PhoCusWright survey shows 21 million online travelers

PHOENIX—The number of Americans who bought travel online last year grew to 21 million people, nearly doubling the Internet travel market for the second consecutive year, according to The PhoCusWright 2000 Travel E-Commerce Survey. PhoCusWright, Inc., an independent Internet travel intelligence company, today unveiled the results from its third annual research survey that takes an in-depth look at the customer experience.The survey findings help determine what makes shoppers choose one service over another when it comes to buying travel online; which features make them most likely to return; and what, if anything, inspires loyalty.
“Despite all the recent talk of `easy dot-com, easy dot go,` it`s amazing that online travel buying has been embraced by one-tenth of the adult population,” said Philip Wolf, president and CEO of PhoCusWright. “Consumers continue to defy the skeptics with an insatiable appetite for anything and everything online travel.”
Online travelers who rely solely on the Internet for travel purchases cite
cost savings as the determining factor. Thus, the perception that online travel agents offer the best price is an overwhelming advantage for these retailers.
Some 54% of online travelers say price is the most important factor in buying travel through this channel, followed by reliability (20%), ease-of-use (16%) and customer service (9%).
According to PhoCusWright, objections to travel e-commerce are disappearing, as online travelers become more comfortable with Internet purchasing.
Of those surveyed, 755 have bought some product online, up sharply from 44% in 1998. Most critically, the rise in travel e-commerce does not simply represent one-time customer usage: millions of buyers keep coming back for more.
“The challenge is not finding new users—10 million Americans bought travel online for the first time this year,” said Lorraine Sileo, vice president of information services at PhoCusWright. “The challenge is keeping online buyers as loyal customers.” Other key results include:
* Of the 21 million online travel buyers in 2000, 7 million of them now buy travel exclusively online.
* Online travelers who usually buy their personal travel online have grown from 10% in 1998 to 27% today—now 13 million individuals.
* Online travel buyers take more trips on average than non-buyers—5.8 vs. 3.6. They take more business trips (3.6 compared to 2.0) and more personal trips (2.3 vs. 1.6).
* Online travel sites have moved into first place as the research tool of choice for leisure travelers. Further, 44% of those surveyed use one or more travel-specific Web sites when researching personal travel, up sharply from 28% in 1999.
* Nearly all, 91%, of online travel buyers say they picked the main online travel service they`ve used because “it seems to have good prices.” Ease of use ranked second at 80%.
The PhoCusWright survey was conducted by telephone among a random sample of Americans across the country. More than 10,000 individuals were contacted to obtain a sample of 505 “online travelers”—Americans who`ve flown via commercial carrier in the last year and used the Internet in the last month.