Online travel agencies still making money in today’s travel market

There’s still money in the travel business; you just have to look in the right places. In the United States, the online leisure and unmanaged business travel sector is where you’ll find the cash — this sector is outperforming every other travel sales channel, according to a recent study by research firm PhoCusWright. In a report that the company will release soon, U.S. Online Travel Overview Ninth Edition, PhoCusWright will reveal the details behind the online leisure/unmanaged business travel’s 7% decline relative to a nationwide general fall of 16%.

“For the first time since PhoCusWright began tracking the remarkable trajectory of the internet in travel distribution, online travel will decline in 2009,” says Doublas Quinby, senior director, research at PhoCusWright. “But,” he continues, “the 7% drop in online travel vs. far steeper double-digit declines for the total travel market and offline channels indicates that travelers are increasingly turning to the Web to shop and purchase travel amid the recession.”

The contraction of the travel market in 2009 has brought the travel industry back to pre-2005 levels. The effects haven’t been as brutal in the online space, though, which has outperformed all the other channel’s this year. When the year is over, PhoCusWright expects online travel agencies to own 39% of the total travel market in the Untied States, up from 35% last year.

[Photo by borman818 via Flickr]

“By honing in squarely on consumer concerns in 2009, heavily promoting deals and last-minute special offers and eliminating many booking and customer service fees, online travel agencies have deftly outflanked recessionary pressures and are outperforming every other distribution channel,” Quinby reports. He adds, “OTAs are taking back some share from travel supplier Web sites this year.”