Travel Marketers Discover the Allure of Search

When consumers are looking for the best hotels or airfares these days, they mostly turn to their computers. Travel marketers have noticed. So far this year, spending on the travel category has increased by 10% and it shows no signs of slowing down. But it’s the digital component of travel marketing spending that’s really changing.

New Kantar Media data for the first half of 2011 indicates that travel market spending reached $2.981 billion. If that level of expenditure continues through year-​end, total spending will surpass $5.8 billion. Big spending sectors in travel include hotels and resorts, domestic (annualized predicted spending of $1.5 billion), online travel services (annualized predicted spending of $1.1 billion) and tourism promotion ($700 million, annualized prediction). Airlines are not far behind, having spent over $540 million advertising through June of this year. And cruise ship travel promoters spent $420 million during the first half of 2011.

The bigger news is that the digital component of spending now accounts for nearly 40% of the travel marketing budget and has been the only format to increase this year. Here’s how the media mix has been breaking out:

  • Display 14.8%
  • Search 24.4%
  • TV 21.6%
  • Magazines 17.1%
  • Newspaper 14.0%
  • All other 8.2%

One data point that cannot be ignored is the percentage of search spending being allocated by online travel services. This figure stands at 66.7%. For airlines, the paid search investment is more like 18%, while hotels and resorts, domestic, allocate 15.5% of their spending to search.

The heavy allocation of funds to the search channel suggests that marketers are experiencing outstanding results with respect to their investment.

[Source: Paid Search and Display Advertising in the Travel Category. Kantarmediana​.com. September 2011. Web. 28 Sep. 2011] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.