Cheap Tickets announced Tuesday it will open its fifth call center next month in Tampa, Fla., to bolster its toll-free reservations line. The 15-year-old agency averages 22,000 calls per day, while the Web site averages 91,000 unique visitors per day. But three out of five customers who purchase tickets from the Honolulu-based discount leisure travel specialist, the third largest travel agency on the Web, phone in orders rather than purchase online.
Cheap Tickets' reliance on the low-tech phone may come as a surprise to researchers and purely online travel agencies, including Orbitz and Priceline.com. According to Jupiter Media Metrix, total U.S. leisure and business online travel purchases will surge from $18 billion in 2000 to $63 billion in 2006. And travel was the largest category of online spending in 2000, according to a study released last week by Shop.org and the Boston Consulting Group. The study, which pegged last year's spending on online travel somewhat lower at $13.8 billion, predicted the sector would grow 50 percent in 2001.