Package deals lost on Net

Holiday websites are popular with independent travellers but package holidaymakers still favour the high street

With the summer holiday season just around the corner, OMD Snapshots asked holidaymakers what effect Internet holiday companies had on their planning and booking of trips this year.

Over 70 per cent of the panel have started planning for this year’s summer holiday. The remaining 29 per cent is split between those who aren’t taking a summer holiday and those who have yet to think about it.

OMD Snapshots is based on a panel of 2,500 Internet users, with either work or home access. Just under half of these respondents claim to be using the Internet to look for holiday ideas. But high street travel agents still have a key role to play as information providers for those with Internet access – 42 per cent of respondents cited them as a source of ideas. The third most popular source of holiday ideas was recommendations from friends and family. With 39 per cent of respondents getting inspiration from other holidaymakers, the travel industry should not underestimate the value of a positive travel experience.

Even though there are many high-profile Internet travel companies, a surprisingly low nine per cent of those taking a package holiday use the Internet to book their holidays. For these people the travel agent is still the main channel for booking a holiday (58 per cent booked this way), underlining the importance of personal contact.

This trend is reversed for independent travellers. Thirty-one per cent of this group use the Internet to book their travel or accommodation; 11 per cent use a high street travel agent.

British holidaymakers have considerable choice when deciding who to book their holiday with. There is little differentiation among holiday suppliers and standout is rare in such a cluttered market. We asked the panel for their main criteria for choosing a travel company. Of those taking a package holiday, 40 per cent cited price as the main reason. Whether an agent can offer the holidaymaker’s choice of location came a close second.

Independent travellers were more concerned with choice of location, with 41 per cent claiming this to be more of an issue than price. The reputation of the travel company was only a top priority for ten per cent of package holidaymakers and six per cent for the independent traveller. The latter group thought specialism in a particular area was more important when making their arrangements.

To conclude, it seems that there is still a resistance among those with Internet access to book their main holiday online, and online travel companies, such Expedia and Lastminute, need to offer package holidaymakers a different service than that which attracts independent travellers.

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