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Fortnightly No 2000/2 - Paris, Thursday, June 16, 2000
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  eTourism customers are getting more and more curious ... and more demanding

customers are
getting more
and more
and more

The number of subscribers to
site has leapt
from 1 to 5 million
in a year


Cyber Dialogue has just published a very comprehensive study on the surfing habits of online travellers. This confirms, firstly, something we already knew, i.e. that eTourism represents one of the biggest BtoC turnovers ($6 bn according to eMarketer) and is one of the sectors with the best future, with a growth rate of over 100% per year.

Cyber Dialogue estimates that, today, 44% of men who use the Internet in the US make travel purchases online.

Two characteristics typical of these consumers are that:

  • They spend much more online than the average Internet surfer: the average travel transaction value is $705 as compared to $517.

  • This figure should interest the marketing managers of eTourism sites, who should see it as an extra means of making their customer database profitable - either by displaying targeted advertising or by getting their newsletters sponsored.
  • 90% of these users search for travel content. In general, they are interested in more topics than the average Internet user (78% are interested in the news compared to 71%, 48% in sport compared to 39%).

Qaalfa Dibeehi, director of Cyber Dialogue's Consumer Practice, draws the following conclusions from the survey: "Travel is a category particularly geared toward the net, giving consumers advantages they didn't have previously. Travel shoppers represent a demographic particularly capable of making use of the web. That is what makes them such a valuable segment to go after."We would add, however, that this is on condition that eTourism sites develop e-services which are more innovative than offline ones!Consumer pressure on prices is heavy: 4.2 million travellers already participate in at least one travel-orientated reward programme.

As a result, one may wonder whether these loyalty programmes are not becoming a prerequisite to getting new customers without being, in themselves, a real competitive advantage. If everyone offers programmes with loyalty points, it then gets to be considered as normal practice and is perceived by users as a "right", rather than as a special effort made by the eTourism site.In the light of this study, travel sites should therefore be putting most of their efforts into their content and customized information services.

Source: eMarketer

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    The number of subscribers to the Cheaptickets.com site has leapt from 1 to 5 million in a year!  

The cheaptickets.com site, known for its discount travel positioning, has just announced that the number of Internet users registered on its site has now gone over the 5 million barrier, an increase of 25% since April 2000.

Now 19,000 people per day register on the site (compared to 5,000 per day a year ago)!

This impressive figure should be looked at in comparison with the 75,000 daily hits announced by the site. Sam Galeotos, the COO of cheaptickets.com sees this, above all, as the result of considerable marketing investments and streamlined booking procedures (phone + Internet).

These two explanations do, of course, have an important role to play in cheaptickets.com's capacity to convert its visitor into subscribers. All the same, we don't think you should confuse the number of subscribers with the number of prospective buyers.

Given the discount travel positioning of cheaptickets.com, many users register on the site in the hopes of benefiting from last-minute cut-price offers (you have to register your profile to access the search engine). This absolutely does not mean that they have become "friends" of cheaptickets.com.

These users simply want to consult the day's special offers, as they do on many other sites where they don't have to register first. Profiles registered under these conditions have not really been given with users' explicit permission - they have mostly only given their email address out of convenience.

The email base constituted in this way does not seem to us to be seriously worth exploiting. After all, the aim of marketing managers of eTourism should not be to get email addresses whatever the cost, but rather to establish relationships based on the common interests of the company and the users. In any case, the user will always have the last word.

One may even wonder whether this entrance barrier does not discourage potential customers from using cheaptickets.com.

In any case, the sales ratio seems to be similar to that of other eTourism sites. Cheaptickets.com states that they sell 1 ticket every 30 seconds, which corresponds to a conversion rate of approximately 3%.

Source: Cheaptickets.com

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