Travel bookings are no longer the whole story as advertising and referral-based business models gain ground.
Just over half of the top 200 travel Web sites in February 2008 were booking sites. The remaining were referral and media sites, which attract travel shoppers with expert and traveler-generated reviews, metasearch capabilities, and maps of travel destinations.
PhoCusWright and Hitwise recently partnered to track and analyze the online travel space. The resulting report, Search, Shop, Buy: Inside The Tangled Web of Online Travel, evaluates traffic data from Hitwise to determine how Travel 2.0, the Long Tail and search are affecting the online travel space, tracing the trends that are emerging throughout the travel search, shopping and buying processes.
The report uncovered that search and shopping sites are having a major impact on the travel category, and their power is expected to grow as the slowing economy prompts travelers to spend even more time searching for travel deals. This trend underlines the need for travel suppliers and intermediaries to target search marketing and online advertising efforts based on a clear understanding of online travel shopping patterns.
Search, Shop, Buy: Inside The Tangled Web of Online Travel also exposes other trends impacting online travel including:
- While travelers continue to report shopping at an online travel agency site and then switching to a supplier site to book (and vice versa), online travel agencies and suppliers in fact lose more downstream traffic to competitors of the same type of site.
- Metasearch sites were initially hailed as a boon to suppliers, but online travel agencies are in fact the top beneficiaries of these sites.
- Despite the fact that two general social networks rank within the top 10 sites on the Web overall, only two travel-specific social networks appear within the top 200 travel Web sites.
The report also analyzes fast-growing travel Web sites based on increase in visits year over year, search engine traffic to the travel category, including search term patterns, and lifestyle descriptions for online travel shoppers.
Search, Shop, Buy: Inside The Tangled Web of Online Travel is available for sale and is immediately available for Global and Technology Edition subscribers.