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The study by The Conference Board and global marketing firm TNS which surveyed 10,000 households across the country to track Internet use, found more women than men, 21 percent versus nearly 19 percent, used travel sites solely for research.
“Consumers conducting travel research online continue to outnumber those booking online,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Among consumers whose online travel arrangements increased this year, ease of use and instant availability are the key drivers.”
Among those using the Internet to make travel arrangements, the ability to book airfares online garnered the highest level of satisfaction, with 48 percent of customers saying they were “extremely” satisfied. The ability to make car rental arrangements online also received high marks, with nearly 42 percent of customers saying they are extremely satisfied.
The survey also found more men than women, 34 percent versus 33 percent, researched and also booked their travel arrangements online. But only 30 percent of consumers expressed a high level of satisfaction with the sites, although 55 percent said they were somewhat satisfied.
Two out of every 10 consumers said they have used the Internet more this year than last year to research travel arrangements, while 18 percent have increased their online bookings. Ease of use was the primary reason behind the boost in online usage, followed by instant availability.
Past experience and promotions are also among the top reasons consumers cited for their increased usage. Nearly one out of every four consumers said they used the Internet less than last year for making travel arrangements.
“Clearly, there appears to be room for continued growth in the online travel arena,” Franco said.
The survey found the proportion of consumers planning to use the Internet in the next three months to research travel continues to outnumber those intending to book online by nearly two to one. Overall activity, however, has declined over the past three years.
Lodging is the most researched online activity, while airline tickets are the most booked online. Currently, 27 percent of men versus 29 percent of women intend to research lodging online, while 25 percent of men versus 27 percent of women intend to research airline rates/availability online. When it comes to booking, close to 18 percent of men and women plan to book airline tickets online and 16 percent intend to book lodging online. Close to 30 percent of consumers said they do not intend to research nor book travel arrangements online in the next three months.
The Conference Board Consumer Research Centerwww.conference-board.org
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has launched a specialized Web site for agent booking. The new site, StarwoodPro.com, offers information on everything from deals, rates and product information to commissions, sales contacts and hotel and brand information.
The new site offers search capabilities based on brand, city, hotel amenity and special interests such as skiing or golf. Agents also can check on client reservations and find information on education and marketing programs. A click-to-call button can connect an agent to a reservations specialist.
The site also provides information about GDS codes, ongoing programs, previews of upcoming Starwood developments and other information. “With nine distinct brands and over 850 properties available to the traveler, StarwoodPro simplifies the task of pairing the right clients with the right brands,” said Chris Austin, vice president, global customer partnerships, leisure & luxury sales.
A new Web site aims to help travelers find authentic, local experiences and insider adventures by connecting them with “personal tour guides” around the world.
San Francisco-based VIAmigo.com currently has 1,500 registered guides that have posted insights on everything from cuisine and nightlife to sightseeing and hiking in locations around the globe.
Travelers and guides from visitors bureaus and local residents to travel agents and tour operators can sign up for free and post information, tips, insights and messages. The site also allows travelers to rate the information and offers a contact form that allows travelers to exchange tips and information.
The beta site currently is searchable by country, activity and specific experiences and includes categories from wine, walking tours and diving to gay and lesbian interests, safaris and local culture.
“We created a site that offers something that other sites on the Web don’t. Not just information, but actual one-on-one guided experiences,” said VIAmigo founder, Jeffrey Goldsmith. “You can find out firsthand about the best things to see and do, information that you can only get from people who live in the place you’re dreaming of going.”
Amid continuing concern about travel safety, SafeTraveler.com has compiled real-time security information on more than 200 countries and thousands of destinations.
The Florida-based company also produces reports on various locations offering information on topics including local weather conditions, security alerts and status, healthcare concerns and issues, visa requirements, environmental concerns, financial alerts and tips and current local political conditions. “It is the combination of up-to-the-minute travel-related information and interactive technology, along with travel experts who provide relevant background and advice, that separates Safe Traveler from other companies or government agencies,” said John Holchin, executive vice president of Safe Traveler.
The company also offers a Safe Traveler’s Intelligence Brief that contains relevant alerts, background and advice and a Destination Tracker, an interactive travel monitoring service that provides continuous updates and advice.