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London 6th May 2004 : Hitwise, the world’s leading online competitive intelligence service, today reports that visits to travel related websites have increased by over a quarter in the 12 months to April 2004, reflecting the continued strength of this sector online.

Despite recent reports that intensifying fare wars and mounting competition have put pressure on the airline industry, the latest figures from Hitwise provide an extremely positive outlook for the online travel market in the UK.
Year on year, Hitwise data reveals that the sector has experienced similar fluctuations, indicating stability and maturity in the cycle of activity within this highly competitive market. Whilst the first quarter of 2003 was doubtless a turbulent period for the travel sector with the outbreak of SARS and the war in Iraq, travel online has shown consistent growth and similar trends in 2004. This indicates that the impact - at least on the propensity of UK consumers to look for travel online - was not severely impacted.

Moreover, the beginning of 2004 has seen the highest recorded market share of Internet visits for the Travel category. In January 2004, one in 25 Internet visits was to a travel website – a new high – and whilst visits fell slightly between February and April, the sector still represented 3.7% of all online visits in April.

Simon Chamberlain, General Manager of Hitwise UK commented: “Given the trend we saw in 2003, we can expect four months of strong activity for the online travel sector. Last year we saw an uplift of around
33% between April and August, and a similar increase this year would see almost 5% of all UK Internet visits going to Travel related websites.”

Whilst an increase of that scale is perhaps optimistic, the good news for the online travel sector is the continuing shift of business from the high street on to the Internet.

Expedia (www.expedia.co.uk), the online travel agency owned by the major US company InterActive Corp, is continuing to invest heavily this year, recently launching a £12m brand advertising campaign. Since the beginning of the year, Expedia has been the most popular Travel Agency site in terms of visits by UK Internet users, currently accounting for more than 1 in every 10 visits to the Travel Agencies category and continuing to maintain its lead over Lastminute (www.lastminute.com).

But who is winning the share of mind amongst UK Internet users? Simon Chamberlain noted: “With search engines driving more than a third of visits to the Travel sector, understanding the brands people are searching for is a great way to assess the relative strength of brands online. In those terms, “easyJet” continues to be front of mind for UK consumers, with “Ryanair” and “British Airways” just behind, showing the clear dominance of low cost carriers on the web.”

Most searched for Travel brands
The following report lists the most popular terms typed into a search engine over the last 12 weeks that resulted in traffic to websites classified by Hitwise within the 'Travel' industry. For example, the most popular search term was 'easyjet' representing 2.36% of all search terms that delivered users to websites classified by Hitwise in the 'Travel' industry.

search term market share %
easyjet 2.36
ryanair 1.82
cheap flights 1.67
british airways 1.24
flights 0.98
train times 0.84
holidays 0.84
expedia 0.73
cheap holidays 0.68
travel inn 0.62
travel lodge 0.57
hotels 0.55
easy jet 0.54
national express 0.53
ryan air 0.51

About Hitwise

Hitwise is the world’s leading provider of online competitive intelligence services. Each day, Hitwise monitors how more than 25 million Internet users interact with over 500,000 websites across 160 industry categories.

By monitoring more people, more websites, more often, Hitwise provides marketers with timely and actionable marketing insights into how their online presence compares to competitive websites. Companies use this information to maximize the return on their online investment in efforts such as affiliate programs, search marketing, online advertising, content development and lead generation.

Hitwise collects Internet usage information via a combination of ISP data partnerships and opt-in mega panels, and complies with local and international privacy legislation as audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Founded in 1998, Hitwise is a privately held company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and operates in the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Jannie Cahill
Tel: 020 7378 3619
Mob: 07956 873939

Hitwise will be exhibiting and speaking at the Travel Distribution Summit, 17th-19th May 2004


Published on: 12:00AM on 6th May 2004