Travel market research firm Phocuswright has released a report on the industry's "increasingly mobile landscape", showing how travel planning and booking behaviour is changing across all devices and channels.
It's a mixed picture for mobile travel planning. Mobile bookings are growing rapidly – as travellers become increasingly comfortable booking by touch and travel firms deliver a better mobile experience, they will almost double by 2016.
Yet desktop remains the biggest single booking method, with four in five travellers booking via desktop in 2014.
However, when it comes to the planning stages, mobile comes into its own. More than a third of travellers use their smartphone for destination selection and shopping.
That said, the majority still migrate to desktop to complete the final purchase. In fact, desktop conversion is up. The average monthly conversion rates rose 7% for OTAs, 2% for airlines, and surged 17% for hotels, according to the study.
Nonetheless, the winds of change are blowing for travel desktop usage, says Phocuswright.
Because more travellers are using mobile devices to plan trips, those who move to their desktops or laptops to book are further down the buying funnel, since they've already completed much of the 'legwork' on their phones.
Amid this landscape – consumers' shift to mobile – it's harder for the small guys to compete. The US market is dominated by just a handful of OTA brands. While traffic to the overall OTA category declined significantly in 2014, visitor volume to top-tier OTA brands was down just slightly or remained steady.
Meanwhile, the report shows a rise in mobile flight management activity such as check-in, flight status and loyalty account management. Travellers are turning to mobile apps rather than desktop for these activities.
For instance, as many as 40% of mobile travellers checked in for a flight on their smartphone in 2014, versus 24% the previous year. And more travellers are using mobile boarding passes too – this rose to 31% compared with 18% in 2013.
Phocuswright analysed traffic patterns and conversion across hundreds of online travel's biggest US sites on a monthly basis during 2013 and 2014.
Summarising, the report reveals two key trends: desktop traffic is flat or declining, while conversions are up.
But with one in four online travellers having booked via their smartphone in 2014, it's still all to play for between desktop and mobile. Most of the travel industry is fixated on mobile – and that's with good reason, says the research firm.