TIA, Forrester study shows Web can be a helpful tool in travel bookings

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Consumers like the Internet because they feel it gives them more control over their travel purchases, but many go back to the phone when booking complicated trips, according to a new study.

The study, titled It Doesnt Have to Suck: Making Web Travel Planning Better, was prepared by the Travel Industry Association in cooperation with Forrester Research and released at the TIAs TravelCom 2006 conference in New York. It reflects responses from 2,468 leisure travelers.

Seventy-two percent of leisure travelers are plugged into the Web, and the study says that they are increasingly using it to research and book travel. About 35.2 million households are expected to spend $74.4 million buying travel online. Another 20.3 million are expected to research online but buy offline. Sixty-eight percent said they went online to book trips to visit friends or relatives in the past year; 49% booked a weekend getaway.

Four-day vacations to one or two cities accounted for 39% of the trips booked during the past 12 months. Holiday travel accounted for 26% of online bookings.

The research shows that as trips become more involved, travelers become increasingly reluctant to book online.

Anniversaries/second honeymoons and honeymoons, for example, accounted for 6% and 2%, respectively, of online bookings.

The study found about 46% of consumers research their travel options online, then buy offline. And 63% said they used Web sites help pages.

Forrester recommended that Web sites take the following steps to improve the online buying experience for consumers:

  • Audit to find out whats not selling and what product information is not available online.

  • Rethink the way they present search results, including clearly presenting product details, destination attributes and rate restrictions.

  • Offer an internal keyword-based search engine to help travelers search for information online.

  • Let consumers store and retrieve information so that they can build on it.

  • Use third-party content to fill in certain information gaps.
  • To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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