WASHINGTON, DC— Travelers tend to be quite computer savvy, using the Internet at a greater rate than the general public, according to the Travel Industry Association of Americaå‘s latest Travelerså’ Use of the Internet study. Some 96 million travelers are currently using the Internet.
The number of Americans using the Internet for actual travel planning has increased dramatically since 1997, when only about 12 million Americans were planning and researching travel options online. This has risen to about 64 million online travel planners in 2002, showing only small growth over 2001. The rate of growth in the online travel planning market has slowed considerably, due to slower growth of “wired” households in the U.S.
While the number of online travel planners did not grow in the past year, these travelers are doing much more of their trip planning online than they did before. Forty-two percent say that they now do all or most of their trip planning online, up from 29 percent who did so last year. And as the Internet is being used more and more for trip planning, other ways to plan trips, such as calls or visits to travel agents or travel companies themselves, have declined rather steeply.
While the number of Americans planning trips online has leveled off, online travel booking continues to experience strong growth. In 2002, over 39 million people actually booked travel using the Internet—that’s up 25 percent over last year. The Internet is being used more frequently to make reservations, with 70 percent saying that they do at least half of their travel booking online, up from only 56 percent last year.
“Greater use of the Internet seems to be changing travel patterns in other ways as well,” remarked Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association of America. “The enhanced accessibility of last minute specials via the Internet, as well as low prices on last minute travel, is stimulating later booking patterns. This is one of the reasons TIA created the SeeAmerica.org travel portal, allowing consumers easy access to thousands of official travel sites throughout the U.S.”
Airline tickets continued to be the most frequently purchased travel products online, reported by 77 percent of all online travel bookers, followed by accommodations at 57 percent and rental cars at 37 percent. About a quarter of online bookers buy tickets for cultural events. Nearly as many buy travel packages, 21 percent, up significantly from last year’s 13 percent share. Among online bookers, over 30 percent reported spending $2,500 or more in the past year on travel booked online.