Agents book the most rooms, but hotel sites are gaining fast

The most prevalent method for booking hotels in the first quarter of 2007 was travel agent GDS bookings, according to TravelClick's eTrak survey of 28 hotel chains. But reservations through the chains' own Web sites grew at the fastest clip.

TravelClick, a Chicago-based e-marketer for the lodging industry, found that Internet hotel bookings grew 21.9% to 8.8 million during the first three months of 2007.

Breaking down that statistic, bookings made on hotel Web sites climbed 22.2%, a slightly faster rate than the 20.6% growth in online agency bookings.

In tabulating bookings for online agencies, TravelClick included sales of retail, net-rate and opaque inventory.

In the first quarter, hotel chains were getting 82.3% of their Internet bookings from their own Web sites.

Travel agent bookings through the GDSs climbed just 0.6% in the first quarter. Phone reservations dropped 4.8% during the period.

The following was the breakdown of the various channels' share in hotel bookings in the first quarter: Travel agent GDS bookings, 35.7%; consumer bookings on hotel Web sites, 33.9%; phone bookings, 23.1%; and online agency bookings, 7.3%.

"Hotel Web sites have become the center of the industry's sales and marketing efforts," TravelClick said. "As consumer choice continues to broaden, hotel companies are increasing their focus on Web-direct bookings to ensure the consumer sees Web-direct as a viable option."

TravelClick saw positives in the decline of phone bookings, saying that "the voice channel is benefiting from synergies with the Web, as call volume continues to decrease while conversion rates increase due to more educated consumers."

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