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June 30th, 2009

What can we learn from Travel in a downturn?

What happens to people’s online behaviour when summer comes around in the middle of a recession? Whilst spring and summer is traditionally a strong time for visitor numbers to airline websites, research from Hitwise UK out last week showed that the recessionary woes of the airline industry are being played out online too.

Traffic to airline and flight websites was down 19.2% between April 2008 and April 2009.

I used to think that everything stopped in a recession. That people stopped buying stuff and stayed at home. But the truth of the matter is that everyone still needs to buy stuff, its just that they buy cheaper versions of the same stuff they were buying before.

Everyone still wants to go on holiday; it’s just that they can no longer afford the flights. So what do they do instead? The answer is; they look for a cheaper way of getting away. The sectors that are bucking the downward trend in travel are the train and coach websites, whose traffic has increased almost 4% over the same period.

Of the 500 most popular travel websites in the UK, 39 were about either trains, buses or coaches The official National Rail website was the fourth most visited site out of all travel websites in May this year, And that’s out of 18,390 travel sites in all. Finally, searches for ‘train times’ is up 1.5% over the last 12 months too.

So a downturn can be a good time for people in the travel sector, especially if you are seen to offer a ‘budget’ version of something that others charge more for.

What does this mean for us website builders? If you run a travel or holiday website, it makes sense to emphasize your cost effective prices at this time. You could include prominent promotions on the site, and give away discount and voucher codes wherever you can. Another idea is to incentivise repeat business or recommendations by giving away a discount with ‘your next stay’. Because people still want to go on holiday, it’s just that they want to find a cheaper way of doing it; if they think they’ve saved money by booking with you then they will be happier

Have you done well or suffered in the downturn? Have you found a way of turning people’s modified online behaviour to your advantage? Leave us a comment below.

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