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In the wrong hands, studies like this will encourage people to launch trip-planning startups. History demonstrates that’s not the best idea.
Some people truly enjoy planning a vacation, with all the excitement about choosing a destination, a place to stay, and what to do once you get there. But, for many travelers, trip-planning is considered a giant pain in the butt.
Along those lines, consider the results of a new Expedia Media Solutions study, performed in collaboration with Compete. The study found that travelers who visited a destination marketing organization (DMO) site, such as VisitBritain, within the 45 days prior to booking a vacation package on an online travel agency site, made 38 visits to travel sites before purchasing the vacation package.
This is the impetus behind the efforts of the Hoppers of the world, and similar trip-planning startups that have come (and fallen) before. But the failure of one after another of these trip-planning sites leaves open the distinct possibility that visiting multiple sites isn’t such a pain point after all.
In the Expedia Media Solutions chart, below, the study shows that those visits to travel sites increase dramatically to 15.5 visits on average in the week before the vacation package booking.
On the day of the booking itself, Expedia adds, these travelers visited about 16 websites overall, including nearly five to travel websites.
In a further illustration of the complexity of trip-planning, Expedia reserves seven pages in the report to lay out “an actual purchase path of a travel package booker” over a 45-day period. It is too extensive and convoluted to reproduce here.
Taking a look at the all-over-the-map nature of trip-planning from another vantage, the report shows a sample/actual purchase path of a cross-shopping session between DMO sites (including Naples.com and VisitFlorida.com) and OTA sites (including Booking.com, Expedia, CheapTickets, and Travelocity). The Expedia Media Solutions graphic also shows retail sites mixed in:
As far as the study’s methodology, it tracked consumers who had visited a DMO site in the 45 days prior to booking a vacation package on Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Travelocity, Orbitz, CheapTickets, or Priceline.
Interestingly, the study found that OTA sites dominate trip-planning for vacation-package bookers, taking a 47.2% share of visits. Other sectors’ share included airline sites (11.2%), planning and review sites such as TripAdvisor (6.8%), and DMO sites (6.4%).
Expedia says DMO’s share of visits have climbed 30% since 2010.
The study, though, is a thinly veiled Expedia Media Solutions pitch to attract advertising from DMOs and non-travel retail companies.
“Travelers checking DMO sites prior to visiting an OTA site converted 32 percent higher nine to 24 days ahead of booking,” Expedia states. “Alternatively, outside of that select time period, travelers visiting DMO sites did not convert as well, illustrating that a partnership between OTAs and DMOs has the potential to drive conversions and be mutually beneficial for both parties.”
Similarly, on retail sites, Expedia states:
“In the 45 days leading up to a package booking, retail sites were visited almost as frequently as travel sites. Vacation bookers visited retail websites 36.6 times in the 45-day path to purchase period, while travel sites were visited 38 times. During the week of booking, however, retail site visitation dropped while travel site visitation peaked. By leveraging a travel site partnership, a retail brand could potentially remain top of mind for consumers throughout the entire 45-day period.”
Expedia Inc.’s own vacation package business globally hasn’t driven the growth that the company once envisioned. But, the company says it has been showing some strength as of late, especially as Expedia-branded sites have migrated to a new technology platform.
Vacation packages, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said during the company’s second quarter earnings results last month, helped offset some of Expedia.com’s weakness in the U.S.
“… the brand Expedia package business is growing quite nicely,” Khosrowshahi said. “The beach vacation package business is growing again, and we think that’s, to some extent or to a large extent, the result of the replatforming that we have been working on for some period of time.”