Air and hotel shopper volumes (consumers researching but not necessarily purchasing) have both gone into negative territory compared to a year ago, a first for 2008. In each month of 2008 to this point, online air and hotel shoppers had been up versus the prior year periods. Cautious consumers then began thinking less about travel in September, and started to abandon travel websites in October. While only a fraction of shoppers end up completing a purchase in any given month, these declines represent an important shrinking of the pool of vacationers, last minute shoppers, and undecided consumers to which travel marketers can generate transactions from.

On the positive side, online travel bookers for air and hotel are still up compared to a year ago, however significant wind has been taken out of the sails. Shopping and researching activity is a leading indicator of future travel purchasing, and unless a positive catalyst introduces itself, it appears that bookings growth will be pressured further in the coming months.

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