Most Web searchers take their time before booking

Travel search engines like Yahoo, Google and MSN fuel bookings online and off-line. But the majority of travel purchases occur well after the initial search session, according to a study by comScore Networks.

The study, which was commissioned by Yahoo and interactive advertising network Media Contacts, consisted of a survey of 500 consumers and observation of a comScore panel of Web users in April and May.

The Role of Web Search Within the Travel Research Cycle found that almost one-third of the estimated 35 million consumers who searched online for travel in April made a booking online or off-line within eights weeks of their initial search.

Though they were using the Web to research their travel options, 20% later made their purchases off-line, the study found.

The study highlights how companies that depend on off-line channels can effectively use online search advertising or free listings to land incremental bookings.

For those who booked off-line, cruises (35%) were booked most often, while airline tickets (12%) were booked the least. Car rentals were booked 15% off-line.

Weve long known that the Web is an invaluable resource for travel planning, and now weve further quantified the impact of search engines in driving travel bookings, said James Lamberti, vice president of comScore Search Marketing Solutions.

The latent and multichannel effects of search are particularly noteworthy, Lamberti added. For every travel purchase occurring directly after a search referral and additional five search-related purchases occur at a later time, across both online and off-line channels.

In other findings, 85% of survey participants said Google, MSN Search and Yahoo Search are much more or somewhat more valuable travel resources than off-line tools.

Fifteen percent of respondents indicated that off-line tools are somewhat or much more valuable travel resources than the three major search engines.

Regarding the latent impact of Web searching, the study found that 20% of the travel bookings occurred directly after the search referred the consumer to a booking source, whether online or off-line.

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