US consumer travel spend booming, crossing major threshold in 2012

Economy fretting aside, the United States saw a historic uptick in consumer travel spending, reaching $100 billion for the first time in 2012.

This is a significant milestone, as the industry has shown consistent growth for over a decade – there’s hardly been a slowdown in the history of the online travel sector over the segment’s 15 year history.

In fact, the latest spurt shows a year-over-year growth of 9% between 2011 and 2012 – impressive stats that show just how important it is for all travel companies to have a solid online strategy.

The comScore data reveals the continued power of the online air travel booking sector, with the lion’s share of online travel revenues coming from airline bookings. Air travel accounted for nearly two-thirds of the US online consumer travel spend, while enjoying an impressive 10% year-over-year growth compared with 2011.

The winner on the airline side was United – clearly benefiting from the redirection of all Continental traffic in late 2012. The only other airline to increase its share – and only barely – was Southwest’s 0.2% increase.

As far as the online travel agencies are concerned, Expedia came out on top in 2012 with 31.6% share of page views.

However, there was a sizable 6% drop in EXPE’s popularity as far as page views goes year-over-year. With a 7.2% increase across other networks, Expedia’s loss was clearly others’ gain.

Travelocity also suffered a loss in page views year-over-year last year, dropping 2.4%

Hotels were also tracked by comScore in 2012, placing Marriott, InterContinental and Wyndham Worldwide in the top 3 spots.

Marriott enjoyed a sizable lead, although this lead was cut in half in 2012 by its nearest competitor, IHG. Other big gainer included and Expedia Hotels.

While Expedia Hotels was not available as as property in 2011, it came in with a 3.2% share in 2012 – an impressive showing for the first year out of the gate.

As far as losers in 2012, Choice Hotels and Hilton both dropped by 2 percentage points or more.

Study lead John Mangano, VP of comScore‘s Marketing Solutions for Retail and Travel, took some time to answer a few questions for Tnooz.

What does crossing this $100 billion threshold mean to the US travel industry?

Crossing the $100B threshold solidifies the travel industry as one of the top industries driving e-commerce and considering the degree of seasonality and elasticity in the travel space it shows how the industry in general is growing and healthy and how important the internet is to travel from researching travel destinations to booking the travel itself.

Marriott, Expedia and Southwest were top performers in 2012. Why do you think that is? What can other travel companies take away from this performance?

Each one of these websites were top performers in their specific categories:  Southwest Airlines accounts for 20% of the traffic to airline sites, 5 points more than the next closest competitor Delta, much of this is due to their low pricing and reliance on their website to drive most of their booking activity.  Marriott has a very wide product offering across many brands which has given it a solid position in the hotel category while the online travel agent space is highly competitive space that is dependent on active online marketing to drive traffic and getting those customers to return.  Expedia has 50% more repeat visits over the next best major OTA—that makes a big difference in this category.

What are some other effective marketing strategies defining the competitive landscape in the travel industry?

It’s a very competitive market and the key to being successful is having presence where people are making their plans, whether you are that destination site or represented there or having a strong presence on search engines.  Banner advertising is also becoming more targetable, measurable and verifiable than ever and those at the cusp of this are seeing greater degrees of success.

What are some effective strategies that you’re seeing for turning pageviews into conversions on travel sites?

Once you have been able to get the traveler to view the offer on the page—those who make it easiest to transact tend to do much better.  Some of the highest frequented sites often don’t have the highest amount of pages per view—this is because those sites are very effective in predicting their shoppers needs and pulling them through the booking process.

What’s the landscape look like for 2013? How about in the next 3 years?

It is pretty clear Google will be making some changesin the industry as they enter the space—and where google goes things change.  It will be interesting to see what they bring to the industry and how it responds to their presence.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.



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