t was former ASTA president Mike
Spinelli who said, "Internet, schminternet." At the time, it was
said that some consumers would go on the Web and look, but few
would book. Later, it was said that more consumers would go on the
Web and look, and some would book simple stuff, the occasional
"commodity airline ticket" or hotel room.
Now it is said that many consumers are going on the Web to look,
and many of them are booking and some of them are booking a
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The latest report from the Travel Industry Association contains
some sobering data for the brick-and-mortar side of travel
distribution. In its annual survey of e-travelers, TIA found that
59 million people went on line for trip-planning information last
year, and 42% actually bought some travel on line. That's 25
million on-line travel buyers in 2000, a number that nearly
quintupled in four years.
This is good news for consumers who think they have simplified
their lives and/or saved money. It's good news for suppliers who
think the same thing.
Is it good news for travel agents? The simple and most common
answer is still "hardly," but life and business are usually more
complicated than that. The Internet is clearly here to stay, but so
is the schminternet factor.
Some of this on-line business would never have gone through an
agency anyway, such as the family in the minivan looking for motels
on the way to Grandma's house. Some of the business is no longer
welcome at travel agencies -- the $99 airline ticket comes to mind.
And some of that on-line business is going through on-line travel
And an awful lot of the $13 billion worth of travel that was
sold on the Web last year was sold at a loss, judging from the
financial reports of Travelocity, Expedia and many others whose
ones and zeros have been uploaded to that great file server in the