UK tour operators are grabbing a larger share of online travel bookings, according to the latest research from Mintel.
Over the past year, there has been an increase in UK consumers making online bookings directly through the websites of tour operators, including TUI, Thomas Cook and Jet2Holidays, which rose from 17% in 2017 to 28% this year.
Mintel said this growth in online bookings could be down to operators “taking increasingly direct control of distributing their own products”.
But OTAs and aggregators are still the most popular way of booking online with 37% of consumers using them, which was down by one point on last year’s figure of 38%.
Booking accommodation directly through a hotel or rental company’s website ranked second at 31%. This was the same figure as last year but down by 10 points compared with 2016.
Sales through airline and other transport providers’ websites remained steady with 26% of consumers booking directly with them – up by just one point on 2017.
Mintel also found that UK consumers are increasingly making their travel bookings through smartphones and tablets.
The number of holidaymakers using smartphones for bookings increased by nine percentage points to 18% over the past year, while tablet bookings rose by four points to 15% year-on-year.
Mobile booking was more popular among the Millennial generation (aged 19-38) with 39% using a smartphone to book a holiday. Meanwhile, only 2% of over-45s booked using a smartphone – unchanged from last year’s figure.
John Worthington, senior travel analyst at Mintel, said:
“The rapid acceleration of mobile booking has taken place exclusively amongst younger travellers. After a long period of gradual uptake, mobile holiday distribution now appears to have reached a tipping-point among younger generations.
“Brands have steadily optimised their mobile sites and many have launched mobile apps. The trend towards larger, full-screen smartphone display is also helping to drive usage.”
Using a desktop or laptop computer still accounts for the majority of online sales with 64% of consumers booking holidays this way, but this is down by 12 points compared with 2015.
The overall level of online bookings has reached a “plateau” in recent years, according to Mintel, with 84% of consumers booking a holiday online – this has barely changed in the last four years. In fact, it has actually dipped slightly from 86% in 2015 and 2016.
Conversely, the number of consumers making a booking on the phone or by visiting a traditional travel agency has crept by five percentage points from 14% in 2015 to 19% this year.
Mintel’s report also stressed the importance of social media in helping to drive bookings to certain destinations – particularly for Millennials.
Just under half of all holidaymakers (46%) said they had been inspired to choose a destination based on seeing photos and videos on other people’s social media feeds. This figure jumps up to 67% for Millennial-aged travellers.
The research also revealed that around one fifth (21%) of Britons were willing to pay a travel agent or professional an annual fee to plan and book their holidays – this figure rose to 55% for those households with an annual income in excess of £75,000. Conversely, 69% of holidaymakers said they enjoyed researching and planning their own holidays.