, the online travel service backed by nine of Europeå‘s leading airlines, today announced the findings of its first Travel Index - an in-depth report exploring current opinions and trends amongst the travel industry (including airlines, travel agents, tour operators, travel journalists and industry bodies).
Caption: David Scowsill
Chief Executive Officer - Opodo
The Index reveals that despite the current threat of war and terrorism, the industry is collectively optimistic for 2003 with 83% expecting overall improvement. The majority of respondents (55%) believe that increased online booking will have the biggest impact on the market in 2003. Not surprisingly, the growth of low-cost carriers and online travel companies came 2nd and 3rd respectively. These factors outweigh even the threat of terrorism (43%) and potential war with Iraq (33%).
, CEO, Opodo said ‘Travel is one of the most interesting, challenging and adaptable industries in the world, affected by everything from major world political events to the growth of new technology. We therefore believed it was important to commission the Opodo Travel Index to deliver a voice for the industry on important trends and issues, which will sit alongside credible factual research that already exists.’
Almost three quarters of respondents agreed that an increase in online travel bookings would be the biggest change the industry will face over the next five years. Increases in cheap fares were viewed as being the second biggest change, (58%) whilst 47% believed the reduction of the number of High Street agents would be the third.
Over the next year, nearly half of the industry agrees that low-cost carriers’ websites will be the strongest single online sector, followed by online travel websites (17%). Traditional travel agent’s websites came in last with 5%.
‘Forecasts show that on-line travel sales will grow from 4.5 billion Euros to anywhere between 12 to over 38 billion Euros by 2006. The reality is likely to be somewhere in between. This potentially means that high street travel agents will lose market share and will need to look at how they re-invent themselves in a changing market. While face-to face-counts for a lot, so does price, choice and convenience. We’ve proven the price proposition. Through technological developments, increased concentration on customer care and a wider availability of products like accommodation, insurance and car hire, the mass market will come to depend on the Internet as their personal travel organiser.”
Low-cost carriers were also applauded for delivering the biggest positive impact in 2002, by over a third of the industry in the Travel Index. Said David Scowsill, ‘Low-cost carriers have been incredibly successful in driving prices down and online bookings up. However, distribution could be a major issue for them if they continue to market only via their own websites. Go recognised this at an early stage, so it will be interesting to see if Easyjet will follow suit by making its flights available via other distribution channels.’
War and terrorism
Over half predict that it will take the tourist industry of countries affected by terrorism only six months, rather than a year, to recover. Almost half the UK’s travel industry agrees that European travellers are more resilient than US travellers to the threat of terrorism. A further 41% believe that we will actually become more desensitised over the next year. And although 33% felt a war with Iraq would have an impact on travel and tourism, the majority of the industry (53%) believe that people will not stop travelling, during a conflict, they will just choose alternative destinations.
‘If the war is fast, contained and the industry is prepared as we and many airlines are, the impact on bookings should be limited. We’ve seen no decrease at Opodo, in-fact January has been our most successful month to date. Confidence is the crucial barometer, and is more stable in these volatile times than it was during the last Gulf War when bookings still recovered after the cease-fire. We launched just after 9/11 and have smashed all our targets in the UK, France and Germany. I wonder if people are becoming a bit numb to the daily headlines about terrorism, and are fighting back in their own way by choosing to get on with their lives.’