Travel bookings, appetite now mobile – Rian Bornman

While South Africans continue to travel in their own country for both business and pleasure – according to the latest South African Tourism Domestic Survey, R7,2-million was spent by domestic travellers in 2013* – how they arrange to get there has changed. So says Rian Bornman, founding director of FlightSite.co.za and FlightSiteAgent.co.za – a leading B2C and B2B online travel provider.

“Travel has changed dramatically. First it was the migration from bricks and mortar to online. Then it was the shift from online to peer-to-peer reviews. Now it’s from desktop to mobile,” he says.

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Driven by smart tech and an increased appetite for D-I-Y, travellers are taking things into their own hands – quite literally – using their mobile phones. In fact, so significant is this shift that a recent report released by World Travel Market and Euromonitor International says that 35% of all online travel will, by 2018, be booked via mobile.

“This is true for South Africans too,” says Bornman. In 2014, travel booked through FlightSite.co.za using a tablet decreased by 40,5% yet increased by a whopping 169% via mobiles. “Given this it’s more critical than ever to have a fully responsive user experience that caters for the bigger smart phone screens gaining popularity.”

Adobe’s recent Mobile Benchmark Report concurs. It says that larger screens drive more Web traffic than ever before. For instance, browsing on a four-inch screen increased traffic by 132% y-o-y while smaller screens saw a decrease of 11%.

But it’s not just mobile that is changing the travel game says Bornman. Review sites like Tripadvisor have too. So big is TripAdvisor’s influence that it helps 260-million users plan their trips every month. That’s 6000 unique users a second.

“Review sites are here to stay. Users trust their peers and want to know what other travellers think before paying for a hotel, trip or adventure,” he says. So influential is it that 53% of travellers will not book a hotel that doesn’t have a review on it and a whopping 87% said that it made them feel more confident in doing so (PhoCusWright report).

So what does this spell for travel providers like FlightSite? It creates opportunity, says Bornman. “There is still a huge market for “traditional” and experienced operators who compile package itineraries, or negotiate with the airlines or hotels to get best prices. 80% of the R37-billion South African travel market is booked through an agent so they are definitely here to stay. However, as an industry we’ve had to rethink our proposition and add more value to the selling process than what an algorithm alone can offer.”

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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