Analyst Pulse: Trends in Mobile Travel Bookings

Hassle-Free Travel Arrangements

Smartphones often serve as ‘digital assistants’, managing schedules, booking reservations and otherwise assisting with day-to-day plans. In theory, smartphones should play a similar role in travel planning. But do consumers actually use mobile technology to arrange travel logistics? If not, what is preventing them from doing so? To further explore this topic, Euromonitor turned to its global network of analysts in over 80 countries, uncovering the trends they see among consumers in their local area.

Most Use Computers Rather than Mobiles to Book Travel

Mobile technology may be proliferating across the globe, but laptops and desktops are still the go-to channel for booking travel, especially when it comes to flights and hotels. In both cases, well over 90% of analysts report that consumers in their country typically use a computer to make reservations. By contrast, slightly over 20% agree that smartphone apps or mobile websites via smartphones are mainstream booking methods. Most consumers also rely on a laptop or desktop to book a rental car, though booking in person is also a common option for many. In-person reservations are even more popular when it comes to arranging activities at a destination. Meanwhile, one third of analysts report that consumers in their country book hotels and rental cars over the phone – evidence that hearing a human voice remains important to many consumers.

Typical Booking Methods for Various Travel Arrangements

Source: Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; June 2014

Note:  Showing percent of respondents indicating typical booking method for travel arrangements. Respondents were able to select multiple booking methods.

 

Barriers to Adoption:

Mobile Travel Booking Remains a Developed Market Phenomeon, for Now

Emerging markets like China, Brazil and India have seen a huge influx of consumers enter the middle class over the past decade, and these consumers have been putting their newfound disposable income towards leisure travel as well as technology. However, Euromonitor analysts indicate that emerging market consumers still lag behind their developed market counterparts when it comes to mobile travel bookings. Compared to those based in emerging markets, developed market analysts were nearly twice as likely to indicate that consumers commonly use mobile devices for booking travel logistics and activities. Lack of mobile internet access appears to be the biggest hurdle for emerging market consumers – 44% of Euromonitor’s analysts in these markets cited this as a barrier for mobile travel booking compared to just 7% of developed market analysts. Moreover, emerging market analysts were twice as likely as developed market analysts to report that travel services are not available for booking. Until the digital infrastructure is in place, mobile travel booking may simply not be an option for emerging market consumers.

Using a Mobile Device for Booking Travel Arrangements

Source: Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; June 2014

Note:  Showing average percent of respondents stating typical use of mobile devices for booking travel arrangements in their country

 

Mobile Devices do not Deliver the Desired User Experience

Other than an underdeveloped digital infrastructure, what else is preventing consumers from fully embracing mobile travel booking? According to Euromonitor analysts, mobile devices simply cannot deliver the same user experience as traditional computers.  Compared to a computer or laptop, mobile devices tend to have smaller screen sizes and a less navigable interface; these were the two most-cited barriers to use. Additionally, many believe mobile travel booking is less convenient than other methods, while one third cited privacy concerns and one quarter cited the risk of data theft. This suggests that until using a smartphone screen to arrange a hotel or flight is perceived to be as simple and secure as using a computer, most consumers may continue to stick with more familiar methods.

Barriers In Booking Travel Arrangements Via Smartphone/Tablets

Source: Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; June 2014

Note:  Showing percent of respondents stating challenges and risk factors that discourage them from making travel bookings via smartphone and other mobile devices

 

Conclusion

Some global consumers avoid making mobile travel bookings because they have no choice, either due to lack of mobile internet access or because their preferred travel service does not offer mobile booking. These barriers are likely temporary, however, as both mobile internet access and mobile booking options are expanding rapidly across the globe. The bigger concern for travel companies hoping to grow their mobile presence is that many consumers shy away from mobile booking simply because they do not trust or enjoy the process. Getting consumers to switch from traditional booking methods to mobile booking will require an investment in the user experience. To be sure, there is little that travel companies can do to change the size of smartphone screens, although new models on the market tend to be growing. But they can develop apps which allow the user to bypass clunky web pages or otherwise optimise their websites for use on smaller screens. Travel companies can also tighten privacy controls or offer the kinds of safety guarantees most e-retailers already promise. By bolstering speed, convenience and security, mobile travel booking may finally be set for take-off.

This article was produced in collaboration between Lisa Holmes, Alex Smith and Radhika Shroff. Smith and Shroff are freelance survey analysts for Euromonitor and handled primary analysis and writing for this article.

 

Introduction to Analyst Pulse Survey

In 2011, Euromonitor International began designing, executing and analysing its own surveys in order to expand its trusted global research.  This is part of a series of articles presenting the results of its Analyst Pulse surveys.  In Analyst Pulse surveys, Passport Survey reaches out to Euromonitor’s network of in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world in order to find out more about current consumer attitudes and habits on a wide variety of topics, from economic outlook to daily activities. The Survey team collaborates with Euromonitor industry managers to identify topics and design questions. In June 2014, 250 researchers answered questions about mobile travel booking trends among consumers in their country; these questions were created in partnership with the Travel and Tourism team.

More on the Sample: Our Global Analyst Network

Analyst Pulse survey results differ from other survey data cited on Passport Survey (eg, findings from Global Consumer Trends or Global Youth) and should be interpreted with some caution.  Analyst Pulse responses reflect the opinions and habits of several hundred of Euromonitor International’s in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world.  As such, results reflect a great degree of geographic, economic, and cultural diversity among educated consumers and observant market analysts.

On the other hand, Euromonitor International’s researchers do not constitute a random sample of consumers in a given country or across the globe, so their responses do not necessarily represent the opinions of a broader population of consumers.  Passport Survey presents their attitudes and behaviours in order to provide starting points for potential further investigations and sparks of tactical insight.