The number of people using the internet to book holidays has soared by 80% over the past year, according to new research published by Active Hotels.
The study discovered that much of this growth has come from regional areas in the UK, where twice as many people logged on to book flights and hotel rooms between September 2002 and 2003, in line with the increasing broadband and internet penetration into provincial territories.
City dwellers also increased their use of online reservation tools - by 60% - and some 14.2% of the total bookings generated by web travel sites in the UK originated from Europe.
The report, which surveyed 1,000 hotels in the UK, also found that there has been a shift in perception of the internet as a sales channel by hotel managers.
Active Hotels operations director, Dr Matthew Witt, said: “There is further evidence that hotel managers no longer see the internet as a distressed stock channel but as a valuable revenue source.”
However, the research found that while consumer bookings had increased, the volume of corporate travel boookings has slipped since March, from 42% of total web bookings to 33%. This improved in September to more than one in four reservations.
The study comes at a time when ebookers and lastminute.com are rumoured to be the targets for major operators such as Expedia, now that they have posted profits and continue to grow sales at a rapid rate.
InterActiveCorp, owner of Expedia, is also rolling out a UK version of Hotels.com and is known to have a £3.1bn war chest.