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The online travel market has evolved rapidly over the past few years, with online travel agencies (OTAs) now accounting for nearly half of sales globally. Travelers can now browse innumerable offers to book at the click of a button in an increasingly crowded market.
But what are customers really looking for when booking a trip? What are the main drivers in choosing an online travel seller? Who influences them and how does it differ across countries?
These are some of the questions that are tackled in Digital Footprints series of reports which span the UK to North America and eleven other markets. The sample for this survey consisted of more than 1,000 British adults who have taken a holiday within the past year and use online travel agencies. Here's a more detailed look at some of the findings for the UK.
Travelers pay the most attention to friends and family
We found that 48 percent of the UK travelers still seek recommendations from friends and family despite the ever-increasing impact of online influencers. Digital does score when it comes to influencing travelers with 30 percent taking advice from online blogs and websites. Interestingly, in the digital era, the reports revealed that television programs were responsible for the choice of destination for 28 percent of travelers. Talking about devices, 61 percent of people prefer using a PC or a laptop when browsing for offers and destinations online, compared to 21 percent who prefer using their mobiles and 17 percent, tablets.
Waiting to book in the hunt for a bargain
Research also discovered that people in the UK leave a considerable gap between deciding where to travel and actually booking the trip, hoping to find a bargain, which supports some industry commentators characterizing it as a “lates market”. In fact, the research revealed UK travelers initially decide their holiday destinations five months in advance (for a five to 10-day trip). If it’s longer, they wait for six months to book after deciding on a destination.
Sixty-six percent believe that value for money is the most important feature when selecting an OTA, followed by traveler reviews and a one-stop-shop approach.
Personalization is highly valued, especially if it improves speed
Despite advances in technology, speed of booking in the UK has not improved perceptibly. While 55 percent say that they have seen no change, 27 percent of travelers suggest researching and booking online is more time consuming than two years ago, with 16 percent saying it takes less time. This may be indicative of too much choice or content fragmentation, which the travel industry continues to grapple with.
Over half of UK travelers want a more personalized experience with an equal proportion stating they are comfortable to share personal details to speed up their online booking experience. UK travelers also shared that they wouldn’t mind joining a travel loyalty program if they received more personalized offers and discounts; 83 percent cited that personalization was crucial to managing their inflight experience, such as selecting seats or choosing a specific meal.
On the environmental impact of travel, the study confirms the UK as one of the most environmentally conscious markets in Europe - uncovering that 62 percent of the UK travelers are concerned about how their journeys affect the ecology. Today over 30 percent of the UK travelers surveyed say that they are likely to choose a longer journey and pay more than the original plan to be environmentally friendly. Sixty-three percent say that they are interested in hearing about destinations that have less of an environmental impact – which provides a clear opportunity for OTAs with a solid ‘ecotourism’ initiative.
Want to find out more? Download a copy of Digital Footprints: Discovering Online Traveler Needs in the UK and look out for other market reports that have been published with more to come here.