Published on Friday, March 4, 2011

TravelMole Guest Comment: A closer look at the holiday buying process

Nick Henley, media and planning director for Conrad Advertising, outlines the findings of new research into the holiday booking process.

"In the travel business, just as any other, it makes life a lot easier if you know how your customers go about buying your product or service. With this in mind Conrad Advertising commissioned YouGov Research to ask 1,300 adults about their holiday planning behaviour and preferences.

The results of this research confirmed much of what we already know, but has also provided more objective information about some newer aspects of travel marketing: factors like the influence of social media, the importance of consumer travel reviews and to what extent different media play a part in helping people make a decision on their holiday destination and with whom they will travel.

When people were asked how they first get the idea for a specific type of holiday (a place or activity for example) the greater influence was family (21%) and friends (15%) rather than any specific media.

Travel brochures were only mentioned by 6% of people and social media platforms like Facebook by only 2% of respondents. This does raise the question of how family and friends got the idea themselves, of course, but it shows that planning a holiday is a social activity, with other people contributing ideas and suggestions.

The research also shows that travel brochures, although still recognised as a media source of ideas and inspiration, are now only as important as travel review websites like Trip Advisor.

This is surprising, as we expected reviews by other consumers to be most relevant later in the holiday planning process, once someone had decided where to go, but not as a source of ideas.

Consumers’ holiday reviews submitted to dedicated websites like Trip Advisor, and those placed as user-generated content on popular media and social media sites, have also become important in holiday planning.

Research found that most people taking a foreign holiday (58%) will never write a holiday review even when prompted. What’s more, the 18-24 adult age group which is recognized as being the biggest user of social media, is even less likely to, with 68% saying they would never write a review.

Far from seeing a complete split by age group in holiday planning behaviour, the research indicates that just as many people aged 45-64, along with the younger age groups, use the Internet to plan their holidays.

Additionally, depending on what stage of holiday planning we look at, more traditional media such as magazines and newspapers, along with their websites, still play as important a part in starting people’s holiday search as travel brochures.

It seems that travel planning habits depend less on what age someone is, and more on the type of holiday product they are buying and what their online skills and travel experience are like."

Mapping the Travel Mind is available upon request at Conrad Advertising’s website

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