Rex S. Toh, Charles F. DeKay and Peter Raven published “Travel Planning: Searching for and Booking Hotels on the Internet” on September 1st, 2011 on OnlineFirst for Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To view other articles that are available on OnlineFirst, please click here.
A survey of 249 leisure travelers at four hotels in Seattle, Washington, finds overwhelming use of the internet for searching and booking hotel rooms, although a noticeable percentage still make telephone calls to book rooms. Eight of ten respondents used the web for a hotel room search. Of this group, 67 percent continued online to make their booking (on either the hotel’s page or a third-party site), 26 percent made telephone calls, and the remainder used travel agents or walked in to book rooms. Earlier research indicates that the personal contacts (notably by phone) are aimed at negotiating a price lower than that found online. For those booking electronically, hotel websites were used most commonly by this group of respondents (37 percent), following by third-party sites (30 percent) and opaque auction sites (25 percent). In contrast to studies from the early 1990s, this study found that women have surpassed men in information search activities. Also, those who purchased hotel rooms online trended toward being younger, having higher incomes, and purchasing more room-nights than those who used traditional distribution channels. Although the study findings cannot be generalized because of the sampling procedure, it is clear that a substantial number of travelers use the internet for search only, and then book another way (usually by phone). Women conduct much more research regarding potential hotels and rates than do men. Hotels’ own websites remain the first choice for booking rooms, but opaque auction sites are almost as popular as regular third-party sites. For this sample, Priceline and other similar sites accounted for 25 percent of all bookings. Finally, even those travelers who did not use the internet for any purpose in connection with their hotel stay still had a relatively favorable opinion of the concept of online booking.