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Three out ten cell phones in use in the United States are now ‘smart phones’ with Internet connectivity, leading to one of the most intriguing questions facing travel service marketers today: how are travelers using these devices to plan, purchase and share information about both destinations and travel service suppliers? The results of the new Ypartnership / Harrison Group 2010 Portrait of American Travelers (SM) survey provide some insightful answers.

Nearly two in ten (19%) travelers have downloaded a travel-related application (app) to their smart phone. Among them, nearly one-half have navigated a destination using the built-in GPS functionality (47%) or searched for the latest information on flight schedules and delays (46%). Nearly three in ten have compared airfares or hotel rates (29%) or shared information or photos about their travel experiences (28%) using their smart phone. Approximately one in six has booked air travel or lodging (18%) or viewed a virtual visitor guide that provides information on things to do and see while visiting a destination (15%). Finally, more than one in ten (11%) has used their smart phone to download and redeem mobile coupons, while one in twenty (6%) has downloaded an audio walking tour of a specific destination.

“Clearly, mobile devices are destined to play an increasingly important role in the distribution and sale of travel services in years ahead,” said Peter C. Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership. “Both shopping and more real-time engagement in the discovery of what a destination has to offer are likely to rival talking and texting in the years ahead.”

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