Last updated: 09:25 AM ET, Mon April 20 2015

Expedia Comes Out on Top in 2015 ACSI Travel Report

Travel Technology | Ryan Rudnansky | April 20, 2015

Expedia Comes Out on Top in 2015 ACSI Travel Report

The 2015 ACSI Travel Report was released on Monday, featuring customer ratings for hotels, online travel agencies (OTAS) and airlines, while also shedding light on their respective industries.

OTAs rated higher in customer satisfaction overall than hotels in the report (78 vs. 75 out of 100).

While scoring low in travel promotions and package deals (75), they scored high in the areas that matter most to OTAs: ease of payment and booking process (84, compared to 79 a year ago), variety and selection of travel options (81, up from 75) and ease of website navigation (80, up from 75).

VanAmburg said OTAs should be happy with these results, considering not many travelers seek OTAs for promotions and package deals; OTAs are succeeding in the most critical and relevant areas to them.

“If you look at overall satisfaction (with OTAs), it’s a significantly higher score (than with hotels),” VanAmburg said. “On the average, they’re offering a much more attractive experience for what they do.”

Of course, OTAs have perhaps less to deal with because they are primarily focused on a few key areas such as the ease of the booking process, while hotels have to accommodate a variety of customer satisfaction points.

Individual major OTA brands that scored the highest in customer satisfaction were Expedia (77), Orbitz (75), Priceline (75) and Travelocity (75). To narrow it down, this really just means Expedia ranks ahead of Priceline, as Expedia now owns both Orbitz and Travelocity.

Yet, it is worth noting that smaller travel websites beat out the major players in terms of customer satisfaction, posting a combined score of 78. This group includes both Internet startups and direct booking on hotel and airline websites.

In that sense, the report suggests customers continue to prefer booking directly on the official sites of hotels and airlines.

But, overall, OTAs are doing well for themselves right now, VanAmburg said. What could really hurt customer satisfaction scores in the future, on the other hand, is a lack of competition. In terms of the major players, it’s really just Expedia and Priceline now, and there’s a chance these OTAs stop pushing forward because they have less incentive to do so.

“The big issue for OTAs as we come around to this next year is going to be the landscape in that category with all of the mergers,” VanAmburg said. “You are essentially down to two major players. That doesn’t always sit well. One of the constants we have seen over 20 years in the ACSI is the higher scores are going to be in industries where there is strong, healthy competition. Competition drives up customer satisfaction. When there’s less competition, customer satisfaction tends to be lower because the couple players that dominate the market either have to be made to go head to head against each other or (there is) less choice for the consumer.”

That being said, there is still a chance that Expedia and Priceline continue to compete ferociously between each other for supreme dominance, VanAmburg noted.

A Word About Mobile Bookings

A lot has been said about being mobile-friendly in today’s technologically focused world, and for good reason, but VanAmburg also believes it’s been overblown a bit, at least right now.

For example, in surveys for the report, customers who booked through mobile apps and mobile browsers rated their experiences at 77 and 76, respectively. Those who booked through desktops of laptops rated their experiences at 76. There isn’t much of a difference there.

On top of that, only one in five surveyed said they book through a mobile device via an Internet travel website or an app. 

“I’m not really surprised that there isn’t a greater proportion using (mobile devices),” VanAmburg said. “Every holiday shopping season, (Internet retail) gets talked about as this really huge deal. And it is. Billions of dollars are being spent…it’s growing every year…But then you get down to the realization that Internet retail is still less than 10 percent of the entire retail spending in the United States. It gets a lot of attention—and it is big news—but 90 percent of retail spending is still being done in-store. Apps are huge now, but—when it comes right down to it—you’re still seeing the vast majority of people booking (via OTAs) on a traditional desktop or a laptop.”

VanAmburg said he does expect this to change and for mobile bookings to become more prominent in the marketplace in the future, but, as of now, its impact is being a bit overestimated.


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