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Nontransactional Travel Sites: Complement or Competition?

Nontransactional Travel Sites: Complement or Competition?

Companies no longer need to sell travel to be a major online travel player. Over the past several years, the online travel marketplace has evolved to include a full range of nontransactional Web sites that complement and at times compete with transactional sites for consumer attention.

Travel sellers must consider the special positioning of these new intermediaries and the extent to which nontransactional travel sites influence travelers’ purchasing decisions. Nontransactional sites are those whose primary purpose and revenue model is something other than directly selling travel. These sites generally include travel media sites, travel referral sites and metasearch.

“Before consumers ever hit the ‘book now’ button, they undergo a whole process of gathering, qualifying and comparing travel options,” says Carroll Rheem, director, research at PhoCusWright. “Both metasearch and review sites are designed to help consumers in this often cumbersome decision-making process. Therefore, it is not surprising that the popularity of these types of Web sites has grown significantly over the past several years.”

PhoCusWright partnered with Compete to examine metasearch and planning and review Web sites to determine the impact they have on the conversion rates of shoppers who visit them. As of June 2009, Kayak is by far the most significant site in the metasearch category, leading with nearly 7 million monthly unique visitors. “TripAdvisor and Kayak represent two of the most exciting brands in the travel space today and they both offer a multitude of products. We wanted to take a closer look at which elements of their content and functionality consumers are gravitating toward and what impact they have on booking behavior,” adds Rheem.

Nontransactional sites were found to benefit suppliers more than they benefit online travel agencies (OTAs). Supplier shoppers who also visit nontransactional sites exhibit an increase in conversion rates across all products and categories. For OTA shoppers, cross-visitation with nontransactional sites often corresponds to either no increase or a decline in conversion rates.


PhoCusWright’s Online Traffic and Conversion Report: Metasearch, Reviews and Other Nontransactional Categories is a groundbreaking study of online traffic and conversion trends and reveals how nontransactional sites—such as metasearch, deal publishers and review sites—are affecting the U.S. online travel landscape. This report is available for US$495.

PhoCusWright’s Online Traffic and Conversion Report: Metasearch, Reviews and Other Nontransactional Categories represents a sub-segment of PhoCusWright’s Online Traffic and Conversion Report, a comprehensive review of traffic and conversion trends throughout the entire travel industry (including suppliers, OTAs and intermediaries).