A new survey underlines the growing importance of mobile for travel firms, with 17% of UK consumers having used mobile to research holidays in the last 12 months. 

This is according to Tealeaf’s 2011 ebooker report (registration required), which surveyed around 2,000 UK consumers. 

Though 17% research travel on mobile, just 3% make a booking on their phones, which suggests travel firms need to improve their mobile services.  

Mobile and travel: the stats 

Of the 2,000 respondents to the survey, 45% said they own a mobile device that allows them to browse the internet. 

Of these, in the last 12 months:

  • 17% have researched a holiday on a mobile app or mobile website.
  • 3% have booked their holiday on mobile. 
  • 12% have downloaded a mobile app related to travel. 
  • 8% have used an app to research a holiday.
  • 14% that have used a mobile website to conduct research.

Our recent Multichannel Customer Experience Report found similar trends, with 14% researching or browsing for a flight, hotel or holiday on either mobile phones or tablets in the last six months. 

As with the Tealeaf survey fewer people booked than browsed, though more on our survey, with 9% booking on mobile, 5% using a tablet device, and 4% a phone. 

I suspect the broader definition of travel booking in the Econsultancy / Toluna survey may be the reason, as hotels and flights are much simpler to book than a holiday. 

Travel brands and mobile

I recently looked at which of the top 50 UK retailers were on mobile and, though most retail brands were on mobile, travel brands were behind the pace in this area. 

Of the ten travel brands on the list, just four had some sort of mobile site or app. This may be because these brands believe that people will not make such potentially complex purchases via mobile. 

However, the stats suggest that travel brands should be doing more with mobile. 19.5% of search queries for hotels are made via mobile, while eyefortravel says that the number of mobile travel bookings has grown from $20m in 2008 to more than $200m in 2010.

If people are using mobile for travel research, then major brands like Thomson and First Choice should be thinking about launching mobile products to capture some of this action. 

It doesn’t have to be a mobile booking app either. The Tealeaf research finds that people are using their mobiles when abroad, for local research into restaurants and places to visit, directions etc. 

They are also downloading apps to help them while on holiday:

  • 19% have downloaded weather apps. 
  • 12% have used translation apps. 
  • 11% have tourist / city guide apps. 

The opportunity is there for travel brands to provide apps that can enhance the holiday for their customers and therefore provide a better overall experience. 

They should also be looking at mobile commerce though, and Expedia shows the potential for this. It has a mobile site and a hotel booking app, and mobile accounts for 4% of all visits to Expedia.com.

Mobile also allows Expedia to target last minute bookings. On its hotels app and mobile site, more than 50% of bookings are made in the same location, and on the same day.