Latin America Travel Search and Booking

Travel Search and Booking Dynamics in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico

This online survey was done on September 2020 with 18.000 respondents from Argentina, 13.000 from Brazil and 11.000 from Mexico. The responses below apply only to the subsegment of respondents who had purchased a flight or an accommodation (hotel or alternative accommodations) in the previous 12 months: 1134 in Argentina, 1425 in Brazil, 1231 in Mexico. The purpose of this survey was to understand their travel search and booking behaviors.

0. High level summary

Travel Search

  • Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are the leading channel to start searching for flights and accommodations in Argentina, and for accommodations in Mexico.
  • Search engines are the leading channel to start searching for flights and accommodations in Brazil and for flights in Mexico.

Travel Booking

  • OTAs are the leading channel for booking accommodations in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico
  • Supplier direct (adding online + phone) is the leading channel for booking flights in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
  • There is a significant share of consumers who have no preference on the booking channel: 32% of flight bookers in Argentina, 22% of flight bookers in Brazil, 24% of accommodation bookers in Mexico.
  • There is also a significant share of consumers who are attributing their booking experience to the metasearch and search engine channels. There could be some of these travelers who are in fact booking in those channels, but there might also be some confusion on the booking channel. Consumers might be confused on what the booking channel is (or don’t care about it), but there it could point to an opportunity for the booking channel to do a better job at communicating and educating consumers on the value they bring.

Satisfaction levels with travel booking channels

Travel consumers were asked to rank their level of satisfaction (from 1 = very dissatisfied to 5 = very satisfied) with the booking experience on their preferred booking channel.

Search Engines got the best performance (5) results in two instances (Brazil flights and Brazil accommodations) and worst performance results (1+2) in two instances as well (Argentina flights and Argentina accommodations). Traditional travel agencies get the worst performance results in three instances (Mexico flights and accommodations, Brazil accommodations) and best performance results in one (Argentina accommodations).

The channels with the best and worse scores in booking satisfaction (1 = very dissatisfied, 5 = very satisfied)

Search / Book cross tabulation

  • Many more consumers that start searching travel on search engines end up booking directly with suppliers than with OTAs. Maybe this explains partly how vocal OTAs have been about Google’s growing threat.
  • Less than half of travelers in Argentina and Brazil (and 55% in Mexico) who initiate their flight search in an OTA end up booking there.
  • There is significant transfer (between 20% and 30%) from searching flights on OTAs to booking on airlines. Less transfer (around 10%-15%) with searching accommodations on OTAs and booking directly with suppliers. I think there is an opportunity for OTAs to apply metasearch components to monetize on these leads to suppliers.
  • Conversely, the highest “retention” rates (search and book in the same channel) are with flights + airlines and also with accommodations + OTAs. More than 75% of travelers who start their flight search with an airline in Argentina and Mexico (and 53% in Brazil), end up booking there. Around 75% of travelers who start searching accommodations in an OTA in Mexico and Brazil (and 64% in Argentina) end up booking in the OTA.

1. How do you start searching for your flights / accommodations?

In Argentina and Mexico, OTAs are the leading channel to start searching for accommodations, while Brazilians prefer to start their accommodations search in search engines.

For flights, search engines are the leading channel to initiate searches in Brazil and Mexico. Argentinians give a slight edge to OTAs over search engines.

A relatively small share of travelers in Argentina (11%), Brazil (9%) and Mexico (8%) start their accommodation searches directly with suppliers. For flights, more travelers start their searches direct with the airline, with up to 23% of Mexican travelers starting their flight search this way.

2. What is your preferred channel to book flights and accommodations?

33% of Argentinians choose OTAs as their preferred booking channel for accommodations, followed by suppliers (adding online and telephone) with 26%. For flights, the situation is reversed, with 26% choosing to book direct with suppliers, and 20% with OTAs. Worth noting that almost 1/3 of Argentinians don’t have a preference of flight booking channel.

In Brasil, 28% of travelers choose OTAs as their preferred booking channel for accommodations, closely followed by suppliers (online + telephone) with 26% and search engines with 23%. For flight booking, suppliers add up to 28%, slightly ahead of search engines with 27%. OTAs are further back with only 13%, not much more than the 10% of traditional travel agencies.

OTAs are the preferred flight booking channel for 36% of Mexicans, followed by supplier direct (25%) and search engines (18%). For accommodations, supplier direct is the preferred booking channel for for 35% of Mexican travelers, followed by OTAs (18%) and search engines (15%).

3. What is your satisfaction level with your preferred booking channel (1 = very unsatisfied, 5 = very satisfied)

Flight booking satisfaction

In Argentina, the highest levels of satisfaction in booking a flight are with old school channels: traditional travel agencies and directly calling the airline. OTAs and online direct follow closely, both adding up to 79% that ranked their experience as a 4 or 5 (1 being very unsatisfied and 5 very satisfied). Search engines rank the lowest in flight booking satisfaction with 15% being very dissatisfied. Unclear if consumers are attributing to the search engine a redirection to an airline or OTA once the flight has been selected in the search engine.

In Brazil however, search engines have the highest satisfaction levels in flight booking, with 56% of flight bookers giving it a 5, followed by traditional travel agencies (52% of travelers give them a 5). Combining 4 and 5, the metasearch channel shows the best satisfaction levels adding up to 87% of travelers. OTAs and online direct with airline have similar results, with 74% and 76% of travelers respectively giving them a 4 or a 5. There seems to be a big potential for improving the experience of calling an airline to book a flight, since 19% of travelers saying that they are very dissatisfied with their experience.

In Mexico, OTAs and airline direct show the highest satisfaction levels when combining 4 and 5. However, if we only look any 5 (very satisfied), the metasearch channel has the best results. Also here, it is not clear if travelers are booking direct with the metasearch or they are being redirected, and they are ranking their overall experience of finding the right flight through the metasearch and not clear where the booking was made.

Accommodation booking satisfaction

Similar to what we saw with flight bookings, traditional travel agencies have the highest satisfaction levels for booking accommodations in Argentina. Combining 4 and 5, OTAs show the best satisfaction levels (again, similar to flight bookings). Booking accommodations on search engines show the lowest satisfaction levels, with 20% saying they are very dissatisfied, and only 26% very satisfied. This is also consistent with the flight booking results.

In Brazil, search engines have the highest number of very satisfied bookers (54%), followed by online direct (52%). Combining 4 and 5, OTAs have the best results (82%), closely followed by online direct (81%).

In Mexico, OTAs have the highest number of very satisfied bookers (48%), followed by search engines (42%). OTAs, supplier direct and search engines have similar levels of clients with a 4 or 5 satisfaction level.

4. Cross tabulation — Search and Booking

(after searching on each channel, where do consumers end up booking?)

Argentina

23% of travelers who start their flight search on search engines end up booking directly with the airline, while 17% end up booking on an OTA. For accommodations, 25% of travelers who start their accommodations search on search engines end up booking directly with the supplier, while 18% book through an OTA.

Less than half of travelers who initiate their flight search in an OTA end up booking there. 28% finalize their booking with the airline. Different story in accommodations. 73% of those who initiate the search in an OTA end up booking in the OTA, and only 15% with the supplier.

75% of travelers who start their flight search with the airline, end up booking there. Only 8% of these travelers end up booking with an OTA. With accommodations, 57% of travelers who start their accommodations search directly with the supplier, end up booking with the supplier. 15% finalize their booking with an OTA and 11% with a a traditional travel agency.

Brazil

In Brazil, 41% of travelers who initiate their flight search on a search engine end up booking there (or attributing it to that channel), while 22% end up booking with the airline and only 9% with an OTA. For accommodations, 48% of travelers who initiate their flight search on a search engine end up booking there, while 19% end up booking with an OTA and 15% with the supplier.

For travelers who initiate their search in an OTA, only 33% ends up booking their flights there, and 20% books with the airline and 12% with a traditional travel agency. For accommodations, 64% of those initiating their search in an OTA ends up booking with an OTA, 10% with the supplier and 5% with a traditional travel agency.

53% of travelers starting their flight search in an airline end up booking with the airline, while 8% go to an OTA and 5% to a traditional travel agency. Interesting that 20% of those who start a search with an airline end up booking through a search engine (or attributing their booking to that channel)

Of those that start their search in a traditional travel agency, only 22% and 37% end up booking their accommodation and flights there respectively. The supplier is the most benefited from this segment, as 29% and 24% of users that start their searches in a traditional travel agency end up booking their accommodations and flights respectively directly with the supplier.

Mexico

In Mexico, 30% of travelers who start their flight search in a search engine ends up booking directly with the airline and only 12% end up booking with an OTA. For accommodations, 27% end up booking with the supplier and 14% with an OTA.

Those that start their flight search in an OTA, 55% end up booking in the OTA and 23% go to the supplier instead. For accommodations, 77% of those who start their search in the OTA end up booking there, and only 10% opt to book with the supplier.

78% of travelers who search their flights directly with airlines end up booking with them and only 5% with OTAs. 61% of travelers who start their accommodations search with the supplier, buys with them. 16% choose to book with OTAs instead.

Those who start their search with a traditional travel agency, 43% (flights) and 58% (accommodations) book there. Airlines take up 22% of bookers who start their search in traditional travel agencies, and 17% book with OTAs.

I hope to do this type of survey on a quarterly basis. Hopefully including more countries in Latin America and also getting deeper information on a competitor level. Would love to hear from you on what you think of these results and what you’d like to see in future analyses. Thank you!


Latin America Travel Search and Booking was originally published in Travel Tech Essentialist on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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