Online search drove 9.8m UK travel purchases, according to new research revealing the impact of web search on travel purchases.

The findings from comScore Media Metrix, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Media Contacts revealed 7.5m UK consumers used web searches to help plan trips during the three-month period from December 2005 to February 2006.

Only 10% of the online travel transactions linked to search occurred immediately following the initial search referral. Eighty-five percent of travel searchers reported that they completed a travel purchase either online or offline within 90 days of their initial search.

The research also found that 80% of consumers considered search more valuable for travel research than traditional offline resources, 39% visited a travel-related site they had not planned to visit, and 25% considered a new brand because of its placement at the top of search results.

Bob Ivins, managing director, of comScore Europe, said: "Based on comparisons to research comScore has previously conducted in the US, this study demonstrates that search is even more important to UK travel planners than to their counterparts in the U.S."

Paul Frampton, head of digital at Media Contacts UK, said: "This research proves that the value of web search marketing extends beyond direct marketing. The more fragmented nature of the online travel sector in the UK compared with the US, combined with more varied travel options available for UK travellers, make for a more intensive planning process, and an even stronger latent purchasing effect."

Nick Jones, category development director at Yahoo! Search Marketing, said: "The study clearly shows consumers consider search highly valuable in the travel planning process. Marketers need to consider the strategic aspects of Web search as a method of discovery for new brands and services, and a key means of gathering information among travel planning consumers."