Digital travel sales in Europe are on a slow, steady growth curve when viewed as a whole, but breaking out travel trends in individual countries paints a less cohesive picture of the region. Though consumer behavior is maturing in general, there are distinct differences between travel shoppers and buyers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain—the four largest markets in Western Europe—according to a new eMarketer report, “Digital Travel Trends in Western Europe: Mobile Eyed as Next Major Growth Driver.”
eMarketer breaks out travel from overall business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce in these four countries in mainland Western Europe. Due to ecommerce maturity in France and Germany, eMarketer estimates other retail categories will grow more rapidly than travel ecommerce, though travel will account for 21.0% of overall B2C ecommerce in each nation this year. Meanwhile, we expect that in Italy and Spain—markets that are slightly behind the former two in terms of ecommerce maturity—travel will rise at a similar rate to other retail ecommerce. In these two countries, travel currently accounts for 50.0% and 60.0% of overall B2C ecommerce, respectively, and is expected to maintain those shares through the end of the forecast period.
Mobile is driving digital travel growth. The propensity for consumers in Europe to research travel extensively online means that regardless of how they eventually book travel, digital touchpoints are essential customer interactions. Mobile could potentially close the gap between digital research and digital booking in the region, especially if consumers begin to purchase transportation tickets and accommodations with greater frequency while traveling.
More than half of the populations in France, Germany, Italy and Spain will have smartphones by 2015, eMarketer estimates, but thus far, smartphone users in these countries are showing varying degrees of using their devices to discover and act on travel information.
One of the most compelling stories among the major markets in Western Europe is Spain’s emergence as an early adopter of smartphone usage. Expedia and Egencia surveyed more than 8,000 consumers in select countries in September 2013 and found that Spain was leading the four Western European markets when it came to smartphone bookings. Internet users in Spain were most likely to have booked leisure travel on a smartphone in the 12 months prior to polling (12%) and stood even with internet users in France for the highest percentage of business travel smartphone bookers (14%). In Germany, only 4% of internet users had booked leisure travel on a smartphone in the past year.
But the outlook for mobile booking in Western Europe as a whole remains positive. “People are becoming more last-minute and more flexible in their booking behavior, so they don’t plan as much in advance anymore,” said Stefan Menden, founder of JustBook. “Once people give [mobile booking] a try, hotel bookings and restaurant reservations and taxis and rental cars and all these things that previously had to be planned in advance can basically all be done on the way.”
The full report, “Digital Travel Trends in Western Europe: Mobile Eyed as Next Major Growth Driver,” also answers these key questions:
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