Report: The Cellphone Is Underrated as a Travel Inspiration Tool


Jan 17, 2014 11:30 am

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Tablets are trendy and we love them, but mobile phones are in consumers’ pockets, pocketbooks, hands or just a few feet away, and travelers are using them to dream of their romantic getaway in Tahiti (or Namibia).

— Dennis Schaal

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Ben Job  / Reuters

A model displays the Lumia 1320 smartphone during its launch in Abu Dhabi October 22, 2013. Ben Job / Reuters

Many travel companies have turned to iPads and other tablets when they want to inspire travelers to dream of their next vacations, but in so doing they may be short-changing the mobile phone, and they may want to rethink their app-development priorities.

A PhoCusWright survey of 2,200 U.S. travelers in the fourth quarter of 2013 found that 26% travelers broke out their phones for both destination selection and shopping, compared with 20% and 18%, respectively, of tablet users.

image001pcw So while tablet adoption has almost tripled since 2012 to nearly half of all travelers, the smartphone may not be getting its due as a device for travel inspiration.

“Desktop is still dominant, especially when it comes to booking, but the high incidence of phone use during destination selection suggests that, despite the limitation of the small screen, travelers are exploring, dreaming in their free time, on the couch, or in a meeting, with the device most handy,” says Douglas Quinby, PhoCusWright’s vice president, research. “That, of course, is the device right in their hand.”

The new statistics on device usage during the destination selection, shopping, booking, and sharing phases of the travel lifecycle are contained in PhoCusWright’s Travel Technology Survey 2013.

Travel companies clearly have to pay a lot of attention to tablet apps because consumers are multi-device creatures, and now nearly one out of every two travelers owns a tablet.

But when it comes to smartphones — with screen sizes getting larger in the past couple of years — travel companies need to heed the fact that phones are increasingly being used to sort destinations, get inspired and to shop.

In other words, it’s time for some dreamy images and creativity on smartphones; don’t save them all for tablets.

Travel companies pursuing a mobile-only strategy, unless the way travelers use their product is very niche and mobile-specific, are remiss to ignore the desktop, which in the survey found travelers much more comfortable using them for booking than they did with smartphones and tablets.

In line with that, according to the survey results, very few travelers use their mobile phone for bookings, and they switch over mostly to desktops and, to a lesser extent, to tablets.

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