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US Mobile Travel Sales to Increase 60% in 2014

As tablets and smartphones proliferate, online travel bookings shift to mobile

As more consumers adopt advanced mobile devices, mobile travel bookings are beginning to boom, according to new figures from eMarketer. US mobile travel sales, which include travel purchases on both tablets and smartphones, totaled $16.36 billion in 2013 and will increase another 59.8% this year to reach $26.14 billion.

On the strength of a 31.7% compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2018, mobile travel sales will jump to $64.69 billion by 2018.

eMarketer estimates that in 2014, US mobile travel sales will account for 18.0% of all digital travel sales, which also include bookings made on desktops and laptops. By 2018, mobile’s share will increase to reach 37.0% of total digital travel sales. All of the growth in digital travel is coming from mobile, and sales via desktops and laptops will decline slightly year over year throughout our forecast period.

Increased mobile penetration is pushing travel companies to develop better, easier mobile booking experiences, and growth in the mobile travel market is driven by several factors. Both tablets and smartphones have unique use cases in the travel purchasing process. The ability to purchase anything, anywhere, at any time via smartphones creates significant opportunities in the travel space in particular, given that its consumer base is by nature mobile. As a result, last-minute smartphone sales are driving an increase in the number of mobile travel transactions. Still, smartphone sales typically involve smaller transactions, for one-night hotel stays or emergency car rentals, for example.

On the other hand, as tablets replace desktop and laptop computers in the home environment, consumers will be more likely to book larger transactions and longer trips on their tablets as opposed to their PCs. Travel shopping is often a “lean-back” activity, conducive to the tablet user experience while consumers are at home on their couch. We predict this trend will drive up the dollar value of mobile travel sales overall.

Digital travel sales as a category are more mature than other areas of ecommerce, and as a result, travel is losing share of overall business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales in the US. In 2013, travel totaled 34.1% of the nearly $400 billion US ecommerce market. However, with digital travel growth already dropping to the single digits and retail ecommerce continuing its double-digit rise each year, travel will account for only 26.2% of the $666.28 billion US B2C ecommerce market in 2018.

Comparing just mobile sales, however, travel is gaining share of overall mcommerce. eMarketer estimates that in 2014, travel will account for 31.1% of all US B2C mcommerce sales, which totaled $58.50 billion in 2013. But by 2018, travel will increase its share to almost one-third, or 32.8%, of the nearly $200 billion in mobile commerce sales that year.

eMarketer bases all of our forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all our forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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