Holidaymakers throughout Europe are showing a greater preference for booking travel online. In particular, Western Europe is set to see a dramatic increase in the number of hotel reservations made on the Internet this year. Studies show many travelers are abandoning traditional shopping channels in favor of the Internet when booking hotel rooms, hostels and vacation rentals.
The recent studies have identified budget airlines as being a major cause of this shift in buyer behavior. European budget carriers, which include EasyJet, Ryanair, Buzz, Virgin Express, Bmibaby and MyTravelLite, now account for approximately 8 million passengers a year. Nearly all use the Internet to minimize overheads by reducing distribution costs.
And as some 90% of European budget airline bookings now come from the Internet, this translates into a boon to online lodging suppliers as travelers who shop on the Internet for their airline ticket have a strong tendency to make a hotel reservation the same way.
According to research conducted last year, the overall number of Europeans shopping online has shown a steady increase. During the final quarter of 2002, Europeans spent an estimated $15.77 billion on goods and services online. Research conducted by GartnerG2 says that this figure is 74.7 percent more than the preceding year.
The online hotel reservation sector is expected to reap high returns due to this growth in European e-purchases. Travelers are beginning to enjoy the level of flexibility and control offered by the Internet and it appears they would rather invest an evening in surfing for the right hotel rather than entrust their holiday plans to traditional travel agents.
This attracts a large number of travelers with very diverse lodging needs and translates into many lucrative niche consumer travel groups. Many hospitality professionals are setting up niche third-party web sites that target each of these customer segments (e.g. budget accommodation for student travelers, long stay apartments, disability-friendly hotels).
These niche web sites lure customers by offering a good selection of inventory that best suits their target clientele, competitive rates, helpful information and secure online real-time reservation capabilities.