Australians embrace online travel

Australians are leading the rest of the region in researching and booking travel online, according to the latest figures from Asia Pacific online travel company Zuji.Releasing its second quarterly online travel report, Zuji found Australians were the most confident online travellers in the Asia Pacific, with 88 percent booking and paying online, rather than paying by phone or in person.

Australians are leading the rest of the region in researching and booking travel online, according to the latest figures from Asia Pacific online travel company Zuji.

Releasing its second quarterly online travel report, Zuji found Australians were the most confident online travellers in the Asia Pacific, with 88 percent booking and paying online, rather than paying by phone or in person. The Asia-Pacific average figure was 80 percent.

According to a separate report prepared by analyst firm Nielsen NetRatings, over the past two years online travel in Australia has grown by 28.8 percent.

"In June 2004 alone, nearly 4 million Australians visited an online travel site," said Markus von der Luehe, senior analyst for Nielsen Netratings. "That means that 44 percent of the total active online population in Australia visit a site every month for travel information or to book their next holiday."

The growth is not only driven by the airlines but also by online travel agencies. Traffic in the last 12 months to Flight Centre's Web site grew by 36 percent to 229,000 unique visitors while Zuji grew by 26 percent to 122,000 visitors.

Jetstar continues to gain traffic with almost 400,000 unique visitors in June 2004. Qantas, however, dominates the online travel sector in Australia with 989,000 visitors, followed by Virgin Blue with 790,000 visitors.

Some findings from Nielsen NetRatings' qualitative research showed, however, that the Internet is often not the first point of call for travellers. Usually, travellers go to guidebooks, friends, and travel agents first before booking online.

Google searches on specific places and accommodation are also very common. Many travellers research attractions, accommodation and activities online. Sites that can assist with multiple aspects of planning and booking are most valuable to travellers provided they offer product range and objective content.

Nielsen NetRatings online travel report stated that the future growth for online travel will come from improved functionality (speed, designed around user experience), dynamic packaging including flights, hotels, car hire and better integration of online and offline channels.

The Zuji online travel report found that online travel consumers are spread fairly evenly over most household income brackets. However, high income earners make up the largest group, with 39 percent of households having an annual income of AU$75,000 or more.

The report also found that online travel is still very popular with singles and couples, with 90 percent of all bookings for just one or two people in the second quarter.

Ninety-seven percent of all customers were comfortable with travelling domestically using electronic tickets, while a much smaller number used electronic tickets for international travel.

During Q2 2004, an average of 23 percent of international tickets in Asia Pacific were issued as e-tickets -- up from 15 percent in Q1 2004. Eighty percent of travel purchases were paid for over the Internet in Q2 2004 showing that people across the region were confident to book and pay for travelling online.

In Q1 2004, 85 percent of Australian travellers paid online for their travel purchase online. This figure rose in Q2 2004 with 88 percent of people paying online.

"This is a positive trend showing that most Australians who book their trip online are comfortable paying online to a trusted and credible online travel site," Jo O'Brien, general manager for Zuji Australia said.

During the first quarter of 2004, 79 percent of domestic tickets in Australia were issued as e-tickets. This rose to 97 percent by the second quarter of 2004 as Zuji moved to mandatory e-tickets for domestic flights.

Zuji is anticipating that the emergence of e-tickets for international travel will appear towards the end of 2004 as more airlines and site functionality allows e-tickets.

"While paper tickets are still the norm for international travel right now, we believe they will be a thing of the past by 2006," said O'Brien.

The top five expectations of an online travel Web site, in order of importance, includes great deals and offers, secure online payment, one-stop shop for all travel needs, customer care and trusted and reputable company.

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