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Mobile Soars in Popularity Among Travelers Planning for Paradise

Smartphones are on the rise among travelers as important inspiration tools

It’s no secret that travelers are planning for paradise—and booking—online more than ever, especially from their desktops and laptops. But more and more are using their mobile devices to find trip inspiration and as essential tools along the path to purchase.

While US mobile travel bookings sat at $6.15 billion in 2012, PhoCusWright forecast this would rise to $39.50 billion by 2015.

In a 2013 SITA and Air Transport World study, 37% of travelers worldwide said they’d “definitely” use their mobile devices to purchase airline tickets, and 33% would consider doing so. Nearly half of respondents would “definitely” make booking changes via mobile, likely while en route to the airport or queuing at airport counters.

Still, airlines, hotel chains and online travel agencies have been slow to beef up their mobile offerings, and US travelers studied were often too frustrated by whatever offerings they did have, as well as the limited capabilities of mobile devices themselves, preventing mobile from fully taking hold as an indispensable instrument for purchasing, according to PhoCusWright’s “Traveler Technology Survey 2013.” Respondents were most frustrated by small screen sizes (51%) and poor user configurations for websites and mobile apps compared with those on their computers (36%).

June 2013 polling by Google and Ipsos MediaCT also found that travelers felt airlines in particular were the most clueless of travel providers when it came to easy smartphone integration with websites and applications.

Instead of using them to buy while on the go, travelers use their mobile devices mostly for inspiration. They can dream up destinations and hammer out logistics while commuting or in the middle of office meetings. But though travel companies focus on tablet interfaces and offerings—which accounted for 7% of all online travel bookings worldwide in Q3 2013, reported Business Insider Intelligence—PhoCusWright said smartphones were sneaking up from behind as the mobile travel inspiration tool of choice. More than one-quarter of US travelers said they turned to their phones for destination selection and shopping, compared with less than 20% on tablets, indicating big smartphone travel opportunities in 2014.

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