Britons go online to get away

Four and a half million Britons looked online for flights and holidays in June, with many still preferring to do it at Lastminute.com

Travel Web sites attracted 30 percent of the UK Internet population in June, with over four and a half million Britons logging on to find a flight or book a holiday.

Online travel sites have stood out as one of the most popular categories on the Web throughout the peak holiday period of June and July, according to Internet research company Jupiter MMXI. In the middle of July, the number of people in the UK accessing travel sites peaked to 2.3m, with almost two million users logging on in the following two weeks.

"Strong UK-orientated brands have emerged in the last 18 months, and a strong loyalty following has emerged this year, enabling the market to reach a level of maturity," said Mari Kim Coleman, senior vice president of measurement at Jupiter MMXI.

Travel has become one of the most competitive categories for the 15.2m Britons accessing the Web in June. The market is divided across two distinct types of site -- those offering airline and train information and booking, like Britishairways.com and Easyjet.com, and sites providing package or customised holidays such as Thomascook.co.uk and Ebookers.com.

"Traditional British brands like Thomascook.co.uk and Britishairways.com [are] competing successfully with global online brands like Expedia.co.uk and Ebookers.com, and Internet-only brands, like Lastminute.com," said Coleman.

The study revealed that many Internet users are still preferring the buy their holidays that Lastminute.com way. The site that offers leftover holiday inventory at reduced prices, as well as restaurant and theatre bookings, has remained the number one travel site according to the Jupiter MMXI rankings since October 1999. In the week ending 24 June, Lastminute.com received 305,000 unique visitors -- Ebookers was the only site that managed to knock it from its number one spot in the week ending 22 July.

"Lastminute has done a good job on extending its brand far enough to substantiate its business plan -- they have taken a successful idea and expanded it within that idea," said Coleman.

The analysis discovered that more women are going to Web sites just selling flights -- favouring Cheapflights.com, Easyjet.com and Ryanair.com, while men do not have a preference. Age does not appear to be factor that significantly affects online travel shopping behaviour, but 36 percent of 25 to 34 year olds prefer to purchase their holiday from Thomas Cook.

"It is refreshing to see a traditional brand visited by a strong and young influential group of people," added Coleman.

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