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The media solutions arm of Expedia recently teamed up with comScore to produce a report that travel companies and digital marketers in the tourism industry will want to play close heed to. “Travel Decisions in a Multiscreen World” assesses the extent to which new computing technologies are transforming the travel industry for a wide variety of businesses.

Today's consumer is absorbing media and advertising through a wide variety of screens, devices and platforms. This certainly provides opportunities for travel marketers, but it also makes their job more complicated. If we were to go back 10 or 15 years, then virtually all computers were either desktop-based or laptops, and the overwhelming majority of these devices were PCs running Windows.

Five devices per household

This picture has changed rapidly over the last decade or so, and today one-third of households in the United States are already using five or more computing devices. As a reflection of this, one ANA / Nielsen study has forecast that media spending on multiscreen ad campaigns will rise to become half of marketing budgets by next year, a massive increase from only a year ago; this figure was 20 percent in 2013.

The Expedia study thus focuses on how digital marketers in the travel industry can better serve this more diverse and complex marketplace. There are several key takeaways from the report that all tourism marketing organisations and individuals will want to take on board.

Firstly, the growth of mobile in tourism markets has been exponential, and in the contemporary world the United States’ mobile travel audience has already become larger than the equivalent PC figure. However, the report indicates that mobile bookings are still a relatively small amount of overall spending on travel. According to the Expedia study, around 6 percent of money spent on travel in the United States can be attributed to mobile devices.

It is clear from this that mobile platforms are playing an increasingly important part in travellers' trips, and as research tools. But final bookings, at least for large holidays and other big items, are still made via traditional desktop means. However, mobile customers are utilising their devices for a wide variety of travel-related items. The reports found that all lines of travel are covered by mobile, with car and hotel bookings in particular combining for nearly 70 percent of the total mobile spend.

Brands must therefore view mobile as an ideal way to reach travellers and tourists during the planning stages of trips. The smartphone audience in particular is growing rapidly, by nearly 40 percent according to the Expedia report. This has led to a 60 percent increase in visits to travel information sites, and a 43 percent increase in site visits for both Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and hotels / resorts based on data acquired during the first half of 2014. Smartphones are also frequently utilised during trips.

Tablet growth remains solid

Although travellers are most likely to utilise a smartphone while on holiday, tablet computers have also grown significantly in the last 12 months. The Expedia report found a year-on-year growth of 30 percent in tablet usage, which helped increase visits to airline and hotel / resort sites by 72 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

It is worth noting as well that wealthy travellers are more likely to book trips via mobile devices. The study found that luxury and business travellers use smartphones to engage with travel content before trips far more than other less affluent groups. They are also more likely to book travel on a mobile device within the next year – 77 percent on tablet, 52 percent on smartphone – while 57 percent of business travellers and 56 percent of family travellers are likely to book travel on a tablet.

But tourism marketers should also be aware that desktop isn't going anywhere. According to the report, during the first six months of 2014, online travel spending related to PC desktops increased by just under 10 percent. This indicates a general trend towards more online spending on holidays, but also the fact that desktop will likely remain a major player in the industry for many years to come.

Statistics acquired in the compiling of the record also indicated that advertising can have a serious impact on travellers. According to the study, 45 percent of luxury travellers intentionally clicked on a smartphone advertisement at some point during 2014, while 43 percent of business travellers intentionally clicked on a tablet ad.

Important takeaways for marketers

The information compiled by the report suggests that major evolution in consumer behaviour related to the tourism industry is very much in progress. In order to successfully capture as large an audience as possible, it is vital for digital marketers to adopt a multi-platform approach. Neglecting one of the major computing types will be extremely detrimental to any business, and this will simply become more obviously the case in the coming years.

Tourism-related companies should also consider the extent to which luxury and business travellers are explicitly using mobile devices. These big spending customers are evidently on board with mobile computing, and this should ensure that mobile strategy is an essential facet of any travel business.

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