Research conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings on behalf of marketing agency Harvest Digital and pan-European advertising network Adviva across the Adviva network reveals that more than half of internet users book their holidays directly online. Only seven per cent research and buy their holidays from travel agents on the high street and one per cent book on Teletext. Nine per cent of internet users book their holidays on the high street after researching online and a further 17 per cent research holidays online then book over the telephone proving that the internet is the most important channel for researching and buying holidays.

A beach holiday is the most common type of holiday booked online followed by a long-haul trip, cruise or fly-drive whilst activity holidays are more popular on the high street. Two thirds of online shoppers usually take two or more major holidays (one week or more) a year and a quarter have three or more holidays. Older people are particularly likely to take regular holidays with 23% of people aged 55 and over taking three holidays per year compared with just 16% of internet users overall. This group is also likely to book a holiday at the last minute: 28% of people aged over 55 booked their holiday a month or less before departure, compared with 25% of under 24’s and 18% of internet users overall.

Commenting on the research, Mike Teasdale Planning Director at Harvest Digital explains, ‘As the first truly global medium, the Internet has always had a special affinity with the travel industry and powerful new entrants are rumoured to be entering the market, most notably Google with their long-rumoured Google Travel portal. Obviously offline media still has a vital role to play in the marketing mix, but once an online consumer is interested in a specific destination or holiday, they use the Internet to research and buy.’

The research was conducted through Adviva, the largest CPM focused network in the UK, which reaches 19.7 unique users with seven million impressions a month in the travel sector. 863 completed questionnaires were collected.

Fiona McKinnon, European Corporate Development Director at Adviva comments, ‘Our research reveals the degree at which the internet has changed our traditional means of booking and researching our holidays. The most noticeable shift is from the high street with more than three quarters of holidays now researched or booked online. This is reflected in the high number of people booking late deals and taking more holidays than the average British consumer. The easiest, quickest and most responsive way for travel brands to influence internet users in their holiday decision making process is to advertise online.’

Alex Burmaster, European Internet Analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, adds, ‘The travel industry provides a wonderful reminder, if anyone still needed one, of how integral the Internet has become in the life of today’s consumer. The Internet is now officially a mainstream form of media and companies who still believe it can only form a ‘niche’ part of any consumer-focused strategy will soon find themselves marginalised as the 21st century progresses.”

Almost half of internet users book holidays based on recommendations from friends and families while a third of people read the travel articles in magazines and newspapers, 15% use Teletext and a one in five respondents watch holiday programmes on TV. Almost two thirds of internet users also use a search engine and other online sources also rate highly: 40% of people research on airline websites, over a third use travel agent websites and local tourism guides such as are a resource for 28% of internet users. 27% of people use their high street travel agent as a source of information; far higher than the number of people who book instore. 60% of those who use a search engine book four or more major holidays per year along with 38% of magazine-readers which contrasts with just 13% of those who visit their local travel agent.

Mike Teasdale from Harvest Digital adds, ‘Consumers are telling us that word of mouth is very important in terms of choosing a potential holiday. In the past, that would have been a casual chat over a pint: now it seems that the online equivalent is sites like where an entire community are posting tips and recommendations about good places to go.’

Online travel booking and research is even more common for 25 - 34 year olds, and for people booking within four weeks of their departure date. On both cases 68% of people would book directly on the Internet. The survey also revealed that three quarters of people book their own holidays with no major differences in the travel booking habits of men and women. The only group with a high number of respondents saying they make or influence the holiday decision but somebody else buys was in the 16-24 age group.