Monday, August 16, 2010

Number of Internet Users Flat, Yet Growth Seen in Destination Marketing Opportunity

In 1995, the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau launched its website: Some met the decision with derision and wondered why the organization simply didn’t buy more print ads and utilize more traditional marketing methods that wouldn’t be a “waste” of tax dollars. However, research has shown in the past 15 years that DCVB’s decision was well-founded, and a new study by the US Travel Association provides the latest concrete numbers behind the growth of the online travel industry.

Though the number of adult internet users in the US has remained steady at 168 million, or 74 percent, in the last five years, the internet has radically changed the manner in which US adults obtain travel-related information, according to the 2010 Travelers’ Use of the Internet survey by the USTA. Those numbers are expected to grow as younger internet users “age in” to adulthood and replace users with more limited scopes of interaction.

For destination marketing organizations like the DCVB, the more interesting numbers are those showing use of the internet for planning of both business and leisure travel.

Here are some points distilled from the survey worth considering:

  • There is an online market of 122 million potential business and leisure travelers in the US in 2010.
  • 93 million US adults used the internet to plan travel in the last 12 months – up from 90 million in 2007.
  • The strongest benefits the internet poses to travel planners are the ability to evaluate, be involved in, and form expectations of a destination. In other words, it behooves destinations and travel industry businesses to make their online presence be their best foot forward in marketing.
  • Those travelling for business and pleasure use the internet more than those who travel for pleasure only.
  • A third of those who travel for pleasure only, and half who travel for business and pleasure, use the internet to look for potential destinations. The internet is the place to sell to these audiences.
  • Forty percent of online travel planners print literature about destinations from websites, with an equal percentage using the internet to request printed materials.
  • 75 million people book travel online. Air travel, hotels, and car rental were the dominant products booked online, and many also purchased tickets for entertainment as well.
  • Both those booking and those not booking used the internet equally for research prior to booking. That planning grew substantially from 2007-2009.
It’s funny to look back at the initial reaction to DCVB’s website launch now, since DCVB’s internet presence is considered amongst the best in the destination marketing business having twice been celebrated as having the best destination website in North America out of more than 1,000 competitors. Everyone now knows that the internet is place to be creative and innovative…it’s a nice validation that those are two of Durham’s most discussed traits, too.

Adoption of the internet hasn’t been a passing fad – most everyone reading this is doing so courtesy of the internet, as that is how it is delivered. From humble beginnings in 1995, DCVB’s site sees more than 600,000 visitor sessions per year, making the site an incredibly valuable marketing tool, and is well positioned to continue to utilize these online travel trends in years to come.

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