Booking sites are prominent throughout the online trip-planning process for U.K. travelers and while they're one of the most used channels for booking, airline and hotel sites become more important when travelers are ready to pull the trigger. Offline travel agents and tour operators are big, too, but not covered by this survey.
As several major hotel chains engage in charm offensives to woo travelers towards direct bookings, U.K. travelers say booking sites are one of their most important channels for trip research and booking.
That’s according to a survey from Expedia Media Solutions and conducted by comScore that found U.K. travelers consider booking sites as the most influential online resource when deciding on a destination (see charts below). Booking sites are also the most common online resource they turn to first when deciding where to travel. comScore surveyed 817 U.K. residents online in March who were aged 18 and older and had booked travel online during the past six months.
The U.K. is the world’s fourth largest market for international tourism expenditure ($63 billion in 2015) and it generated 60.1 million trips abroad in 2014. Booking sites account for nearly one-third of U.K. travelers’ total share of site visits to travel-related websites within 45 days of booking, while accommodations and airlines’ websites made up 16 and 15 percent of the total share, respectively.
As Chart 4 highlights, U.K. travelers’ booking-site usage declines the closer they get to transacting, when hotel and airline websites become more top-of-mind. However, online travel agencies like Expedia.com and Booking.com remain one of the most utilized online channels for booking travel.
On mobile devices, U.K. travelers prefer accessing booking sites and other travel websites through mobile browsers rather than mobile apps. Respondents said they access booking sites through mobile browsers about 80 percent of the time they spent on these channels on mobile during February 2016 and said they got to hotels and airlines’ sites through browsers about 70 percent of the time.
Chart 1: Booking sites and search engines are the most common initial online resource that U.K. travelers turn to when deciding on a destination.
Chart 2: For U.K. travelers, booking sites and search engines are also the most influential online resources when deciding on a destination in the early trip-planning stages, although friends and family top the list.
Chart 3: During a 45-day booking funnel, booking sites account for nearly one-third of U.K. travelers’ total visits to travel sites.
Chart 4: The survey asked respondents which channels they most used during four stages of the booking funnel. Search engines and friends and family become less frequently used by U.K. travelers the closer they get to booking a trip. As it turns out, there is an 18 percentage point drop in booking site importance from when travelers first start researching to when they actually book. Booking sites are still the second-most used channel to book travel but 36 percent of respondents said they book airfare directly through airline sites, the most used channel for booking.
Chart 5: Right before booking, booking sites and airlines’ sites have the highest percentages of advertising recall, or the measure of how much consumers remember an ad they previously saw when they’re ready to make a purchase.
Source: comScore and Expedia Media Solutions
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Photo credit: A traveler searches for hotels on Booking.com, one of the most popular booking sites in the U.K. PlaceIt by Breezi