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New modern retailing study suggests OTAs have game-changing opportunity to make a lasting impression on travelers

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When booking with an OTA, nearly half (46%) of leisure travelers can’t remember which site they used to book their last trip. However, travelers who do remember the OTA they used had an “above average” or “excellent” booking experience (78%). While most US travelers admit they don’t have a favorite OTA (55%), many travelers in Saudi Arabia (63%) and Japan (70%) say they do have a preferred online travel retailer.

LANGLEY UK – Nearly half (46%) of travelers can’t remember which online travel agency (OTA) they used to book their last leisure trip, according to the Modern Retail Study, new independent research commissioned by Travelport, a global technology company that powers travel bookings for hundreds of thousands of travel suppliers worldwide.

To better understand the current online travel retailing landscape and identify gaps in travelers’ shopping experiences, Travelport commissioned a new research study in partnership with Toluna Research among thousands of leisure and business travelers around the world.

Modern Retailing Demands Stellar, Memorable Experiences
The Modern Retail Study results revealed important factors that contribute to brand recall for OTAs, such as the experience of booking. Of all travelers surveyed that could recall the last OTA they booked with, the vast majority (78%) ranked the experience as ‘above average’ or ‘excellent.’ And while most US travelers do not have a preferred OTA (55%), many travelers in Saudi Arabia (63%) and Japan (70%) say they do have a favorite travel site.

Of those travelers that do have a preferred OTA, factors such as ‘a wider range of options’ have fueled loyalty in Saudi Arabia (54%), the US (51%) and Japan (38%). OTAs are also winning over travelers in Japan with personalized experiences (45%) as well as the ability to ‘easily navigate the site’ in Saudi Arabia (42%) and in the US (40%).

“As one of the first sectors to go digital many years ago, the travel industry has a strong history of innovation,” said Jen Catto, Chief Marketing Officer for Travelport. “However, travelers’ digital expectations have rapidly evolved, far surpassing current travel retailing capabilities. Prioritizing the needs of our customers to better serve their customers is our priority - agencies need more choice, clear comparison shopping, and easy ways to manage experiences like exchanges. While price is important, these value-add factors create an ‘excellent’ modern retailing experience that stands out and earns loyalty.”

Customers Are Less Price Sensitive
Historically, OTAs have been trying to compete on one factor alone – price – but that isn’t what customers need to remember the experience. Of the travelers who can’t remember the last OTA they used, nearly half (44%) ranked their last experience as ‘poor,’ or ‘below average.’  In certain parts of the world, where many travelers in Saudia Arabia (60%) and the US (60%) were shown to be the most forgetful of specific OTA brands they’ve used, and there was a significant 19 and 27 percentage point gap between recall and an ‘above average’ experience, respectively.

The Modern Retail Study indicates that OTAs may be less distinguishable because they have been focusing on the wrong things. While there is a heavy focus on price, that has likely come at the expense of other experience factors that travelers care about when booking a trip. As travelers are using OTA sites for research and comparison, the survey revealed there’s a missed opportunity for bookings as the majority travelers do not follow through with booking car (67%) or air travel (55%), and more than one-third (36%) do not book their hotel accommodations on OTA sites. However, travelers also shared that the ability to ‘book everything at once,’ is one of the most important reasons for using an OTA.

Modern Retailing Isn’t Only for Leisure Travelers - Business Travelers Are Even Less Engaged
Even with the majority (78%) of business travelers collectively bound by corporate policy, the research finds that 99% of employees don’t know the name of their travel management company (TMC) they use to book business trips.

Looking deeper into the potential causes, the survey found that most business travelers (69%) find the options provided as ‘undesirable’ while more than one-third (46%) want more choice, (38%) lack confidence overall in their TMC booking and (35%) want business trip options that support their well-being.

Online travel retailers now have an opportunity to earn loyalty from their customers in the modern retail era by focusing on factors beyond price.

Table 1

CAN YOU RECALL THE LAST OTA YOU USED TO BOOK A TRIP?

UNITED STATES

SAUDI ARABIA

JAPAN

ALL

Cannot Recall

60%

60%

23%

46%

Can Recall

40%

40%

77%

54%

 

 

Table 2

*Those that cannot recall their last OTA*

HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR LAST EXPERIENCE BOOKING A TRIP THROUGH AN OTA?

 

UNITED STATES

 

SAUDI ARABIA

 

JAPAN

 

ALL

“Poor” / “Below Average” / “Average”

43%

46%

46%

44%

“Above Average” / “Excellent”

54%

54%

54%

54%

 

Table 3

*Those that can recall their last OTA*

HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR LAST EXPERIENCE BOOKING A TRIP THROUGH AN OTA?

 

UNITED STATES

 

SAUDI ARABIA

 

JAPAN

 

ALL

“Poor” / “Below Average” / “Average”

16%

27%

20%

21%

“Above Average” / “Excellent”

84%

73%

80%

79%

 


The modern travel retailing survey was conducted by Toluna Research in September 2022 among over 3,000 travelers from Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

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