Despite the obstacles, there is a small but significant amount of travel booking being done via smartphone. And much of that booking is same-day purchases, according to eMarketer. When travel shoppers use their mobile phones, they tend to be looking for a last-minute flight, car rental or hotel room. Recent data reported by some of the largest online travel agencies showed just how common last-minute booking is: Both Orbitz and Travelocity have reported that more than 60% of hotel bookings made on mobile phones were for the same day.
Consumers are using smartphones to guide their travels from start to finish, whether that's for last-minute bookings, connecting to destination-related information or seeking personalized recommendations.
Numerous challenges, however, are slowing the mass adoption of mobile travel tools, particularly those designed for making travel reservations, according to a eMarketer report, "The Mobile Traveler: How Smartphones Are Changing the Customer Journey."
Already, smartphones have had a strong impact on the travel industry, and increasing mobile device adoption will continue to influence the way consumers make travel plans. In 2012, roughly 36 million Americans will use a smartphone to research travel. eMarketer estimates that number will double by 2016. Over the same time period, eMarketer forecasts that the number of smartphone-using travel bookers will jump from 15.8 million to 36.3 million.
US smartphone travel researchers, 2010-2016:
- 2010:17.2 million (16.0% of online travel researchers)
- 2011: 27.1 million (23.7%)
- 2012: 36.4 million (30.4%)
- 2013: 45.0 million (36.4%)
- 2014: 53.6 million (42.1%)
- 2015: 62.8 million (47.9%)
- 2016: 72.6 million (53.9%)
US smartphone travel bookers, 2010-2016:
- 2010: 8.0 million (9.2% of online travel bookers)
- 2011: 11.9 million (12.6%)
- 2012: 15.8 million (16.1%)
- 2013: 20.0 million (19.6%)
- 2014: 25.0 million (23.8%)
- 2015: 30.2 million (27.9%)
- 2016: 36.3 million (32.5%)
, August 2012)
Clearly, mobile is a channel with huge potential, but mobile travel booking significantly lags behind mobile travel research.
eMarketer expects the gap to narrow slightly by 2016, but the number of actual bookers still will be only half that of travel researchers. By comparison, the ratio of online travel bookers to online travel researchers in 2012 is closer to 4:5.