Hotels, airlines, and online travel agencies take note: if you do not have iOS and Android apps already, or a web presence optimized for those devices, a segment of travelers is passing you over. Fully 51% of smart phone owners get their travel information on those devices. The data comes from comScore, the digital measurement provider, from its Travel Advisor report. Nearly one in five smart phone owners used the phones to book air travel and hotel reservations. But booking is only part of the picture, said Mark Donovan, comScore’s SVP of mobile research, who called the phones an “essential companion for travelers.”
“Smart phones have really stepped in to meet a variety of needs for travelers, such as coordination of schedules, locations, trip itineraries and transactions. With more than half of all smartphone users now engaging with travel content, there has never been a better opportunity for suppliers and [online travel agencies] OTAs to invest in their mobile strategies to provide a great experience and win loyalty from their customers.”
Who They Are and What They Want
Compared to the average smartphone owner, the mobile traveler fits the early-technology-adopter demographic of being younger and male. About 62% of mobile travelers are male, and more than three quarters of them between 18 and 44. About half of them reside in households earning $75,000 plus.
“Both OTAs and suppliers need to understand the demographic and behavioral characteristics of these mobile travelers,” said Donovan, to meet them online. “Failure to develop a strong mobile presence could result in unsatisfied customers and lost opportunities to convert new audiences, leaving brands vulnerable to competitors who adapt more quickly to addressing consumers’ shifting consumption habits.” And those habits are overwhelmingly digital.
"Pocket Travel Agents"
Of that 51% of travelers who accessed air and/or hotel content on smart phones during the three month period ending in February 2012, 4 in every 5 of them accessed both air and hotel content.
The most popular air travel-related mobile activity was checking airfare prices, which 26 percent of smart phone users engaged. Smartphone users were nearly as likely to look up an airline phone number, flight schedules, and check a flight’s status, each of which was conducted by about one fourth of the audience.
They were not just seeking information: about 21% checked in for a flight, 18% booked a flight and 10% cancelled a flight. Another 18% used the smart phones to book a hotel room, and 20% used them to compare hotel prices and availability.
The uptake: the mobile traveler is young, has money, and looks on a smart phone first to research and book travel. They may wander over to a tablet or a desktop computer to do the same—but why give them the chance?