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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