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ARTICLE InspirationJune 23, 2014

Tourism series, part 1: six online trends shaping travel and tourism

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Since the first budget airlines attempted to cut out travel agents by distributing and selling seats directly online, the travel industry has been at the forefront of e-commerce. These six e-commerce trends are set to shape travel and tourism for years to come.

The travel and tourism industry has been a true leader in the online booking and e-commerce revolution. Low-cost airlines in the US and Europe were among the very first businesses to turn to the internet in the mid-1990s to sell and distribute their “products” – cheap airline seats.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, we can book and pay for every part of a business trip or holiday online – from a rental car to travel insurance, or even a shark cage-diving adventure.

Here are six online travel and tourism trends to watch.

1. Global online travel sales growth

Online travel sales are only going one way: up. In 2012, the global online value of travel sales grew 8.4 per cent to reach US$524 billion.

This represents a quarter of all global travel and tourism value sales. Online travel sales growth has been particularly strong in Asia–Pacific, increasing 19 per cent in 2012.

Global online travel growth is forecast to continue in the next five years, with a 9.5 per cent compound annual growth rate.

2. More Australians booking travel online

It’s no secret that Australians love to travel, and we are increasingly booking international adventures online.

Between September 2012 and September 2013, Aussies made 8.6 million overseas trips – up 6.2 per cent on the previous year.

The majority (58 per cent) of these travellers booked their international breaks online . This compares with 34 per cent who booked through a travel agent.

When it comes to finding destination inspiration, Australians are increasingly turning to the internet, with research showing that, for the 12 months to December 2012, more than a third of those heading overseas headed online to research holidays . This is up from just 11 per cent in 2001.

3. Popularity of online travel agencies

Online travel agents (OTAs) such as Expedia and Webjet are rapidly growing in popularity worldwide. The number of people turning to online-only travel sites has doubled to 14 per cent since 2007.

In Australia, OTA growth is strong , with bookings tipped to jump 34 per cent in 2015.

However, while OTAs are growing, Australians still favour making bookings directly via individual supplier websites, such as individual hotels or B&Bs. Research shows that 82 per cent of online bookings in Australia in 2013 were made directly via supplier websites .

4. Mobile travel bookings

Researching trips and securing travel bookings on mobile devices is a major trend globally.

In 2010, just 2.9 per cent of people worldwide used mobiles to access websites. By 2013, this had jumped to 14 per cent , with growth in Asia being particularly strong. By 2017, mobile devices are forecast to account for more than 30 per cent of online travel value sales globally.

While the move to mobile travel bookings is clear, generally this applies more to booking local trips, rather than expensive overseas holidays.

In fact, only 2 per cent of consumers in the US, Europe and Japan have made an overseas booking via a mobile . That compares with 4 per cent of people in China who have booked an international trip on their mobile – a figure that highlights the swift uptake of mobile booking channels in China.

5. Travel concierge apps

Mobile has also changed the level of service that customers expect from travel companies, sparking a rise in digital trip customisation and personalisation.

Mobile concierge services now provide personalised local experiences and travel ideas based on individuals’ particular preferences. Examples include the Singapore Tourism Board’s YourSingapore Guide app, which delivers personalised Singapore experiences, and InterContinental Hotels’ Concierge Insider Guides app, which offers insights from the company’s concierges in its 127 world locations.

6. Australia’s e-commerce tourism industry

Tourism is an important foreign revenue earner for Australia and the country remains firmly at the top of many international tourists’ bucket lists.

Tourism Research Australia forecasts that seven million international tourists will visit Australia in 2014–15, mainly driven by visitor growth from China, the UK, New Zealand and the US.

The national tourism board, Tourism Australia, has been at the forefront of the digital charge by encouraging more tourism operators, accommodation providers and transport companies to make the most of online opportunities in order to expand their markets abroad.

For these tourism companies, the scope for online growth is clear: Tourism Australia’s research shows 46 per cent of visitors to Australia used the internet to book an aspect of their holiday prior to arrival. This has grown rapidly since 2002, when the number was only 8 per cent.

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