Smartphone travel bookings poised for big growth

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Smartphone travel bokings
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Travel bookings on mobile devices will surge within the next few years and will likely be used about as often as laptop and desktop computers, research firm Phocuswright said in a recent report.

In the U.S., the percentage of online travel bookings conducted on a smartphone or tablet computer will rise to 18% next year from 5% in 2012, Phocuswright forecasted in its 90-page report. (Phocuswright and Travel Weekly are both owned by Northstar Travel Media). 

In Europe, mobile bookings’ percentage of online bookings will jump to 22% in 2016 from 6% in 2012, while in China, that number will surge to 31% from 1% during the same time period.

So far, much of the smartphone travel activity has been in the destination-shopping phase or in last-minute hotel bookings. Of U.S. travelers polled last year, 35% used their smartphones to explore and select a potential travel destination, while 25% used their smartphones for booking reservations. By comparison, 78% of U.S. travelers used their laptop or desktop to select a destination, while 80% used them to pay for their trips.

Meanwhile, 72% of mobile hotel bookings through an OTA were made within a day of the stay, compared with 30% of mobile bookings through a hotelier’s website, while almost 90% of those OTA bookings were made a week or less prior to the stay.

That said, mobile travel bookings will become more commonplace as more people become comfortable with mobile payments. Last year, about 48% of those polled by Phocuswright were “comfortable” making a purchase on a smartphone, compared with about 33% in 2013. Marriott International, JetBlue and Priceline Group’s OpenTable are among companies either enacting or trying out programs that ease customers’ ability to pay via smartphone.

Additionally, more suppliers and intermediaries will provide what Phocuswright called “deep linking” between “walled gardens” such as TripAdvisor, Uber and Airbnb as well as Priceline’s Booking.com and Kayak, allowing a traveler to receive customized notifications and services during every stage of their trip. For instance, app users of both Hyatt and United Airlines can start their Uber bookings within those apps.

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