The Internet improved its position as the primary holiday booking channel as online reservations reached an all-time high last year, according to the World Travel Trends Report conducted by IPK International on behalf of ITB Berlin, the world's largest tourism trade fair.
The report revealed that 65% of all travel trips were booked online last year, which is an increase of 10% compared to 2012. By comparison, only 24% of holidays were booked through agencies. Mobile bookings are also gaining traction, seeing 2% growth last year.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by Tradedoubler Insight Unit suggests that the percentage in the UK could be much greater, as one in every five British traveller now books trips via a mobile device.
Mobile devices help make the search for travel information faster, according to Rolf Freitag, president of IPK International. About 70% of hotel bookings made from smartphones were decided on within a day, he said. The study shows that people will make quicker travel decisions once the supply becomes fragmented, so the travel industry needs to be ready for this, Freitag commented.
Social media outlets including Facebook, blogs and even Skype now have a major role in people's trip planning. Chinese and Brazilians are the most active social media users when it comes to journeys, but European and US holiday makers search for reviews from other people on these channels regularly as well, Freitag added.
As travel agencies increasingly flock to digital channels, it's critical for online travel operators to make sure their customers receive the best experience across channels. Poor navigation, links that do not work, payment issues or lack of information are all turn-offs for customers that might hurt operators' business. In order to avoid such issues, online travel operators need to work these out in order to remain competitive.
One way to achieve this is by adopting a better customer experience; click-to-call options and mobile-friendly websites can significantly improve the customer experience, and provide a link to existing channels to create a seamless experience for clients. Due to the growing adoption of various digital channels, people usually expect to have the ability to switch between them, which makes the online space a key area for investment that will help operators retain their competitive edge.
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