Study: For Summer Travelers, Hotel Searches Soar Over Flights

NEW YORK—A new study by Adthena, an AI and machine learning-powered search intelligence firm, found that online searchers are looking at hotels more than activities and flights. The study, which polled more than 600 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older, sought to uncover key search trends such as key terms, most popular sites and preferred search methods.

Hotels Most Popular for Consumer Travel Searches

When asked what they searched for the most when planning their summer trips, 37% of respondents said that hotels were the primary thing they searched for, followed by local attractions (27%) and flights (25%).

“Travel year-round is one of the hottest areas in search to follow, and hotels are obviously one of the biggest items on travel itineraries,” said Ashley Fletcher, VP of marketing, Adthena. “Furthermore, many waves were recently made with Google’s recent debut of its Hotel Ad buying campaigns to Google Ads. These findings underscore just how big of a player hotels are in search today.”

In addition, per the survey’s results, (40%), Trivago (34%) and (34%) emerged as the most-used travel sites by survey respondents over the last 12 months. On the other hand, Kayak (24%) and Cheapflights (21%) were used less by summer travelers.

Desktop Beats Mobile for Travel Search

While mobile continues to become a bigger player in search today, 54% of respondents say they conduct their travel searches via desktops, according Adthena’s results. Moreover, 26% of respondents said that they used mobile and desktops equally, with only 20% saying they strictly used mobile for their travel-related searches.

“Given how mobile-focused the industry has become over the past few years, this is definitely one of the most interesting findings in our study,” said Fletcher. “It goes to show that even though mobile is hot, the need for a multi-front approach to search is still pivotal to success.”

Pricing and Deals Drive Search Buying Decisions 

Per Adthena’s results, an overwhelming majority of respondents (78%) said that pricing and deals were the determining factors in making their buying decisions when doing travel research via search. Only a minority cited the brand or loyalty programs as their deciding factor.

“With so many options today in the saturated search ecosystem, price is virtually becoming the only factor many consumers are considering when making shopping decisions,” said Fletcher. “Having the right data today is so important to getting pricing right, and these results confirm that pricing needs to be a huge focal point of any search strategy and of any competitive research as well to drive the maximum results.”

Search a Primary Resource for Summer Travel

Nearly 80% of those surveyed say they have used search engines when planning for their summer travel, with 32% saying that they typically do four or more searches during their travel prep.

Additionally, 46% of respondents spend at least “a few days” using search engines before making travel bookings.

Paid Search Ads Yield Returns for Travel Sites

More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) say that they have made purchases for summer travel via paid search ads, with 17% of respondents saying that they buy from paid search ads “very often.” In addition, 51% of respondents said that paid search ads were either “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” when doing their summer travel.

“Paid search is a big investment for many brands today, so having the proper tools and strategies in place to generate return on investment is a must,” said Fletcher. “With so much choice and competition available to consumers in travel it is virtually impossible to offer a one-size-fits-all ‘hero’ campaign that appeals to everyone. Therefore, travel brands need to do their homework about which tactics work best and narrow in on their own strengths, what opportunities exist and then make their efforts count at optimal costs. Paid search ads are clearly an avenue travel advertisers feel works for them, and thanks to their due diligence is reaping rewards.”