RealTime IT News

Europe Leads in Travel Site Usage

European market appears to be embracing the use of travel Web sites more than the United States, and French Internet surfers visit travel sites more than those from any other nation, according to a new study.

In fact, travel sites reached 33 percent of the active Internet audience in France in December, according to figures from the Global Index of measurement company Nielsen//NetRatings .

That was a deeper penetration than in 12 other markets during the busy holiday travel season. In the U.S., travel sites reached 25.5 percent of the audience.

"The fact that two French sites each drew nearly a million unique users in December -- out of nine and a half million active users overall -- and ranked among the top 20 global sites shows the extent to which this category has penetrated that particular market," said Richard Goosey, international chief of measurement science for NetRatings.

The other countries where consumers were most actively looking at travel sites were, in order: the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the UK, followed by the United States. Brazilian Internet users had the least interest in travel sites at 3.91 percent.

"With the creation of a more unified European Union with decreased regulations ... for travel across borders, and with the Euro being a common currency across all those countries, travel has become far easier and much more appealing for Europeans than ever before," said Paul Ritter, an Internet business strategies analyst at The Yankee Group.

"In addition, there are fewer travel-oriented Web sites in Europe relative to the hundreds of Web sites, consumer portals, and auction-style sites that are available and frequented by U.S.-based Internet users," he told internetnews.com. "That helps to boost traffic numbers to individual niche travel sites in European markets."

"Increasingly, the trend among European surfers is less reliance on portals and more increased usage of niche sites," Goosey said. "This is reflected in the December results, which show sites from Germany, (bahn.de), the UK (multimap.com), France (mappy.com and voyages-sncf.com) and Italy (trenitalia.com) ranking alongside a regional European powerhouse, lastminute.com, to draw enough surfers from their respective countries to rank among the top travel sites worldwide."

Air travel in the U.S. has been in a slump ever since the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, several airlines are in Chapter 11 proceedings, and just this week Delta Air Lines President Fred Reid said the third-largest U.S. airline sees lower demand for air travel continuing through mid-2004 and possibly beyond that. The reasons? Weak consumer demand, high jet fuel prices and the potential war with Iraq.