Travel Apps or Travel Agents?
A new survey shows that the Chinese are leading the way when it comes to using travel apps rather than travel agents to book their holidays.
Global travel deals publisher Travelzoo has conducted a survey* of 6,000 of its Asian, European and North American members to determine how consumers in different markets research and book holidays. While travel apps have been adopted by a vast majority of Chinese respondents – with over 85% of its Chinese members saying the use of travel apps is the easiest way to book a holiday, and more than 70% saying they plan to book flights, cruises, package holidays and hotels via apps – while European respondents showed much more resistance to booking travel on a mobile.
Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s European president, said: “What the research shows is the significant difference of opinion across various nations regarding the most trustworthy and reliable ways of both researching and booking travel.
“It’s important for travel brands to recognise that these cultural nuances are the difference between success and failure in today’s competitive travel environment. Having a top-notch app in China is critical, while in markets like Germany and Canada the role of the travel agent remains significant.”
The Travelzoo survey also explored which sources its members trust the most at the start of their search for a holiday when they are finding inspiration on what and where to book. Respondents from all markets place more trust in travel-deal websites (69%) than any other source, including guidebooks, travel agents, review sites and feedback from friends and family.
Canadians and Germans value travel agents more than any other nation polled, with 40% of Germans and 37% of Canadians using agent websites for inspiration. 10% of Germans and Canadians also say their final decision on what to book would be most influenced by travel agent or operator websites – for the UK and Spain this number drops to 2%.
A shift occurs in most markets when it comes to the final decision on booking. Review sites and advice from family and friends surpass travel-deal websites for all markets apart from France and Spain, where deal websites retain their position as the most influential.
Respondents in Canada, China, the UK and the US say review sites have the most influence on their final decision. In Germany, the final decision is most strongly based on advice from friends and family, with travel-deal websites the second-most influential. German members are the least influenced by review sites, with just 11% saying they would base their final decision to book decision on what they see on such websites.
China’s enthusiastic adoption of travel apps is confirmed by Vivian Hong, Travelzoo’s president of Asia Pacific, who said: “The Chinese population has a very close relationship with digital technology, and we are always keen to be the first adopters.
Trust in technology
“For example, platforms such as WeChat are becoming more influential than emails. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, there are over 245 million email users in China, and the email usage rate dropped by 36.7% last year. By contrast, WeChat has a total of 697 million active users in China. The market here is much more trusting of technology.”
While the other nations polled are a long way behind China in their willingness to book holidays via apps, there is growing interest in booking some forms of travel via mobile websites on smartphones. Spanish and American respondents are second to China in their openness to mobile bookings, with 62% of Spanish and 54% of US respondents saying they would book or have booked accommodation this way. However, the numbers booking via mobile are significantly lower in Canada (37%), the UK (35%), Germany (31%) and France (29%).
Difficulty viewing the holiday information via smartphone is the top concern for respondents from Canada (79%), the US and France (both 77%), the UK (69%) and Germany and Spain (both 64%). Again, the response from Chinese members is vastly different: the top concern in China is payment security (36%), and problems viewing websites or apps via smartphone are an issue for just 9% of Chinese respondents.
With so much competition in the market, travel companies are always trying to find ways to keep their existing customers loyal and encourage new customers to book with them. 85% of members from France, 60% from Spain and 69% from China book with a specific company because they have the best price or the best deals. In comparison, having a positive reputation and brand perception is the biggest driver for respondents from Canada (69%), the US (67%), the UK (60%) and Germany (57%).
* The research was conducted using an online questionnaire, which was completed by 6,091 Travelzoo members across Canada, China, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US during September 2016.