A new study produced by Expedia Media Solutions and MillwardBrown Digital revealed insider insights into traveler attribution on travel-related websites.

What’s Traveler Attribution?

Essentially, attribution is the act of identifying the user actions (sometimes called events) that lead to a desired outcome, such as clicking on a link, filling out a form, or making a purchase. In this case, traveler attribution refers the various avenues that consumers take on the way to booking a trip.

Understanding attribution is important for understanding exactly where your advertising dollars are being wasted and where they’re being used most effectively.

The study evaluated clickstream data (data that shows the order in which consumers visit webpages) from 45 days before hotel and flight bookings to see where and how the research process starts and how certain interactions affect travel bookings.

The key findings of the study are as follows:

  • Travelers who book package vacations visit – on average – 38 different travel websites within the 45-day period leading up to booking a trip. However, the bulk of the website visits (15.5) occur during the week of booking, while only 6.9 site visits occur one week before booking and 2.5 visits five weeks before booking.
  • Supplier websites (e.g. airline or hotel websites) still receive the bulk of bookings (61%); while online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity receive 30% of bookings; and Meta search travel sites (Meta) such as TripAdvisor Flights and Kayak represent 9% of all trips booked online.

Hotel Bookings

  • When it comes to the top of the funnel – the inspiration event – 40% of consumers are visiting supplier websites, 39% are visiting OTAs and 21% are visiting Meta sites.
  • In the middle of the funnel – the influential touchpoint event – almost half of all consumers are visiting OTA websites, while the percentages at Meta and supplier sites drop to 14% and 36%, respectively.
  • In the actual booking period, the majority (51%) book on supplier websites, 40% via OTAs, and only 10% using Meta websites.

Flight Bookings

For flights, Meta websites seem to have less of an impact:

  • 47% visit supplier websites for travel inspiration, 40% visit OTAs, and just 13% visit Meta sites.
  • Influential touchpoints occur most frequently on OTA websites (46%), followed by suppliers sites (36%), and Meta sites (18%).
  • But supplier websites dominate actual bookings, with a 76% share, compared to just 16% for OTAs and 9% for Meta websites.

Key Travel Advertising Insights

Knowing where travelers are spending their time online is crucial for serving relevant ads at the right time. OTAs are likely the best place to execute a full-funnel travel marketing approach because they are frequently visited by travelers at all stages of the funnel.

And because users tend to return to book at the same type of site where the initial inspiration occurred, re-targeting can be a very effective travel advertising strategy.


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