National Survey Reveals Travel & Leisure Market Needs to Capture Loyalty of Online Consumers

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National study unveiled at event sponsored by Forbes.com and the Advertising Club of NY; panel of travel industry marketing executives responds to data.

According to a recent national study by Guideline, Inc. (OTCBB: GDLN), one of the nation’s largest providers of custom business research and analysis, the travel and leisure market is faced with the challenge of building brand equity with web savvy consumers. This is despite the fact that more than a quarter of all leisure and unmanaged business travel was booked online in 2005 and is expected to grow to 35 percent in 2006. Guideline’s study reveals that half of all mainstream and luxury travelers visit four to six websites before booking a trip, and 54 percent of typical travelers are influenced more by the recommendations of friends and family.    

To shed new insight on the purchasing patterns and motivators of consumers that book travel online, Guideline conducted an online survey of more than 400 consumers with household incomes of at least $100,000. In addition, those surveyed had taken a domestic or foreign vacation in the past two years. Furthermore, they segmented the respondents into “luxury travelers” and “mainstream” travelers, based on the average dollar amount spent on vacations.

Guideline’s Business Research Analyst Jessica Hogue will be presenting the full survey findings Wednesday, July 19 from 8 to 10 a.m. at an event co-sponsored by Forbes.com and the Advertising Club of NY at the Harvard Club in New York City. In addition to online travel purchasing patterns and motivators, she’ll discuss how travel and leisure providers can build virtual relationships with consumers while improving their bottom line. A panel of travel industry marketing executives, representing Lufthansa, Southwest Airlines, R&R Partners – the advertising agency for The Las Vegas Conventions & Visitors Authority and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., will respond to the data.

“Guideline’s study affirms that while many consumers are beginning to migrate from online suppliers to branded airline, hotel and car rental sites, more than 80 percent of consumers rely on online agencies like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity for their travel research,” said Hogue. “This indicates significant opportunity for branded travel sites to win over the hearts of consumers to ultimately build brand equity.

Guideline’s study also revealed that consumers, particularly those who book high-end travel packages, like the human touch. Nearly half (46 percent) of luxury travelers prefer to use a live travel agent and a quarter (25 percent) consult with tour operators. When it comes time to book the trip, 30 percent of luxury travelers prefer to use a personal service. Half of mainstream travelers prefer booking online via an online travel agency or travel search aggregator, suggesting that these travelers want to short-circuit the process and complete the transaction quickly.

When it comes to the dollar amount of a vacation booked online, 51 percent of luxury travelers are willing to book a $2,000 to $5,000 vacation package online. Another 29 percent are comfortable booking a $5,000 or more vacation package. However, this isn’t true of the standard traveler. A quarter (24 percent) would be willing to spend $2,000 to $5,000 for a vacation booked online. But, almost half of respondents are comfortable spending up to $1,000 and $2,000.

Guideline’s study confirms that consumers today are well aware of and concerned about identity theft. The study found that one in four consumers do not think websites are trustworthy. And another quarter of consumers refuse to transact large purchases online for this reason. Despite any concerns they may have, most consumers (63 percent of standard travelers and 69 percent of luxury travelers) enjoy the online research process of pre-planning their trips.

“In looking at consumer preferences and buyer behaviors, it’s clear that marketers have a significant opportunity to engage consumers throughout the entire travel process and make it easier for them to navigate and book travel online,” said Hogue. “Travel suppliers also need to take note of how online travel agencies are becoming more “consumer-friendly” and further differentiate themselves as experts and a trusted travel resource.”

In addition to Jessica Hogue’s presentation, Guideline will be conducting a webinar on August 23, 2006 at 1 p.m. To register for the webinar, please visit http://guideline.webex.com/event. For additional information on this study, please contact Jessica Hogue at 212-645-4500.

About Guideline, Inc.

Guideline (OTCBB: GDLN) is one of the nation's largest providers of customized business research and analysis. Through its end-to-end continuum of On-Demand Secondary Research, Custom Market Research and Competitive Intelligence, Guideline's research analysts create integrated solutions that enable clients to make informed decisions to address their critical business needs. Guideline specializes in nearly all major industries, including media and entertainment, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, financial and business services and consumer products. Guideline is located at 625 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10011. More information is available by calling 212-645-4500 or visiting http://www.guideline.com.

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