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Whoever believes that online travel agencies are down and out during this direct bookings push by hotels is sorely mistaken. Not only does this data show travelers still fully embrace booking sites, it also shows that they're increasingly using them on mobile devices -- a platform increasingly eating share from desktop.

This year hotels are making one of the biggest pushes they’ve ever made to convince guests to book direct but at the same time booking site mobile app downloads–and bookings–are significantly up compared to last year.

MMGY Global’s 2016 Portrait of American Travelers study found there was a 20 percentage point increase in respondents that indicated they’ve downloaded an online travel agency app during the past year based on the travel marketing firm’s annual study. Some 39 percent of respondents said they’ve downloaded a booking site app during the past year compared to 19 percent that said they did when MMGY asked respondents in 2015.

They study shows there’s also been a big increase in overall travel bookings through apps. Between 2013 and 2014 the percentage of respondents that said they’ve booked travel through a mobile app went from 24 to 35 percent. Last year it stayed about the same and from 2015 to 2016 it went from 36 to 45 percent, highlighted in Chart 1 below.

There’s also been increases in hotel and airline app downloads and those sectors have the most downloads overall, even more than online travel agencies in absolute terms. But it’s the online travel agency apps that have seen the most growth during the past year.

“Last year one of the things we were talking about was the precipitous drop in the use of online travel agencies in general,” said Steven Cohen, MMGY’s vice president of insights. “This year we see it back up. We believe that a lot of it has to do with consolidation and a lot of media spend primarily by Expedia and Trivago.”

“So what we see now is the similarity in bookings through an online travel agency is now translating into the high percentage of people who are downloading the online travel agency apps. We don’t ask people for the reasons why they’ve chosen to do that.”

Of course this doesn’t include desktop bookings for booking sites versus hotels and airlines and doesn’t imply that booking sites are completely dominating consumers’ booking behavior. But travelers are becoming more comfortable and trusting with booking on mobile and mobile booking experiences have seen improvements.

The data in the charts below come from MMGY’s online survey of nearly 3,000 active leisure travelers online during February 2016. Respondents live in the U.S. and had an annual household income of at least $50,000 or more with 815 respondents having an annual household income of $125,000 or more.

They also took at least one leisure trip of 75 miles or more from home during the previous 12 months and stayed in overnight accommodations. Respondents were nearly evenly distributed between males and females and between all generations. This survey has been conducted annually for more than 20 years.

Chart 1: Overall travel bookings through mobile apps are up in 2016 compared to 2015. Accommodations bookings had the largest percentage point increase, shown in Chart 2. Car rentals via an app are also significantly up year-over-year.

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Chart 2: This chart shows the percentage point increases in specific travel sector app downloads. For example, someone downloading the American Airlines app to book a flight directly through American Airlines. Respondents said they’ve downloaded an airline app the most (56 percent).

Online travel agency app downloads had a 20 percentage point increase year-over-year, and MMGY said twice as many people are downloading these apps than in the past. But while there is greater growth in booking site app downloads, they still haven’t reached the total number of hotel app downloads in absolute terms.

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Chart 3: Looking at what travelers are using their smartphones for during their trips, the percentage of respondents that said they’re sharing about their trips on social media stayed the same year-over-year while comparison shopping for airfares and hotel rates decreased and checking-in to locations through Facebook of Swarm increased.

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Chart 4: MMGY points out that using mobile boarding passes while in destination is notably up in 2016 compared to last year, but this is only for individuals.

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Source: MMGY 2016 Portrait of the American Traveler

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Tags: mmgy, mobile apps

Photo credit: TripAdvisor's mobile app. Skift

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