Most economic indices now suggest that consumer demand for travel services will recover nicely in the year ahead. However, this doesn’t mean consumers are ready to pay higher fares and rates just yet, Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership reported in his March Insights blog.
“In fact, the results of our soon-to-be-released 2011 Portrait of American Travelers reveal that value remains in vogue, and that travelers are still focused on finding the best fares and rates when planning and purchasing travel services, whether for business or leisure. This should come as no surprise as the memory of their personal financial angst caused by the Great Recession still looms large,” Yesawich said.
So, where do travelers think they get the best prices, or value, on travel services? According to the study, they generally get best prices on travel services from online travel agency websites (48 percent), from travel supplier websites (35 percent), over the phone from a travel supplier (11 percent) and over the phone from a travel agent (6 percent).
“It comes as no surprise that the Internet is the shopping vehicle of choice (particularly among travelers less than 35 years of age), and the ability to comparison shop fares and rates across multiple travel suppliers is, increasingly, the reason cited why,” said Yesawich.
“Consumers’ belief in the likelihood of finding the best deals online is also the primary reason they typically use online travel agency sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline when shopping for travel services. The incidence of visitation of these sites clearly dominates that of supplier travel websites (their low fare and price guarantees notwithstanding), yet it is interesting to note that visitation of the sites that are most likely to yield the best deals (meta search sites) remains low,” Yesawich continued.
Specifically, only one in seven travelers has even been to a meta search site, Yesawich reported. Even fewer have visited private sale and/or collective buying sites. This is presumably because the latter don’t enjoy the same degree of awareness among consumers, yet this is also likely to change in the year ahead:
According to the report, when booking travel, consumers typically use an online travel agency (62 percent), a branded supplier site (46 percent), a metasearch site (14 percent), a traditional travel agent (9 percent), a collective buying site (5 percent) and a private sale site (5 percent).
Yesaich also reported that the report showed that, for most travelers, the recommendations of family and friends as well as travel guidebooks are the most preferred sources of information when it comes to planning a trip.
“Specifically, family and friends (52 percent) and travel guidebooks (46 percent) still trump Internet search engines (39 percent) as preferred sources of ‘ideas and inspiration’ when planning leisure travel,” Yesawich said. “Thus, the most effective destination and travel service supplier marketing strategies must include both offline and online components.”