Consumer TrendsDestination & Activities MarketingSocial & Search

U.S. Online Travel Traffic Report

Published December 2012
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Cathy Walsh
Cathy Walsh

Senior Research Analyst

U.S. Online Travel Traffic Report

Although the U.S. online travel market is among the most mature in the world, actually planning a trip online is rarely simple. In addition to transactional websites – travel suppliers and OTAs – a plethora of nontransactional sites, including traveler review websites, lead generators and metasearch engines, have emerged to support the travel planning process. As travelers hop from site to site cobbling together their perfect trips, their mouse clicks yield important clues to the shifting dynamics of the online travel marketplace.

Phocuswright partnered with New York-based Experian Hitwise to identify the key trends influencing how consumers plan travel online. Phocuswright's U.S. Online Travel Traffic Report, created in partnership with Experian Hitwise, analyzes key categories in the travel vertical, revealing traffic patterns for both transactional and nontransactional travel websites. The report provides a top-level view of visitation, as well as upstream and downstream traffic.

Topics include:

  • Traffic1 to key transactional and nontransactional travel website categories (January 2011-June 2012)
  • Overview of key transactional and nontransactional categories
  • Analysis of the top ten websites within the OTA, hotel and airline categories
  • Comparison of OTA versus supplier traffic
  • Upstream and downstream traffic to/from selected categories
  • The role of search

Purchase Phocuswright's U.S. Online Travel Traffic Report to understand the complex flow of traffic within the online travel category – and gain insight into the online shopping behavior of U.S. travelers.

1 Traffic measured in total visits. Mobile traffic that takes place on a 3G/4G/LTE network and applications is excluded from the analysis.

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  • Introduction, Methodology and Key Findings
    • Introduction
    • Methodology
      • Transactional categories:
      • Nontransactional categories:
    • Key Findings
      • Savvy, selective online travelers are out in full force.
      • Supplier websites have regained the upper hand.
      • Vacation rental is on the rise.
      • Nontransactional sites may get the glory, but booking sites get the visits.
      • General search engines are revving up.
  • The Online Travel Landscape
    • Transactional Categories: Overview
      • Online Travel Agencies
      • Airlines
      • Hotels
    • Nontransactional Categories: Overview
      • Clickstream Overview
    • Conclusion

Phocuswright and Hitwise analyzed website visits to the following online travel categories from January 2011 to June 2012. Note that the categories below are custom categories created by Phocuswright to study distinct segments of the online travel landscape.

Transactional categories:

  • Online travel agencies: Websites that feature online booking for multiple suppliers for one or more supply types
    Examples:,,, and
  • Airlines: Websites operated by airlines
    Examples:,,, and
  • Hotel companies: Websites operated by hotel chains
    Examples:,,, and
  • Car rental companies: Websites operated by car rental companies
    Examples:,,, and
  • Cruise lines: Websites operated by cruise lines
  • Vacation packagers: Websites featuring tour operator or dynamically packaged products
    Examples:,,, and
  • Vacation rentals: Websites featuring vacation home rentals, fractional ownership and timeshares
    Examples:,,, and
  • Casinos: Websites officially operated by casinos and the lodging properties associated with them
    Examples:,,, and
Nontransactional categories:
  • Travel guides: Websites that feature general information and editorial advice for travelers
    Examples:,,, and
  • Lead generators: Websites that primarily direct visitors to other sites based on listings of offers or by facilitating simultaneous searches on multiple sites
    Examples:,,, and
  • Metasearch: Websites that feature aggregation of real-time product information from multiple sites in a single display and direct visitors to these sites to book
    Examples:,,, and
  • Planning and reviews: Websites that feature user-generated reviews and trip planning tools
    Examples:,,, and
  • Destination and tourism: Websites operated by destination marketing organizations such as convention and visitor bureaus and those that feature destination-specific information
    Examples:,,, and

Individual websites are categorized based on their primary functions. For example, a website that is primarily focused on traveler reviews but also offers lead generation is categorized in the planning and reviews category. Mobile traffic that takes place on a 3G/4G/LTE network and applications is excluded from the analysis; some traffic that takes place on mobile devices using a home Wi-Fi network is included.

Experian Hitwise has developed proprietary software that Internet service providers use to analyze website logs created on their network. Experian Hitwise uses this anonymous and aggregated data to provide a range of industry standard metrics, including website page requests, visits, average visit length, search terms and behavior. Because of the extensive sample size (25 million people worldwide, including 10 million in the U.S.), Experian Hitwise can provide detailed insights into the search terms used to find thousands of sites as well as clickstream reports, analyzing visitor movement between sites.

Experian Hitwise only extracts aggregate information. No personal information is seen or captured by Hitwise in accordance with local and international privacy guidelines. Hitwise's methodology is audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers on an annual basis.

The metrics used in this report are defined as follows:

  • Visit: A series of one or more page requests by a visitor without 30 consecutive minutes of inactivity
  • Upstream: Websites or categories that users visited immediately prior to visiting the subject websites or categories
  • Downstream: Websites or categories that users visited immediately after leaving the subject websites or categories

Most upstream and downstream websites will be determined by active click-throughs between websites (i.e., a user clicks on a link provided by one website to visit the next website). However, the clickstream information is not limited to analyzing click-throughs and will show any movements between websites regardless of active clicks.

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Currency conversions based on today's rates: CA $1,327 • £815 • €915
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