The importance of online research for offline purchases in the tourism sector

Michał Protasiuk April 2018 Research & Data

A recent study by Kantar TNS, a market research group, found that 95% of holidaymakers booking trips to Greece first researched online. 62% of all tourists booked online and out of the rest offline bookings 36% researched online, while only 2% of tourists buying and researching offline. The impact of Research Online, Purchase Offline and the importance of a strong online presence for both consumer journeys has never been clearer.

Greece’s tourism industry continues to hit new records. In 2017 the number of foreign visitors reached 23.6 million, representing a 5% year on year increase and a 65% increase compared to 5 years ago1. A total of 39% of tourists in Greece travel from three2 principal Western European countries—Germany, the UK, and France.

In the summer of 2017, Kantar TNS, a market research group, carried out a consumer study for these three countries with the objective of establishing how tourists make a decision to spend their holidays in Greece.

The study interviewed 613 Internet users aged 18-60, who had purchased at least one holiday “product” related to Greece in the previous three months. The products included a package holiday, accommodation or a plane or ferry ticket.

The study revealed that tourists choose Greece as a holiday destination because of its beautiful beaches, interesting culture and moderate prices. The tourists’ habits reflect the findings with 77% of them spending the majority of their holiday time on the beach, while only 35% prefer sport or active holidays, and 31% sightseeing in the cities.

As a tourist destination, Greece's man competition are other popular holidaymaking spots across the Mediterranean. 38% of tourists who visited Greece had also considered a holiday in Spain, 30% had taken Italy into account, while just 12% of tourists regarded Greece as their only possible choice of destination.

The Internet was a major factor when it came to the holiday “Planning” stage. Almost all tourists (95%) used the Internet for researching their holiday destination. One in four tourists travelling to Greece carried out all their research on the Internet, while 70% used both online and offline sources for information about their destination.

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Smartphones also played an important role in the “Planning” phase. Three out of four holidaymakers used smartphones, with 8% of them researching exclusively on their phones.

Holidaymakers planning their trip to Greece use a range of sources when carrying out their research—from hotel reviews, prices that fit their budgets, and tourist information for local attractions.

Half of all researchers use Search Engines for the Planning stage. Other important touch-points include tour operator and hotel websites or apps, ticket services (depending on the type of product purchased) and price comparison websites. Slightly less popular touchpoints include blogs and forums (where traveller reviews can be found), online magazines and guides, and online videos. It is important to note that the first six of the top 10 touchpoints are online.

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It’s clear from the study that almost all holidaymakers use the Internet during the “Planning” stage. When it’s time to book the trip, 62% of holidaymakers make the purchase online, with this percentage remaining roughly the same for the range of products (package holidays, accommodation, tickets).

Additionally, 7% of holidaymakers choose to make their purchase using a smartphone.

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The principal hurdles that discourage users from using smartphones for bookings are poor user experience (small print that is harder to read, websites that are not optimised for smaller screens on mobile devices) as well as potential security issues (security concerns for transactions on mobile devices) and the lack payment methods.

The trend reflected in the study is known as ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline). The study showed that 98% of holidaymakers carried out research online before booking their trip to Greece. 36% of them carried out online research and booked offline. The remaining 62% purchased and researched online, while only 2% made their purchases offline without carrying out any research online.

The study carried out by Kantar TNS, confirms the vast and growing influence that online research has on purchasing decisions, even if the product is ultimately bought offline. And the need for the tourist industry to up its game when it comes to online marketing.

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