platforms. However, when it comes to actual conversions, 65% of businesses consider phone calls to be their highest-quality lead source. This is where the human side of the customer journey comes into play and the point at which the voice can make or break the sale.

travolutionvia Guest Post: Voice is changing the face of travel marketing – Travolution.co.uk.

London Tops MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index as Most Visited City | Global Hub

LondonLondon Tops MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index as Most Visited City Bangkok, Paris, Singapore and Dubai Round Out Top Five,

London tops the list as the destination of choice for international travelers for the third time in four years, according to the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index released today.

Now in its fourth year, the index provides a ranking of the 132 most travelled cities from around the world.Rounding out the top five cities are Bangkok, Paris, Singapore and Dubai, which are benefiting from a surge in international travel fueled by an expanding middle class, innovations in luxury travel and rising need for business travel. The index also indicates this surge will continue, even with more technology and collaboration tools available to businesses.

According to the study, London is projected to receive 18.7 million international visitors in 2014. Forecasted visitors to the rest of the top five cities include:Bangkok – 16.42 millionParis – 15.57 million visitors Singapore – 12.47 million visitors Dubai – 11.95 million visitors

“The index points to a continued strong demand and interest in air travel, both for business and personal travel,” said Ann Cairns, president of International Markets, MasterCard. “The recognition of this year’s top international destinations reinforces the continued importance of cities as business, cultural and economic hubs. And, that’s where we come in. Every day, we help consumers and businesses maximize all of the travel opportunities available to them, including a safe and secure way to pay no matter where they are across the globe.”

via London Tops MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index as Most Visited City | Global Hub.

Online travel agents: Sun, sea and surfing | The Economist

economist logoIn 1996, when Microsoft was still ahead of the big technology trends, it launched a small brand called Expedia Travel Services. It hoped to persuade customers to book holidays online. It was not an immediate success. Few households had an internet connection then and, just as importantly, most people thought the idea of buying a holiday through the ether not to mention typing their credit-card details into a web browser plain foolish.

Few think the idea crazy now. Expedia, which Microsoft sold in 2001, has become the world’s biggest travel agent see chart. Last year, through brands such as Trivago, Hotels.com and Hotwire, as well as its eponymous operation, its gross bookings were $39.4 billion. The third-largest travel agent is also an online firm: Priceline, whose brands include Booking.com, made reservations worth $39.2 billion in 2013. Last year online travel agents OTAs had combined bookings of $278 billion, according to Euromonitor, a market-research firm.

Indeed, when it comes to reserving flights, hotel rooms and rented cars for holidaymakers, the online-travel market looks quite mature in many rich countries. PhoCusWright, another research firm, reckons that online booking now accounts for 43% of total travel sales in America and 45% in Europe. Since much of the rest is accounted for by business trips handled by specialist corporate-travel agents such as Carlson Wagonlit, scope for the OTAs’ market to grow seems limited. That explains Priceline’s purchase, announced on June 13th, of OpenTable, a restaurant-reservation website, for $2.6 billion: it sees this as a way to earn commission on another chunk of tourists’ spending.  There are some big markets where online bookings have yet to take off.   Germans still typically arrange their holidays through traditional travel agents. Although the Chinese now spend more on travel in aggregate than any other country’s population, in 2012 they booked only 15% of their trips by value online, says PhoCusWright.   It thinks this will rise to 24% by 2015, making the Chinese online-travel market worth around $30 billion.  Much of the expansion will be driven by ambitious local firms. Ctrip, the biggest, makes most of its money from air tickets and package tours to Greater China. But as Chinese tourists become more intrepid—ranging farther afield and no longer shuffling around in big tour groups—online hotel bookings are becoming more important.  Ctrip’s hotels division has grown at an average of 25% a year for the past five years, according to Trefis, a stockmarket-analysis firm, and had revenues of $366m in 2013. It will not be long before it eyes Western markets more keenly.

To stay ahead, the big OTAs are having to follow their customers as they switch from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets.  By 2017 over 30% of online travel bookings by value will be made on mobile devices, thinks Euromonitor. In part this will be the result of OTAs making their apps more appealing by, for example, adding location services that help travellers find the nearest rooms and restaurants. But it is also because the way people plan trips is changing. It generally takes a family more than three weeks to book a holiday, from deciding to travel to clicking the “pay now” button, in which time they may visit seven websites, says Faisal Galaria of Alvarez & Marsal, a consultant. In future, travellers are likely to become more impetuous, he says, and smartphones appeal to those making last-minute bookings.

For those still surfing for holidays on their PCs, other technological advances are on the horizon.  Amadeus, which supplies the software behind many OTAs’ booking systems, is developing new ways to entice customers to the agents’ websites. One is to use browser-tracking technology to aim personalised ads at consumers, showing them the latest prices for trips in which they had previously shown an interest. Such targeted advertising has been common among non-travel retailers for some time. However, until now it has proved trickier for the travel business as it involves collating frequently changing data from many airlines and hotels.

Gorilla marketing

Even with help from such marketing tricks, the smaller OTAs will find it increasingly hard to compete with the big two. Online travel is an industry in which size counts. The scale of Expedia and Priceline means they can sign up more hotels, and negotiate better prices, than their smaller rivals. This is a business that requires heavy spending on marketing, which hands another advantage to the big two.  OTAs will spend more than $4 billion this year on digital advertising, according to eMarketer, also a research firm; and Priceline and Expedia will account for over half of this. Some smaller rivals may find profitable niches, but in general it will be hard for them to grow. Whenever they open a door, “there are already two 800lb gorillas fighting it out in the room,” says Mr Galaria.

Not only gorillas. The observant may also spot an elephant in the room.  In 2010 Google bought ITA, a maker of flight-search software, and the next year it launched a flight-comparison website. The giant search company has also improved its hotel listings by including photographs and virtual tours, as well as price information. It has the clout to disrupt Expedia and Priceline if it so wishes. It has not done so yet. Google, many believe, would be loth to cannibalise such a large chunk of its main business: analysts think the big two will account for as much as 5% of its advertising revenue this year.

So besides Ctrip, perhaps the biggest threat to the big two OTAs is TripAdvisor, a popular travel-reviews site spun off by Expedia in 2011. This month it said travellers would be able to book hotels directly through its smartphone app. Weeks before Priceline’s deal with OpenTable, TripAdvisor announced it was buying La Fourchette, another online restaurant-booking service. The online-travel market is consolidating fast, but so far holidaymakers need not worry about a lack of options

via Online travel agents: Sun, sea and surfing | The Economist.

Shaping the Future of Travel in the GCC – a landmark FREE Report from Amadeus

Shaping the Future of Travel in the GCC – a landmark FREE Report from Amadeus.

It has been an absolute privilege today to take part as the moderator in the launch of a landmark study and event organised by Amadeus.  Their new report on the Future of Travel in the GCC is undoubtedly one of the best ever and most important travel industry related reports conducted in the region.

Drawing on the expertise of industry leaders across 22 travel brands and insights from over 1,000 end travellers this report describes the key effects that will shape the future of travel for this exciting and important part of the world.

amadeus new logo on blueThe headline “Big Effect” is that rapidly changing demographics will fuel a major shift in GCC travel over next 15 years.  The coming-of-age of the GCC’s youthful population will reshape the travel industry in the region over the next fifteen years, as digital natives instinctively turn to mobile technologies and social media to plan, book and manage travel.

Today, nearly 25% of the GCC population is under 15 years of age, and as this demographic becomes tomorrow’s decision makers, it will shake up traditional behaviours to become increasingly self-directed. As outlined in the Amadeus-commissioned new report, Shaping the Future of Travel in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Big Travel Effects, additional unfolding demographic forces such as a steady inflow of expatriate workers, robust natural population growth and a growing middle class, will combine to drive a new and divergent set of travel behaviours and needs in the region.

The report, written by Frost & Sullivan and Insights and commissioned by Amadeus, examines and contextualises the various ways a new travel landscape will develop in the Gulf region over the next fifteen years.

“The Gulf region is poised for a new era of travel as investment in infrastructure, new tourism sectors, and governmental initiatives to ease intra- and extra-regional movement make the GCC more attractive to leisure and business travellers,” said Antoine Medawar, Vice President, MENA, Amadeus. He added, “The travel providers who address the nuanced needs of the region’s population stand to thrive in the coming decades. At Amadeus our people, our technology and our innovation are dedicated to helping our customers and partners to shape the future of travel in this region.”

Further key findings include:

Economies in the GCC are diversifying beyond oil, and specialist tourism sectors such as cruise, meetings and conferences and medical tourism play a prominent role in this diversification. As a result, GCC countries have maintained an average GDP growth of over 5% in the past decade, with a greater increase expected in the future.

Tourism will have a trickle-down effect into other sectors, furthering economic growth and diversification. Hospitality and construction in particular will benefit as the number of travellers entering or passing through the region increases -Qatar expects 3.7 million tourists in 2022 due to the FIFA World Cup and is investing $20 billion on tourism infrastructure and $140 billion on transport.

The GCC is working to make travel easier, both within the region and outbound. The difficulty of obtaining a visa has been the main reason for 33% of travellers surveyed not taking trips as often as they would like. By improving accessibility within the region and abroad, the number of intra-regional travellers is expected to increase four-fold by 2030.

“Travel in the Gulf region is changing. Economic diversification and a move from oil is an important driver, but there are many more subtle factors also at play. Changes in population and geopolitical pressure to open borders and make movement easier are also impacting the future of travel here,” observed Mona Faraj, Managing Partner, Insights.

The report was informed by a survey of some 1,000 travellers from the region as well as interviews with thought leaders in the travel industry. It highlights the technologically savvy and growing population of the GCC and predicts a travel landscape will develop in the region that is highly connected, personalised, and sustainable.

To download a free copy of the report “Shaping the future of Travel in the GCC: Big Travel Effects” please visit:

http://www.amadeus.com/blog/05/06/middle-east-report/

Understanding NextGen Travellers Crucial to Shape The Future of Travel

amadeus new logo on blueNext gen Traveller Panel 2Adults who travel frequently, are tech-savvy, and are substantial Internet and social media users are poised to be the heavy travel consumers of the future. But how can the travel industry enrich the experiences of this digitally native generation?  Next gen Traveller PanelThat’s the question we sought to explore at our recent panel discussion in Dubai – entitled ‘Trending with NextGen Travelers’, which brought together some of the region’s top travel players to discuss this incredibly empowered traveller type. Building off the Amadeus NextGen research report– the event aimed to focus not on the technology itself – but rather where it can and will make the most difference.Moderated by Duncan Alexander, Head of Pacific Asia Travel Association, West Asia, the panelists included, our very own Antoine Medawar; Alana Witte, Director, Middle East and Africa, Revinate.com; Ali Draycott, Director, YouGov; Mohamed Al Rais, Deputy Managing Director, Al Rais Holidays; and Abdullah bin Omeir, Deputy CEO, Omeir Travel.

via Understanding NextGen Travellers crucial to Shape The Future of Travel.

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Tourist numbers surge to 1.1 billion | Sky News Australia

English: Tourist buses and the Great Pyramid o...

. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

International tourist numbers surged to nearly 1.1 billion in 2013 with growth in the Asia-Pacific region leading the industry to a strong year despite global economic troubles, the World Tourism Organisation says.The number of international tourist arrivals grew by five per cent from the previous year to 1.09 billion in 2013, said the Madrid-based UN body.That figure is expected to grow again by 4.0-4.5 per cent in 2014, the organisation said in a report.Tourist arrivals rose at the fastest rate in the Asia-Pacific, where numbers were up by six per cent to 248 million, it said.Europe, however, remained the biggest destination, with international tourist arrivals up five per cent to 563 million.Among countries of origin, Chinese tourists – already leading the way with expenditure of $US102 billion $A116.59 billion in 2012 – pushed up total spending by 28 per cent in the first nine months of 2013, the UN body said.Tourists from Russia, the fifth largest country of origin of international tourists, drove up spending by 26 per cent in the same period, it said.

via Tourist numbers surge to 1.1 billion | Sky News Australia.

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Travel: A marketer’s guide to the modern traveller | Trends | Marketing Week

UK holiday companies face a brighter future, but the recession has changed people’s travel and booking habits, finds new research.A Butlin’s Redcoat, the actor James Nesbitt and an ogre may not have much in common but they are all characters trying to sell holidays on TV this January, one of the busiest months of the year for booking breaks away. Since 2008, the travel industry has had a rocky ride but there are signs that things are getting steadier, with TUI Travel, owner of Thomson and First Choice, announcing a pre-tax profit of £473m, up 21 per cent for the 12 months to 30 September. Meanwhile, rival Thomas Cook’s pre-tax profit for the same period rose to £263m, 49 per cent up on last year’s figure. But while the going may be less choppy with 34 million British consumers taking holidays every year, how people shop for breaks is changing and travel brands must take these trends on board to target the modern holidaymaker effectively, according to new research by Kantar Media TGI.

via Travel: A marketer’s guide to the modern traveller | Trends | Marketing Week.

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Europes OTA Market Ripe for Consolidation as Booking, Expedia Battle for Share | Travel Research – Industry Events – PhoCusWright Conference

PhocuswrightEuropes fragmented online travel agency OTA market is giving way to consolidation as pan-European OTAs rapidly gobble up market share. According to a new PhoCusWright European and Global Edition report, after jumping 16% in 2012, OTA gross bookings are projected to sustain double-digit growth through 2015, driven by fierce competition among global heavyweights.Pan European brands, led by Pricelines Booking.com and Expedia, increased their share of the regions OTA market to 64% in 2012, up from 60% the previous year. By contrast, just four brands controlled 95% of the more mature U.S. OTA market in 2012, a possible harbinger of things to come.\”Further consolidation is inevitable in Europes OTA market as global players take center stage,\” says Luke Bujarski, PhoCusWrights director, research. \”With the global brands leveraging their momentum and marketing dollars to outcompete each other, regional players will find it increasingly difficult to compete in Europes lucrative hotel segment.\”Booking.com is increasingly turning Europes OTA battle into a single-horse race. The popular hotel booking website now commands over 30% of the regions OTA market.

via Europes OTA Market Ripe for Consolidation as Booking, Expedia Battle for Share | Travel Research – Industry Events – PhoCusWright Conference.