Traffic Metrics for 23 of the largest online travel websites – Online Travel Agencies, Metasearches, Hotels, Airlines
In previous posts, I’ve looked at financials and competitive trends for publicly traded online travel companies. In this post, I will look at traffic and marketing channel data for some of the world’s largest online travel websites for Online Travel Agencies, hotels, airlines and metasearches.
First, a couple of disclaimers:
– Data presented comes from SimilarWeb and Semrush. Although they have sophisticated methodologies to get the most accurate data possible, they also use estimations which can lead to errors and inaccuracies.
– We are looking across domains that are not necessarily comparable. Some of these travel players have country code top level domains and some have subdirectories. Those that work with subdirectories will consolidate all their local country activity in one unique global domain (e.g., Booking’s Spain site is a subdirectory of Booking.com), while others have country specific domains (e.g., Tripadvisor’s Spain site is Tripadvisor.es). Therefore, in the data presented here, Booking.com shows data for Booking’s global activity, while Tripadvisor.com shows data for its US site.
→ Country Code Top Level Domains: Tripadvisor.com (US site), Airbnb.com (US), Expedia.com (US), Kayak.com (US), Trivago.com (US), Skyscanner.net (UK), Choicehotels.com (US), Despegar.com.ar (Argentina), Cheapoair.com (US), eDreams.es (Spain).
→ Subdirectory / global domains: Booking.com, Southwest.com, AA.com, Marriott.com, Hilton.com, Jetblue.com, Ctrip.com, Accorhotels.com, Easyjet.com, Ryanair.com, Delta.com, United.com, Jetcost.com (global domain for a few of its countries).
1. Monthly Visits
Booking.com leads by a very large margin, although we need to keep in mind that their .com domain is used globally, as opposed to the country specific domains from other players like Tripadvisor, Airbnb and Expedia. But in any case, we see that OTAs and platforms such as Booking, Expedia, Ctrip and Airbnb are well ahead of direct hotel and flight suppliers in their ability to generate traffic to their domains.
2. Mobile vs Desktop Traffic
Mobile represents more than than 80% of Trivago’s and Ctrip’s visits (mobile transactions also accounted for 80% of total Ctrip’s activity in 2017). On the lower end of the spectrum are Kayak, Delta and Airbnb, with 40% or less coming from mobile. The average share of mobile traffic for the 23 travel players is 54%. Mobile conversion is generally lower on mobile than on desktop, so the share of mobile transactions is lower than the share of mobile traffic. For example, eDreams.es has 67% of visits on mobile while their mobile bookings share reached 36% in Q4 2017. In Despegar’s case, we see 53% of mobile visits, while their mobile bookings were 30% in 2017.
3. Incoming Traffic by Channel
Overall, direct and organic search are the largest sources of overall traffic, with 42% and 34%, followed by paid search (8%) and referrals (7%). Email, display ads and social media amount to less than 10%. If we look at travel categories, airlines have the largest share of direct traffic (50%), metasearch have the largest share of organic search (39%) and paid search (15%), and hotels have the largest share of referral traffic (11%).
Looking at specific competitors, Southwest.com and Airbnb.com have more than 60% of their traffic coming directly. Having a large share of traffic coming from Direct generally are the result of strong brands, but it also could be a reflection of lower online marketing activity. eDreams and Tripadvisor are on the lower end of direct traffic, with 19% and 15%.
79% of Tripadvisor’s traffic comes from organic search (average for the 23 websites is 34%), enabled by its more than 600 million reviews. In the Top Organic Keyword table below, we see the top desktop and mobile keywords generating organic search traffic. Only 2 of Tripadvisor’s top 10 organic search terms have the Tripadvisor’s brand, while the remaining 8 are generic highly searched keywords (“restaurants”, “hotels”…), which highlights the value of the very rich and deep content in Tripadvisor. With 64%, Ctrip also has a very significant percentage of traffic coming from organic search. Most of its top organic search terms contain the Ctrip brand. Booking.com (19%) and Trivago.com (20%) have the lowest share of traffic coming from organic search. This does not necessarily point to a “failure” in itself. 19% of Booking.com’s 428 million visits is 81 million visits, more than the total traffic of every other competitor here, with the exception of Tripadvisor and Ctrip. Additionally, Booking is the largest online marketing advertiser in online travel, and this reduces the relative share of the non-paid online sources of traffic (direct, organic search).
With an average of 8% for all 23 websites, Paid Search (essentially, Google Adwords) is the third largest source of traffic for online travel. Metasearches (15%) and OTAs (12%) have much higher shares compared to airlines (2%) and hotels (4%). For reasons we’ve seen in a previous post, intermediaries are better positioned than direct suppliers to have profitable and large scale paid search campaigns. Trivago.com (29%), Jetcost.com (28%) and eDreams.es (28%) are the most dependent on Paid Search. Booking.com, the world’s largest OTA, also has a large share of 19% of traffic coming from Paid Search. On the lower end, four airline sites have less than 1% of their traffic coming from Paid Search: Southwest.com, Easyjet.com, aa.com, United.com and Ryanair.com.
As we see on the Top Paid Search Keywords table below, most of the top paid search keyword campaigns from the 23 online travel sites contain their own brands. This is particularly the case for the 4 hotels. In the case of Booking.com and Expedia.com, we see more non-branded terms, such as “hotels”, “motels”, “flights”, “Las Vegas hotels” and “hotels near me”. We also see a clear strategy of getting traffic with keywords containing competitor and supplier brands. For example, 6 of the top 10 paid search keywords for Jetcost.com are airline (Air France, Ryanair, Transavia) and competitor metasearch (Kayak) brands. 5 of the top 10 paid search keywords for eDreams .es include supplier keywords (Norwegian, Vueling, Ryanair). 4 of the top 10 Cheapoair.com keywords contain Delta, Southwest and Priceline. Some airlines such as Ryanair.com also have top keywords including competitor brands (Easyjet and British Airways).
Referrals was the third largest source of traffic for these online travel sites, with a 7% share overall. eDreams.es has the largest share of referrals (19%) of the 23 sites. eDreams.es has the largest dependancy of Paid Search + referrals. Both of these paid acquisition channels add up to 47% of eDreams.es traffic, a much higher share than the 16% as an average for all the online travel players in this analysis.
By looking at the leading sites that drove direct clicks to each of the 23 players in this analysis, we see that many of the referring sites are metasearches. Kayak is one of the top 3 referring sites for 8 of the websites: Expedia.com, eDreams.es, Tripadvisor.com, AA.com, Jetblue.com, Delta.com, Southwest.com, United.com. Skyscanner is an important source of traffic for the flight oriented OTAs such as eDreams. Additionally, Easyjet and Ryanair’s top three referring sites are all Skyscanner sites.
4. Geographic Origin of Traffic
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we should keep in mind that some of these websites are country specific (blue background in the table below) and others are global domains (white background). The table shows the traffic by country origin, ordered from most to least geographically diversified.
The most international of all these online travel websites is Booking.com. Its top 5 countries account for only 34% of traffic, and the country with the largest share (Russia) only had 8% of Booking.com traffic. Ctrip.com, despite being a global domain, has 83% of its traffic coming from China. Country specific domain OTA website eDreams.es has 76% of its traffic coming from Spain and Despegar.com.ar has 97% of its traffic coming from Argentina.
The most international metasearch website is Jetcost.com, with France and the US as their top traffic-originating countries with only 12% each. 57% of its traffic comes from outside of their top 5 countries. Skyscanner.net is a single country domain, but 39% of its traffic comes outside of the top 5 countries, and the UK accounts for only 51%. Other country specific domain metasearch websites like Tripadvisor.com and Trivago.com also are geographically diversified, with the US accounting for only 59% of their traffic.
For hotels, Accorhotels.com has slightly more than half of its traffic coming from its top 5 countries. France, with 22%, sends the most traffic, while Choicehotels.com, Marriott.com and Hilton.com are heavily dependent on US traffic (91%, 77% and 75% respectively).
For flights, Ryanair.com is the most geographically diversified among the airline websites analyzed here. 62% of its traffic comes from its top 5 countries, with UK leading at 20%. Ryanair’s activity and operation covers several European countries, which explains the geographic distribution of its traffic. Another Pan-European airline, Easyjet, has more geographic concentration in its top 5 countries (81%), although much less than US-centric Southwest.com (98% traffic from the USA), Jetblue.com (90% from the USA), American Airlines (90% USA), Delta (89% USA) and United (87% USA).