The European online leisure travel market will establish a 25% share of purchases for the first time by the end of 2007.
The latest estimate, produced in a report on the European market from research company PhoCusWright, puts the continent around three years behind the US, which achieved online penetration 25% in 2004.
However the five leading markets in Europe – the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy – are developing at vastly different speeds.
The UK has twice as many regular online buyers and regular internet users purchasing travel products over the web than in Germany, the report found.
The same behaviour has been found in Spain, which has a similar usage profile as its neighbours – high adoption and connectivity rates – but has a higher proportion of online travel buyers than Italy.
PhoCusWright said the UK is currently following the US market the closest amongst the top five European markets in terms of behaviour and buying patterns.
The report added that the entrance of traditional and powerful vertically integrated operators, such as Thomson and Thomas Cook, which are reshaping their business practices alongside those of online travel agencies, is “heralding a reshaping of the business strategies that defined the U.S. market”.
The rate of growth in France is tempered by monolithic suppliers, lack of low-cost carriers and low outbound market.