As the European travel industry faces global economic pressure, online booking channels continue to increase market share. Online sales growth for leisure/unmanaged business travel for 2008, projected at 19 percent, is significantly greater than the 3 percent rate expected for the European travel industry as a whole.

Internet bookings of leisure/unmanaged business travel will represent 29 percent of the ?246 billion European travel industry at the close of 2008, according to the fourth edition of PhoCusWright's European Online Travel Overview.

"Global economic challenges have exerted downward pressure on the European travel industry as a whole in 2008," said Carroll Rheem, director, research for PhoCusWright. "Consumers are looking online to find the best value for their money and operators are looking to cut distribution costs as much as possible. Although overall travel demand will suffer, these trends will drive more business online in 2009."

PhoCusWright's research also proves that while Europe is playing catch up to the U.S. in online market penetration, some regions are more mature than others.

"The United Kingdom and Scandinavia are well ahead of the curve," added Ralph Merten, PhoCusWright market analyst for Europe. "Scandinavia represents only 5.5 percent of the total European travel industry, however, it accounts for a full 8 percent of European online bookings.

In 2008, Scandinavians will have booked over 40 percent of their travel online." PhoCusWright forecasts that half of travel in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia will be booked on leisure/unmanaged business travel sites by 2010.

European analysts have identified several key market trends in 2009 and beyond. These include:

- Traditional air carriers are gaining ground as low-cost carriers reach online saturation. European traditional carriers set all time Internet sales records in 2007.

- The hotel segment holds great potential for both supplier Web sites and online travel agencies (OTAs). Online bookings grew 30 percent in 2007.

- The European rail segment is experiencing solid gains and rail Web site bookings will increase by ?1.2 billion in 2008.

- Tour operators are building their online brands successfully in certain mature European markets. Gross bookings of tour operator Web sites grew by 12.4 percent in 2007.

"The current economic environment will shake up the traditional layout of the travel industry," Ms. Rheem cautioned. "As we have seen in the past, new challenges can be a catalyst for shifts in market share. Fragmentation, tour operator distribution networks and fundamental cultural preferences will exert powerful influence over how individual countries will adapt. Our research and projections are beginning to pinpoint what Europe and its largest individual markets will look like in 2010."

PhoCusWright's European Online Travel Overview Fourth Edition and select market data tables are available now. More information - including Table of Contents and Methodology - is available online. Six individual regional-level reports will also be available December 15.

Related Link: PhoCusWright, Inc.