TIA study: Online bookings surpass phone bookings in the U.S.

For years, there have been predictions that one day online travel bookings would overtake telephone bookings. That day may have come.

In 2005, Americans booked more trips online than by any other method, according to a preliminary report prepared jointly by the Travel Industry Association and D.K. Shifflet & Associates.

The report found 35% of transportation reservations were booked online in 2005, up seven percentage points from 2004.

Supplier-direct phone reservations were down 16%.

Travel agents accounted for 4% of transportation bookings, down slightly from 2004, when agents made 5% of transportation bookings.

The trend was similar for lodging reservations, as 25% of travelers booked hotels online in 2005, up three points from 2004. Most used hotel supplier sites. Supplier-direct phone reservations for hotels fell 5%.

Agents accounted for 4% of hotel bookings, down a point from 2004.

The report also showed that when Americans book travel online, they spend more. On average, Americans spent $754, excluding transportation, on trips booked online. They spent $406, excluding transportation, when booking offline.

Trips booked online included an average of 2.3 activities, compared with 1.7 activities for those booked offline.

The average age of travelers booking online is 44, compared with 45 for off-line. The average age of travelers booking with travel agents was 49.

The TIA and D.K. Shifflet & Associates expect to release their full report in the fall.

The preliminary report supports research released by the TIA last November that found 75% of Americans used the Internet to plan trips in 2005, up from 68% in 2004.

In that report, the TIA said about 79 million people are using the Internet for travel purposes and that 64 million purchased an airline ticket, hotel room or rental car.

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