A newly released independent survey, covering the year between July 2015 and June 2016, has come up with some revelations about Australian booking trends and the travel agents people prefer.
During the period of the survey, slightly over 13.7 million Australians aged 14 and over took at least one holiday.
Of those Aussie holiday-goers, 7.3 million (52.8%) reported using a travel agent or tour operator for at least one of the trips they took, latest findings from Roy Morgan Research show. That’s more than double the number (3.2 million) that didn’t use an agent at all.
And the most popular travel agent? No prizes for guessing that Flight Centre has clinched top spot once again.
Some 12.6% of Australian holiday-goers used Flight Centre for at least one trip in the 12 months to June 2016, giving the chain a respectable lead over online accommodation service Booking.com (11.4%).
Wotif.com was a distant third at 6.8%, ahead of Webjet (6.1%) and – in its first year of being measured in the Roy Morgan Holiday Tracker Survey – fast-rising newcomer Airbnb (5.5%).
Besides Flight Centre, the only travel agent with a bricks-and-mortar presence to crack the Top 10 was Helloworld, used by 2.8% of holiday-goers. The remaining eight are all exclusively online businesses. This is hardly surprising, given how dramatically the rise of digital technology has transformed the travel industry, but it does not tell the whole story.
Viewing Australian holiday-goers through the lens of Roy Morgan’s in-depth consumer profiling tool Helix Personas, it soon becomes apparent that booking a holiday is not a one-size-fits-all exercise.
Even Flight Centre – as popular as it is – is more likely to attract certain groups of travellers than others. For example, 22.5% of the Helix Persona known as Social Flyers used Flight Centre for at least one holiday in the 12 months to June 2016 – well above the Australian average and more than five times the proportion of Rural Traditionalists (4%), the Persona least likely to choose Flight Centre.
Frequently young, sociable and single, Social Flyers earn good wages but are not yet tied down by too many financial or family responsibilities. What better excuse to indulge their love of overseas travel? With the hectic schedule they keep, however, they may be too busy to organise all the finer details themselves. Just as well Flight Centre’s complete travel service (from flights to hotels, cruises to package deals) makes it so easy.
In contrast, Rural Traditionalists tend to be older, living in country areas and working hard in blue-collar jobs to pay off their mortgage before retirement. They generally stay in Australia for holidays, organising their budget getaway on the Virgin Australia Holidays website, Lastminute.com or Hotels.com rather than visiting a travel agent.
Meanwhile, Airbnb attracts a greater proportion of people from the Big Future segment. “Educated, cultured, switched on and usually coupled up,” as Roy Morgan puts it, Big Future would find Airbnb appealing for the way it allows travellers to feel more like locals and less like tourists. They may have started a family, but they’re still hipsters at heart!
Commenting on the findings, Roy Morgan Research’s industry communications director, Norman Morris, noted that although the company’s data reveals which travel agents were most used by Aussie holiday-goers in the last 12 months, it does not reveal which holiday-goers are more likely, or less likely, to use a particular agent – or to go direct and use no agent at all.
“Of course, it’s no secret that the travel industry has been transformed by digital technology, with the rise of online agents, booking services and tourism operators being a logical outcome of this.
“For bricks-and-mortar travel agents, this has meant adapting to the changing market or risk losing relevance. Flight Centre’s continued popularity indicates it has done this effectively. The fact that it attracts a tech-savvy consumer segment such as Social Flyers also speaks volumes for the chain’s ability to anticipate and meet the needs of even those who’d be perfectly comfortable organising their own holiday online.
“By identifying exactly who is more or less likely to use a particular bricks-and-mortar travel agent or online booking site, Helix Personas enables tourism operators to target the travellers who will be most responsive to their brand, rather than going for a more generalised approach.”
Edited by Peter Needham