has announced the findings of its latest Travel Index, an annual independent industry report exploring current opinions and trends amongst the travel industry (including airlines, travel agents, tour operators, travel journalists and industry bodies). The Travel Index reveals that the largest area for growth is expected to be online travel agencies (23%), with specific increases expected in tour operators online, online hotel bookings and dynamic packaging. The biggest market segment to grow in 2004 is predicted to be the ‘grey’ (55+) market traveller (33%), whilst more than a third of respondents (35%) also believe that corporate business travel will return to the levels last seen in 2000.
David Scowsill, CEO, Opodo said: ‘With the devastating effects of the Iraq War, ongoing health scares and a downturn in the global economy - 2003 was one of the worst-ever years for the travel industry. It is therefore very encouraging to see a positive and upbeat response from the travel industry for 2004.
The results support our view that this will be the year for online growth, as different sectors of the travel industry look to take advantage of the benefits provided by online distribution.
It’s equally pleasing to see that with an upturn in the global economy, business travel is predicted to return to higher levels that we’ve seen for years and that real growth is expected in new areas such as the ‘grey’ market.
It’s also clear, despite negative concerns recently aired in the media, that the industry is largely supportive of new security measures including new passport rules and sky marshals, although the majority (88%), also understand that there will be an effect such as longer check-in times and higher costs.’
When it came to areas for growth in 2004, a quarter (23%) expected online travel agencies to make the biggest impact this year, followed by low-cost carriers (15%) and online tour operators (15%). Offerings such as online hotel bookings and cruises are also expected to be big for the travel industry in 2004, as holidaymakers grow even more comfortable with booking other travel products, not just flights, online. However, more tour operators (14%) compared to travel agents (2%), believe an area for growth in 2004 will be traditional high street agencies.
Following the recent uncertainty over the introduction of sky marshals on planes and biometric passports, the Travel Index highlights the industry’s widespread acceptance of these new security measures with two thirds (67%) in favour of the new biometric passport rules, whilst well over half (58%), are in support of sky marshals. For those in favour of sky marshals, a third (33%) believe they would ensure the safety of passengers, while industry experts agree that they are important in increasing travellers’ confidence.
When questioned about the impact these new security measures would have on the industry, half of all respondents think they will result in safer travel. However, a third (33%) believe that standard check-in times will double from two hours to four hours while a further third (31%) think implementation costs will be too high and passed on in the form of higher ticket prices. Almost one in five (19%) believe these measures are not necessary and the US are being overcautious.
More than a third (35%) of respondents expect business travel to return to levels last seen in 2000, as the economy begins to recover, but it was airlines (50%), journalists (43%) and tour operators (35%) who were more optimistic about business travel than travel agents (14%).
The ‘grey’ (55+ years) market
When questioned about the growth of a particular type of traveller, the ‘grey’ market (55+) is considered to be the front-runner (33%) followed by package holidays (15%) and business travel (10%) in third place. Interestingly, travel journalists also believe that a new group of traveller - the ‘luxury backpacker’ (those in their 20s and 30s taking time out to travel before children) will see huge growth in 2004.
The research was conducted during January and February 2004 by leading independent research company, Dynamic Markets, questioning 100 travel agents, 50 tour operators, 50 airlines, 30 travel / holiday journalists and key executives of several travel associations.