The digital age has transformed the way travellers research and make bookings. With the Internet at their fingertips, holidaymakers can become their own personal travel agents with the ability to research, plan and book their trips online. But how exactly are consumers researching travel these days and how are they making those all-important bookings? Let's take a look at the top options and see how they measure up:
Search engines continue to be a primary method of research when it comes to planning trips. The mighty Google allows consumers to plan a holiday with just the inkling of an idea condensed into a search term. Research by Deloitte found that two-thirds of holidaymakers researched destinations online, a figure that could be set to grow now that Google has upped its game with the recent launch of Google Destinations for mobile. This new feature allows consumers to search a destination to reveal a number of flight and accommodation options as well as activities based on interests the user has specified. Consumers are then able to navigate to book their flights or hotel through Google. Will this make Google a strong contender for bookings in the industry? Only time will tell.
Direct through websites
A recent article published by Skift highlighted as a key trend for 2016 the battle between travel agencies and hotels for travellers' bookings, suggesting that hotels may even consider reducing their room allotments to online travel agencies this year. Figures from Atmosphere Research Group found that the share breakdown for traveller bookings was split with hotel brand websites and mobile at 25%, local properties' websites at 8% and travel agencies at 20% with the rest split between hotel phone reservations, walk-ups and traditional travel agencies.
Travellers have been empowered by social media and review sites with 46% searching for feedback or comments from other users when researching trips online. Of those that use these sites, 59% say they have the biggest influence on their booking decisions. This makes it more important than ever for travel companies to ensure they are managing their online presence effectively. Additionally, research shows that consumers are more likely to post reviews and experiences about a travel brand if they interact with them via social platforms. Travel businesses can encourage social advocacy as well as boosting their profile by using social platforms for customer service and bookings rather than just for marketing purposes.
Mobile vs. desktop
As we've said time and again, if you're not aboard the mobile train then you'd better get cracking to bring your company up-to-date. A TripAdvisor study last year revealed that 42% of travellers worldwide use their smartphones to plan or book their trips and a survey released by eMarketer last year demonstrated that 65% of same-day hotel reservations were made through a mobile device. Customer confidence in mobile is growing – ensure your website is optimised to provide a pleasant and easy user experience so as not to lose out on this lucrative and ever-growing market. eMarketer estimates that this year, over half (51.8%) of travellers choosing to book their trips digitally will do so with mobile.