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European Online Travel Buyers Differ in Approach

European Online Travel Buyers Differ in ApproachMany e-commerce vendors learned the hard way in recent years that you can’t take a uniform approach to selling in international markets, and a new PhoCusWright study on the online travel market in the U.K., Germany and France brings home that theme.

The Sherman, Conn., company’s survey, “Online Travel Shopping and Buying Behavior: Key European Markets,” released in conjunction with a PhoCusWright conference, found that people who sometimes buy travel online in Germany and France are more likely to buy online and offline than online travel consumers in the U.K.

For instance, according to the survey, 68% of online travel buyers in Germany also use other channels, including traditional travel agencies and tour operators, when purchasing travel. That compared to just 40% of online travel buyers in the U.K.

One of the reasons that online travel buyers in the U.K. are more Web-centric than their counterparts in France and Germany is because of the “high volume of airline tickets purchased online via U.K. low-cost carriers, which lifts Internet usage overall,” PhoCusWright said.

The company pointed to “buying behavior steeped in tradition” with country-by-country variations in noting that 27% of French, 20% of German and 9% of U.K. online travel buyers also booked travel in person in the last year.

The survey, conducted in conjunction with Greenfield Online, found that “8 out of 10 U.K. online travelers use the Internet as the main way they purchase travel. But e-commerce barriers and embedded habits make German and French travelers more likely to use offline methods, as well.”

They access many of the same travel sites and visit many of the same places, but European online travel buyers differ in the ways they purchase their holiday travel. According to findings from PhoCusWright’s Online Travel Shopping and Buying Behavior: Key European Markets survey, 8 out of 10 U.K. online travelers use the Internet as the main way they purchase travel. But e-commerce barriers and embedded habits make German and French travelers more likely to use offline methods as well.

The PhoCusWright survey was conducted in July 2005 to gauge the shopping and buying habits of online travel buyers across three of Europe’s largest online travel markets – U.K., Germany and France. Sherman, CT-based PhoCusWright Inc. is an independent travel, tourism and hospitality research firm specializing in consumer, business and competitive intelligence.

Online travel buyers in Germany and France are more likely to use a combination of online and offline channels than are U.K. buyers. In Germany, for example, 68% of online travel buyers are not committed to the Internet and use multiple methods for purchasing travel. That compares to only 40% in the U.K. who use multiple methods. Reasons for the disparity include the high volume of airline tickets purchased online via U.K. low-cost carriers, which lifts Internet usage overall. In Germany and France, many online travel buyers still use traditional travel agencies and tour operators. Even among these online travel buyers, for example, 20% of the German and 27% of the French purchased travel in person in the past year (compared to 9% in the U.K.), indicating buying behavior steeped in tradition.

On average, European online travel buyers search 4.76 Web sites before purchasing leisure travel. This propensity is significantly higher among German buyers (mean rating: 5.09).

Nearly half of all online travel buyers in the U.K., Germany and France purchased packaged tours in the past year, and 70% of those travelers purchased them online.

Online travel buyers purchase holiday travel from airlines more often than from any other travel source. However, this dominant position is slipping as more travelers choose online agencies and tour operator Web sites for longer-stay travel.

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