Google updates the UK customer journey with latest travel data

Google updates the UK customer journey with latest travel data

By Travolution
By Travolution

The number of websites UK travel consumers look at before booking has dropped considerably, according to the latest Google data.

Nigel Huddleston, head of travel at Google, told the Abta Travel Convention in Croatia this week that the average is now 11 compared to around 20 just a few years ago.

However, the rise of mobile means around four to five sites may be added to that figure, he said. Mobile has a far smaller conversion rate and most firms adjust their figures to take account of this.

However, Google insight shows just how important mobile is becoming, with sharing – such as photos on holiday or ideas before booking – now becoming part of all of Google’s ‘Five Stages of Travel’.

“The fifth stage of travel – sharing – is now part of the entire process. People are sharing ideas at the very earliest stages of travel,” Huddleston said.

“We have research to suggest 86% of smartphone owners share photos on holiday and people look at social media every single day when on holiday.”

On desktop three out of four people use search and in any given month an average of 44% of the UK adult population is looking for travel online.

That figure is highest in February (48%) and lowest in September (39%), and on average people take 73 days to research their trip before booking.

In looking at 11 different sites, the average person completes 17 individual online sessions. Huddleston said this pointed to the increased important of brand association.

He said in the past a customer would return to a brand three times during the search and book process. A couple of years ago that figure was two.

The Google data shows that mobile and tablet accounts for 30% to 40% of total queries and four in ten people book offline.

In terms of research, 45% do it exclusively online, 8% exclusively offline and 40% combine the two, while the remainder do none.

Huddleston said: “We are one of the most sophisticated internet economies in the world, especially when it comes to travel.

“While the internet is really important in the initial search and journey overall, visiting stores and travel agencies comes up in the list of most influential aspects when it comes to purchase decisions.

“People want validation of their choice. If they want a family holiday by the beach they want to be two miles away on the other side of a motorway.

“Is it offering good value for money? Nobody wants to go on holiday and find out the person next to them has got it cheaper than they have.”

Delegates were told that, although advanced, travel has lost its leadership position online to the retail sector.

“One reason was we were forever trying to push our customers to the booking point when they were not ready to book. Very few sites do a good job of inspiring the customer.”

Huddlestone picked out easyJet’s recently launched Inspire Me tool as a good example of something he said Google was seeing more of.

Google has seen a huge rise in tablet traffic but around a third of this is being done while the user is sitting on the sofa at home, probably watching a second screen, the TV.

Huddlestone said the Brits love their smartphones and while it is more difficult to get conversions on these devices, sectors like hotels and some OTAs are doing well.

The data shows while 26% of Brits use smartphones to research, only 12% go on to buy on the device. Smartphone package holiday bookings account for just 3% to 4% of the sector.

Google is seeing increased use of other visual functions like maps and photo tours. It has added flight routes to Google Maps and 360 degree tours.

Voice search is the next big thing, Huddlestone said, before demonstrating how the experience is becoming a lot more intuitive and semantic.

“Technology is improving and we are trying to be a little bit more human in the ways we interact, a little bit like if you went into a travel agent.”

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Royal Caribbean ‘could base Oasis-class ship in Mediterranean’

Royal Caribbean ‘could base Oasis-class ship in Mediterranean’

By Jane Archer

Royal Caribbean International has refused to rule out basing one of its mega Oasis-class ships in the Mediterranean when a third vessel launches in 2016.

The line’s president and chief executive officer Adam Goldstein refused to discuss plans for the new vessel, dubbed Oasis 3, but said the cruise line was ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the reaction to Oasis of the Seas’ micro-season in the Mediterranean next autumn.

Oasis, which holds 6,400 passengers when full, will be operating two five-night cruises from Barcelona and a seven-night voyage from the Spanish port to Rotterdam in September 2014. It will be the first time an Oasis-class ship has sailed in Europe.

Oasis returns to Port Everglades in Florida on a 13-night cruise from Rotterdam on October 14, also embarking passengers at Southampton on October 15.

Speaking today at a steel-cutting ceremony for Oasis 3 at the STX Europe shipyard in St Nazaire, France, Goldstein said bringing Oasis to Europe had been an ‘experiment’ but demand had been ‘quite promising’.

He added: “We always felt demand would be high but we needed to do it in real life to be sure. We are offering attractive itineraries so we already feel we have the ports we need for Oasis to operate in Europe.”

Because of its size, Oasis will fit into a limited number of ports. The five-night Mediterranean cruises will call at Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Naples, while the seven-night voyage to Rotterdam stops at Malaga and Vigo in Spain. Goldstein confirmed 2015-16 itineraries would be revealed in early 2014.

The keel for Oasis 3 will be laid at the end of April 2014, with delivery set for spring 2016. The 227,700-ton ship will hold 6,360 passengers when full.

Royal Caribbean Cruises chairman and chief executive officer Richard Fain refused to comment on planned features but said the new ship will be ‘fundamentally’ the same as Oasis and Allure of the Seas.

It will be the biggest cruise ship built at STX’s St Nazaire shipyard, where Queen Mary 2 was built a decade ago.

Concordia salvagers pull ship upright

Concordia salvagers pull ship upright

By Phil Davies

Concordia salvagers pull ship uprightImage credit: Rex/Olycom SPA

The hull of stricken Costa Concordia has been set upright in a salvage operation which took all of Monday and most of last night.

Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Authority, said the vessel was now sitting on a platform built on the sea bed.

Experts used cables and metal boxes filled with water to roll the ship onto a platform 20 months after it ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio killing 32 people. Two remain unaccounted for.

Concordia was declared completely upright shortly after 4am local time today.

Engineers originally planned to complete the operation by Monday evening, but were forced into a three-hour delay due to a storm.

The procedure was carried out gradually to avoid further damage to the hull, which spent months partially submerged in 50ft of water and fully exposed to the elements.

The 114-tonne vessel will be inspected, prepared for repairs and refloated before being towed away to be dismantled.