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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Number of online travel shoppers mushrooms

Consumers are logging on to the Web to buy airline tickets and travel-related goods in record numbers, despite the general queasiness about e-commerce failings.

Consumers are logging on to the Web to buy airline tickets and travel-related goods in record numbers, despite the general queasiness about e-commerce failings.

About 21 million people will buy travel services online in 2000, nearly double the 11 million travel shoppers in 1999, according to estimates from a new survey by PhoCusWright, a travel research company. Of the 21 million, a third bought their travel services exclusively online.

Travel Web sites are most popular with leisure travelers researching vacations, the report found. And travelers are getting savvier when it comes to online research; 44 percent use one or more travel Web sites when researching personal travel, up from 28 percent in 1999.

Of the online travel shoppers surveyed, nearly all said they choose travel sites primarily for low prices, with ease of use ranked second. Other good news for travel sites: People who shop for travel services online typically take more trips than people who don't.

The findings not only bode well for the Internet travel industry as it prepares for the busy holiday season, they also polish e-commerce's battered image. As many dot-coms have gone out of business because of market pressures, some consumers have become increasingly apprehensive about buying goods and services from stores that may be here today and gone tomorrow.

As a result, many online consumers will shop at Web stores that are connected to a brick-and-mortar company, according to a report released this month from Jupiter Media Metrix. This is a reversal from last year, when 55 percent of online consumers shopped at pure-play Internet sites, compared with 45 percent who shopped at sites connected to brick-and-mortar stores.

"Despite all the recent talk of 'easy dot-com, easy dot-go,' it's amazing that online travel buying has been embraced by one-tenth of the adult population," PhoCusWright chief executive Philip Wolf said in a statement.

"Consumers continue to defy the skeptics with an insatiable appetite for anything and everything online travel."

Consumers' main worry about buying travel services online is that their privacy is at risk, PhoCusWright found. Insufficient customer support and credit card security also ranked high among the reasons to remain cautious.

Sherman, Conn.-based PhoCusWright, which conducts the report annually, surveyed a sample of 10,000 people in the United States for its findings.