OTAs Dwarf Metasearch in Supplier Referrals

Published December 2012 Analyst: Douglas Quinby


OTAs Dwarf Metasearch in Supplier Referrals

Metasearch has received ample press attention of late, with Priceline's recent move to snap up Kayak making headlines. But while the popularity of metasearch is growing among U.S. travelers, its role in supplier traffic referrals via desktop computer hasn't been, according to a new report by Phocuswright. In fact, online travel agencies (OTAs) contribute a significantly larger share of upstream traffic to hotel and airline supplier websites.

According to Phocuswright's U.S. Online Travel Traffic Report, metasearch visits in 1H12 increased year-over-year 13%, a growth rate that largely excludes the burgeoning mobile channel.1 Yet metasearch contributed just 2% of the upstream visits to air suppliers and a paltry 1% of the visits to hotel suppliers in 1H12, both flat year-over-year. In contrast, OTAs contributed 9% and 6% of the traffic going to airlines and hotels, respectively, in 1H12.

"In addition to the increased visibility afforded by the so-called 'billboard effect,' participating in OTAs likely drives more visits directly to supplier websites than participating in metasearch," said Cathy Schetzina, senior research analyst. "In fact it is OTAs, rather than suppliers, that tend to garner the most traffic from metasearch."

While metasearch sites are not playing a larger role in supplier traffic referrals, they have boosted their share of upstream traffic to OTAs, primarily from lead generation (i.e., a simultaneous search run in a new window) rather than deep-linked booking referrals. Six percent of upstream visits to the OTA category came from metasearch in 1H12, up from 5% in 1H11.

Phocuswright's U.S. Online Travel Traffic Report, created in partnership with Experian Hitwise, analyzes key categories in the travel vertical, revealing online 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:

  • Traffic 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 Note: 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.