While consumers in the United States anticipate spending less on travel this summer, the growth of digital travel bookings remains healthy, according to Adobe Digital Index's "2016 Travel Report." In fact, online spending for flights and hotels is rivaling numbers seen in retail during the peak online shopping days of the holiday season.
According to ADI's research, U.S. summer online travel spend on flights and hotels is expected to grow 5.5% in 2016, reaching $82.9 billion. Memorial Day weekend is expected to generate $3.05 billion, July Fourth weekend $3.22 billion, and Labor Day weekend $2.92 billion.
By way of comparison, Black Friday 2015 saw $2.74 billion in online sales, Cyber Monday hit $3.07 billion, and Thanksgiving Day topped out at $1.73 billion.
“Our data indicates a continuing shift to online travel booking,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at ADI. “The fact is that Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekend periods are bigger than some of the big industry days in the retail space, and no one ever talks about that. This report is meant to raise awareness that these are very big spending periods.”
This analysis is based on 15 billion-plus visits to U.S. travel booking sites, airline, and hotel websites in 2014 to 2016.
ADI also found that mobile bookings, specifically, continue to grow. In fact, tablet and smartphones represent 21% of online bookings for the travel industry as of January 2016.
The shift to mobile isn’t necessarily good news for marketers, given that the conversion rate for desktop is more than three times that of smartphones for travel and hospitality websites. There’s clearly more work to be done to optimize for mobile and to get travelers to book via mobile.
“People are using their mobile phones more and more for travel planning, but there is still a lot of room in terms of making those experiences more fluid and easy, and to get consumers to cross the bridge between just browsing and actually booking their purchases,” said Luiz Maykot, an analyst at ADI.
Despite the expected growth in travel booking online, ADI actually found that consumers plan to spend 20% less this year on summer travel: an average $2,239, versus $2,788 last year. (This particular set of data is from a poll ADI conducted of 1,000 U.S. consumers about their summer travel plans.)
The survey supports that cost-conscious consumers are shifting their summer travel focus to domestic destinations. Seventy percent of respondents said that gas prices are very/somewhat important to their travel decisions, and 82% said they will be primarily traveling domestically (versus 74% in 2015). The survey also shows a preference for the outdoors this summer. “Sand & Sea” vacations are still the most appealing this summer, followed by “Mountains & Nature.”
With consumers seemingly keyed in on the recent rise in gas prices, the report also reveals that most people still plan to take a car trip as their primary summer vacation. According to the survey, preference for air travel has plummeted. Last year 75% of consumers said they planned to travel via air, while this year it is 50%, with 53% of consumers planning to drive their personal cars (and 30% planning to use a rental). But the ADI analysis shows that consumers should question common wisdom that it’s usually cheaper to drive than to fly.
“Our data actually shows that, many times, it makes more sense to fly than to drive,” Maykot said. For the analysis, Maykot analyzed flight costs for various group sizes and compared these costs to the AAA’s estimate of the cost of driving.
Click here for the full report and a formula for knowing whether you’re getting a good discount on your airfare.
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