Online Travel Intermediaries - International - August 2009
With the development of electronic commerce over the past decade, travel has emerged as the top selling product online. Growth levels have been phenomenal, with online penetration frequently doubling year on year. While the US market is now considered by most analysts to be relatively mature, great growth potential still exists in both Europe and Asia.
A key enabler of this growth has been the development of online travel intermediaries, or online travel agents (OTAs) – companies operating in the online environment that act as the interface between the customer and the highly fragmented pool of suppliers. Their core role is to act as intermediaries – amalgamating content, facilitating bookings and providing other value added services. Although a small number specialise in a particular travel product (particularly hotel distribution, for reasons that will be discussed), most attempt to provide one-stop-travel-shopping facilities, allowing customers to potentially satisfy all their travel needs on a single site. Equally loved and hated by suppliers, these companies perform a key role in the travel distribution process and have become an important resource for consumers searching for travel products. According to a 2009 survey by Ypartnership, they have become the first port of call for over 20% of US travellers in their travel search process – a figure surpassed only by general search engines such as Google and Yahoo, and the websites of countries or destinations.
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