Consumers Highly Inclined To Purchase Vacation Packages Online, But Frustrated With Lack of Flexibil

Consumers are
increasingly open to purchasing vacation packages online, but frustrations
with the lack of flexibility in the planning process have kept completion
of such transactions low according to a study by Vividence Corporation and PhoCusWright Inc..   The companies today released their syndicated research report “Vacation Packages: A Consumer Tracking and Discovery Study” which takes a detailed
look into how consumers evaluate and make travel plans online.  The study focused on consumers’ response to the growing promotion of vacation packages, which many travel companies are hoping will help boost travel sales.  The firms monitored 1,500 consumers as they used the Internet to
research and arrange their next vacation.

The study discovered that, while only 28 percent of consumers have bought travel packages online in the past, the majority (68 percent) express a desire to do so for their next vacation.

Consumers Discouraged with Inflexibility of Most Online Travel Packages
Despite the inclination to purchase multiple services online, most
consumers (73 percent) express frustration at the inflexibility of travel
packages currently offered online, particularly with pre-packaged
vacations.  Consumers most often complain that they cannot select the
providers they prefer (50 percent) and that online packages often do not
include all the amenities they are looking to include (32 percent). 

The greatest interest was in dynamic packaging, or the ability to assemble
ones’ own vacation package.  The majority of consumers (68 percent) feel
that they can assemble a better package on their own, and often do so at
multiple sites.

Consumers Consult Internet, Family & Friends in Travel Planning
The majority of travelers (56 percent) already use the Internet to
research and purchase travel services.  The Vividence-PhoCusWright
research found that one in three users visited the Web more than 10 times
when planning their last vacation.  In addition, Internet research is the
most influential factor for consumers when considering travel plans next
to the personal recommendations of family and friends (59 percent).  In
comparison, travel agents (31 percent) and travel books and magazines (12
percent) are distant considerations. 

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Diverse Approaches to Online Travel Planning

Consumers cast a wide net when planning their travel.  While some
consumers (18 percent) purchased all their travel services (e.g., air,
hotel and rental car) from a single site, most consumers (40 percent)
booked travel services at multiple sites.  Seventeen percent purchased
only one travel service, and 19 percent did not purchase any services
online.

Although online travel agency sites (such as Expedia and Travelocity) are
the most prevalent places for consumers to research and purchase travel
services, destination and supplier sites are also widely used.  Search
engines (such as Google and Yahoo!) and online travel agency sites are the
most common starting points for travel planning.

Overall, the most visited sites were Expedia (1), Google (2), Travelocity
(3), Orbitz (4) and Yahoo (5).  While major travel sites garnered many
hits, consumers did not isolate their browsing to only top sites; more
than 2,000 different sites were visited by the 1,500 users tracked. 

Price, Convenience Drive Purchase

Perhaps predictably, price and convenience are the biggest drivers of
online travel package purchases with 84 percent of consumers reporting
price as an important driver and 78 percent mentioning time savings.
Interestingly, consumers were not strongly confident that they were
receiving a better value when purchasing a vacation package, suggesting
that travel firms must do a better job of communicating price savings. 

Florida, Las Vegas Top Winter Package Destinations

For their next trip, 60 percent of respondents indicated they are planning a vacation to a domestic U.S. destination, 25 percent to an international destination and 15 percent to the Caribbean or Mexico.  The top U.S.
destinations for 2004 travel are Florida (1), California (2) and Las Vegas (3); however Las Vegas and Florida are the most popular in terms of packages.  Researchers hypothesized that fewer travelers choose packages
when planning a vacation to California because of a greater need for
flexibility in traveling outside of metro areas. 
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