The travel industry continues its move to increased online marketing, as twice as many companies as last year plan to spend 20% or more of their marketing budget online, according to a new survey by New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management and PhoCusWright Inc.

Compared to 2004, 74 percent of the respondents are spending more on Web site design and functionality, 73 percent are increasing spending on email marketing and 64 percent are spending more on search engine optimization (SEO). Over two-thirds indicated that SEO and email marketing are the most effective online marketing techniques, and one out of two marketers specified Web site design and functionality as the most successful initiative.

These findings were announced today at NYU’s 27th Annual International Hospitality Industry Investment being held in New York City, June 5 – 7.

The study also found:

- In terms of online advertising, 79 percent of respondents chose email blast as the predominant method, confirming that email is one of the most important tools in a travel company’s online marketing strategy.

- Top three trends that will have an impact on future marketing strategies include: metasearch, viral marketing and permission-based email, which, when used correctly, was chosen as the number one trend.

- Online travel agencies were on the losing end, with one-fifth planning to spend less on online travel agency distribution and online advertising.

- Blogs were overwhelmingly viewed as the least effective marketing method and are not likely to represent much potential for future growth.

The 56 participants represent key marketing executives at major travel industry suppliers, which include hotels, airlines, car rental companies and tour operators, among others.