Online Travel Purchases Predicted to Explode

Expenditures for online travel are expected to rise, according to travel and Internet experts. The increasing usage of the web for booking airline, hotels, and rental cars puts even more pressure on the spa industry to 'jump on the Internet bandwagon'. Consumers will demand a one-stop shop online, for all their vacation and business-travel needs.

Travel purchases online will more than triple from $18 billion last year to $63 billion in 2006, according to predictions made by analysts of Jupiter Media Metrix during the company's travel forum, which concluded April 24th.

The results of Gomez Travel's report 'The State of Online Travel 2001'--released at the eTravelWorld conference in NYC April 2-4--confirms Jupiter's predictions. The report reveals that while many consumers already buy travel on the Web, there is an even larger population of consumers who will soon be online.

The Gomez report examines 'Sideliners' and 'Browsers' as well as online users. Sideliners are defined as individuals who have never used the Internet to gather travel information and have never booked online. Browsers, on the other hand, are travelers who have gathered travel-related information online, but have not purchased travel products online.

According to the report, there is a vast group on consumers—at least 17.3 million more consumers— on the verge of becoming online travel purchasers. These consumers are broken up into three Waves.

Waves 1 and 2 consist of Browsers- a category that differs from the general Browsers category in terms of online searching behaviors and their intentions of making a travel purchase. Wave 3 is comprised of Browsers and Sideliners, with the majority of consumers conducting their travel research off-line.

Wave 1, with 4.2 million people, is the group that is expected to adopt online travel buying behavior the soonest, said the report. These consumers average 3.1 trips per year, and have stated an intention to make an online travel purchase within the next six months. Wave 2 comprises 8 million of the 17.3-million-strong group of consumers. These consumers travel less and have stated their intention to make an online travel purchase within six months to two years from when they were surveyed. Wave 3, in comparison, only takes 1.6 trips per year and intends to purchase online within the next year or so.

According to the study, business travelers (BTs) booked the most trips online, averaging 6.9 purchases annually. Leisure travelers (LTs) followed BTs with regard to their level of on-line purchasing, with an average of 2.3 leisure trips purchased on-line each year by leisure vacationers. LTs, however, represent a bigger market than BTs, numbering 40.5 million consumers, or 43.7% of on-line travel-buying.