How do travel shoppers research and book their holidays?

The internet has changed the way people around the globe research and book their holidays. There are more channels, more offers and more opportunities than ever before. Amidst all of this, how do you know where and how to connect with shoppers and get them to book your hotel?

There is no shortage of advice available, but I came across and interesting poll “Buying Holidays Online” the other day that was conducted by Toluna in the UK that we can draw some interesting conclusions from. I would encourage you to read it but here are some highlights.

53% of respondents say they research AND buy their holidays online while 30% research online and buy offline.
So when someone calls your hotel to book, it’s likely that their decision to book with you came from online research. This is consistent with a study by Cornell University last year that concluded a hotel’s presence on OTAs impacts bookings on other channels, including offline. What does it mean for you? First and foremost you should ensure that the information available for your hotel online (on every channel) is accurate and informative (more on this later) and most importantly compelling!

A common misconception in this industry is that OTAs are only used by travel shoppers as booking engines. Consumers are telling us differently. Over half (53%) of online travel shoppers in this poll indicated they have used travel agency websites to research holidays online. According to this poll, OTAs are the most popular source for travel research, trumping both search engines and TripAdvisor.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that although OTAs are the most popular sites for travel research according to this study, they are not the only sites used for travel research. Over 40% of travel shoppers spend one month or more researching for a typical holiday online. During this time, they typically consult a number of sources, including search engines, travel review sites and social media sites in almost equal amounts.

What’s most important to note is that throughout this whole holiday research phase, there are a couple key features that help the consumer choose a particular hotel or travel product. Photos (59%) and reviews (58%) are pretty much tied for first place as the most influential features.

And 24% of travel shoppers say video helps them choose a particular travel product from a website. I expect that this number will grow throughout this year and next (not that 24% of all online travel shoppers is a small number!) as more and more hotels and channels make video available to shoppers. 19% of travel shoppers would abandon a travel purchase online due to lack of information. This is consistent with Forrester’s findings that 40% of travel shoppers would not stay at a hotel if they did not see visual or written information that made them comfortable. This is an opportunity for hoteliers to enhance their online listings with merchandising techniques that showcase the hotel and provide that rich and compelling experience consumers are looking for. Of course the use of video to inform travel shoppers would greatly assist you in this effort.

Online marketing is a big and often times overwhelming task but there are many opportunities for the savvy and focused hotel marketer. Certainly knowledge of how the consumer shops for and make decisions for travel online will help you focus and make you more savvy… and now having a bit more knowledge courtesy of this poll you should ask yourself are your online marketing activities aligned with how travel shoppers research and book hotels?


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