Online Travel Will Decline for the First Time in 2009

In a sign that online travel has come of age, PhoCusWright, the travel industry research authority, projects that the online leisure/unmanaged business travel market will decline 3% to US$93 billion in 2009. This marks the first time since PhoCusWright began tracking the marketplace in 1998 that online travel has fallen year-over-year. PhoCusWright revealed its updated market numbers from the recently released PhoCusWright's U.S. Online Travel Overview: Update 2009-2010 in a Webinar. Representing more than one third of the total travel marketplace, the online leisure/unmanaged business travel market is now more or less mature and far more susceptible to broader swings in the economy and the total travel marketplace.

While online travel will decline in 2009, it will still far outperform the broader travel market and return to positive growth much sooner. With the recession in full swing and leisure and corporate travelers alike pulling back, the total U.S. travel market will decline 11% in 2009 to approximately $241 billion. This returns the total market to pre-2006 levels, when U.S. travel supplier revenue reached $251 billion. The drag on the total travel market is driven primarily by an even sharper decline in the corporate travel and groups and meetings markets.

"The travel industry has been experiencing significant declines in both traveler demand and revenue since the financial crisis unfolded, but not all travelers-and not all segments of travel-have been affected in the same way," says Douglas Quinby, PhoCusWright's senior director, research. "Companies mapping their strategies for 2009 and beyond must understand how different segments of the traveler population are responding to current economic conditions and the impact those responses will have on both product selection and booking channel."
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