February 7, 2012, 12:07 PM

U.K. holiday goers rely on the web and smartphones to book trips

A survey says that more than half of consumers avoid in-store travel agents.

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U.K. consumers who can afford to travel—to go on holiday, as the English say—are relying on the web to research and book trips, according to a report released today by the Interactive Media in Retail Group, an e-retail trade group commonly known at IMRG, and eDigitalResearch, a consultancy.

The two groups say that 72% of consumers prefer to research trips online, and that 53% of consumers avoid visiting storefront travel agents when planning getaways. The findings are based on a survey of 2,000 consumers conducted between Oct. 13 and Oct. 15.

The survey also points to the importance of mobile devices for consumers shopping for vacations. 68% of smartphone owners use their phones when shopping for tickets or accommodations, while 11% of smartphone owners have booked travel from their devices. (The survey did not indicate how many respondents owned smartphones.)

When shopping for hotels, tickets and other components of vacations, 70% of smartphone owners said they would rather use mobile-optimized sites instead of mobile apps. But when seeking such information as maps, timetables and weather forecasts, 70% would rather use mobile apps. That shows that travel retailers need to offer different mobile tools in order to serve all consumers, the report says.

The survey results come at a challenging time for U.K. travel retailers, the report notes.

Online travel had a tough 2011, recording just 7% growth, which is way below the average, but this is likely to be a result of the continuing economic downturn,” says Andrew McClelland, IMRG’s chief operations and policy officer. “These figures show that consumers want to use the online resources at their disposal in their own time and on their own terms. With confidence in researching and purchasing travel through the mobile channel also growing, it seems clear that travel agencies’ physical stores need to look at innovative methods for bringing online technology in-store.”

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