OTAs remain the top research source for US vacation package buyers, says Expedia
Online travel agencies continue to be American consumers’ favorite source of information prior to booking vacation packages, despite all the buzz about review sites such as TripAdvisor and metasearch sites such as Kayak.
The study of the path to purchase of vacation packages during the month-and-a-half before a US traveler makes a purchase — “Exploring the Traveler’s Path to Purchase” — was conducted by Compete, a digital marketing firm.
The research focused on Internet users who had visited at least one of the seven largest US-based online travel agencies (OTAs) and one of about 1,000 destination marketing organization (DMO) between October 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013 and who ultimately booked a vacation package.
The sample was not projected onto the US shopping public using statistical methods in the way national election polls are. But the study’s authors nevertheless say their research suggests insight into overall behavior.
A majority of visits to OTAs happened prior to the week travelers actually booked packages, suggesting that OTAs were a research source throughout the 45 days prior to booking. They trumped in popularity metasearch site Kayak, lead-generation site Travelzoo, and review site TripAdvisor.
The average person in the study visited OTA sites 8 times in the week leading up to booking, including about three times on the day of booking itself.
Expedia was visited more often than Hotels.com, Hotwire, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, Booking.com and Cheaptickets, says the research sponsored by Expedia.
Direct marketing organization websites continue to struggle, though they have gained somewhat in usage since 2010. The OTA package path conversion line for users visiting at least one DMO site in the 45 days prior to booking was 2.2% on average, though during visits to DMOs 9-to-24 days prior to booking the conversion rate increased to about 3%.
Expedia Media Services concludes that “a partnership between OTAs and DMOs has the potential to drive conversions.”
Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He is also a daily contributor of consumer news to LonelyPlanet.com.
He used to work for BBC Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and Kiplinger's, and used to live in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.