Researching deals, looking for ideas or reading reviews for your holiday or city break has never been easier or quicker. And this is largely thanks to the advancing capabilities of smartphones and tablets.

However, there may still be obstacles for some when it comes to making bookings through mobiles.  

The World Tourism Organisation expects mobile to account for more than 30% of online travel sales by 2017.  Couple this with the IAB’s recent findings that mobile ad spend has broken the £1bn barrier and now accounts for £1 in every £6 spent on digital advertising and it is clear that mobile, or rather a thoughtful use of smartphone-based marketing, is something that cannot be ignored by the travel industry.

Travel brands may not be able to exploit this given the sheer quantity of people not booking their holidays on their mobile device. The most recent ABTA Consumer Trends report revealed that of those who booked at least one holiday abroad online in the 12 months to August 2013 (49% those surveyed), the vast majority (96%) used a PC or laptop as their booking device.

On top of that, the figures show no growth from 2012 in the number of people using a mobile or tablet to book. In fact, there is a significant decline, particularly amongst those aged 25 to 34. Far from a minor blip, the number of 25-34 year olds booking via mobile dropped from 22% to 13%, while tablet bookings dropped from 16% to 11%. With desktop bookings increasing significantly across the board, the figures represent a stark contrast from the known increase in tablet and mobile browsing behaviour. 

In light of these seemingly opposing trends, it begs an important question: Why are people still choosing PCs and desktops to book their holiday? Perhaps the answer lies with functionality and performance.

According to a recent article from Econsultancy, none of the top 50 airlines in the world have a responsive website.  And while 76% offer separate mobile and desktop sites, 22% don’t have a mobile site at all.  This sets the industry at odds with user behaviour and is potentially losing the travel industry revenue.

However, with reports of optimism from the global travel industry on growth in 2014, with the World Tourism Organisation predicting a 4% increase in travel spending, above the IMF’s 3.7% global economic growth forecast, the outlook is encouraging.

Coupled with consumer browsing behaviour trends, travel brands have an excellent opportunity to overhaul their online services to make the customer journey seamless across all devices. If consumers are browsing on mobile but not purchasing, brands need to interrogate the disconnect and ensure they are able to get their slice of this growing pie. In essence, getting your mobile offering right is, frankly, essential.

Especially in light of new competition heralded by the emergence of the first mobile-only travel agencies. At the moment these companies are niche players, focusing on ‘tonight-only’ bookings made by travellers on the move. However, in an increasingly competitive mobile market, the most successful mobile-only travel agencies are expected to reach the mainstream market in the next couple of years. Such forward-thinking brands will be well-placed to gain a valuable share of the market at the expense of traditional online booking agencies that haven’t addressed mobile user behaviour. 

Therefore, it is crucial for travel brands to create the right environment for consumers and the evolving role of smartphones and tablets means all travel players will need to embrace these platforms rapidly. Specifically, this constitutes forming a totally seamless online experience and purchasing journey. By putting these measures in place, travel brands can expect to see higher levels of cross-platform engagement and increased sales.

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