Online paid search and display ad marketing spend down in travel

A major analysis of the leading websites in the US has painted an interesting picture of some significant changes taking place in online travel.

Web audience metrics provider SimilarWeb examined five categories in the industry – airlines, cruise, accommodation, intermediaries and review/recommendations – to try and understand what is happening around areas such as digital marketing, traffic flows and device usage.

Before the individual sector results, here are some of the overarching findings from the study:

  • Mobile market share has grown year-on-year overall, although some sectors have seen a slight fall.
  • Decrease in spend on paid search, as well as display ads.
  • General fall in social media traffic to travel websites.

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For each of the sectors under examination, SimilarWeb looked at the top 25 brands in each from an overall traffic perspective.


The top 25 websites account for just over half (54%) of all traffic in the sector, although their combined traffic has decreased by 18% between March 2015 and March 2016.

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Review/recommendation sites

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.





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  1. Daniel Stankiewicz

    Interesting, I thought the big chains were out to drive direct bookings, after looking at these numbers it seems to be all talk.

  2. Mike Coletta

    Also likely due to changes in Google SERPs, fewer ad spots on the page (related to spend shifting to HPA/meta)

  3. Shannon DeFries

    Does this data also include spending in Meta Search programs like Hotel Ads, Flights on Google or Book on Google? Is it possible that portions of PPC spends are being displaced from search into those categories but essentially still going to the same publishers?

    • william beckler

      This data probably doesn’t include Google’s HPA placements. I believe they rely on scrapers and ISP data, which all needs to be updated to handle HPA. That stuff is probably reported as organic or referral. Metasearch is also probably reported as referral on similarweb.

    • Jonathan Marciano

      Hi Shannon,
      Thanks for your feedback. Unfortunately, we cannot see a breakdown beyond showing that Hotel Ads is a channel of paid search and Google Flights is shown within organic searches.


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