As summer approaches and we gear up for another season of travel and vacations, Verto Analytics took a look at the travel services, including websites and apps, that consumers use to plan, book, and share their travel experiences. Our Verto Index: Travel looks at the most popular travel services among U.S. adults (ages 18 and above), from TripAdvisor to Airbnb and more.
The 10 Most Popular Travel Services
TripAdvisor continues to dominate the travel field, with nearly 40 million monthly unique users reported in April 2018, placing it well ahead of its peers in travel bookings aggregator and online review sites. By comparison, Booking.com claimed just half the monthly users (20.1 million), trailed by Expedia (18.8 million) over the same time period. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the top-ranking properties on our Travel Index is the breadth of services included in our rankings of the ten most popular travel tools. Our list underscores the continued importance and popularity of on-demand services like Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb, which, despite their individual troubles with regulators and PR disasters, are still on the verge of either the next great IPO or the next big tech bubble burst, depending on who you ask. On the other side of the spectrum are utility-focused services like GasBuddy, which has cultivated an audience of nearly 21 million monthly users – that’s nearly three times larger than AAA’s user base of just 7.5 million.
The Importance of Stickiness: What Are the Go-To Travel Tools?
Stickiness is how Verto measures user engagement, by comparing monthly users to daily users. When it comes to the way that consumers use travel services, a high stickiness rating may indicate how useful or reliable a given service is. Our analysis of the stickiest travel services reveals a list that is dominated by Alphabet, Google’s parent company: three of the four stickiest services are owned by the tech giant. Only the Travel Channel’s flagship property (34% stickiness) outranks Waze (29% stickiness), Google Maps (22% stickiness), and Android Auto (22% stickiness).
Are Maps the Killer App?
Given the mobile- and navigation-centric nature of our stickiness rankings, it appears that Alphabet has cemented its grip of the automobile-based travel space. In particular, consumers spend an average of almost four hours per month using Waze (a navigation app often used by Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as being incorporated into Android Auto) and 98% of that use is on mobile devices – pointing to its popularity as an on-the-go mapping tool. And while Google Maps users spend only about 1.5 hours per month using the service, its huge reach and audience base of 154 million monthly users (72% reach) indicates that Alphabet has cultivated a strong family of nearly-indispensable mapping tools and services. With the addition of recommendations and ratings into Google Maps, it’s clear that Alphabet isn’t just satisfied with making inroads into navigation tools – it’s encroaching on user-generated reviews, ratings, and travel aggregator sites as well. With the more recent launch of tools such as Google Flights and Google Trips, TripAdvisor has some intimidating competition headed its way.
While our data for Apple Maps only includes the 23 million monthly users on mobile devices (consumers using Apple Maps on a smartphone or tablet), a look at usage and engagement metrics reveals that it still lags far behind Alphabet’s offerings: the average Apple Maps user spent just over 30 minutes per month with the app, compared to Alphabet’s offerings. And those metrics continue to decline among users for other mapping services: MapQuest’s 21 million users spend just 28 minutes using the service per month, while the typical Yahoo!Maps user (the service itself has less than 3 million monthly users) only spend six minutes per month using the service.
Everyone Wants Experience
Consumers are increasingly shifting their travel plans (and dollars) towards experience-based attractions, and travel brands are responding accordingly,repositioning themselves as “experience platforms” as opposed to simple transactional and review sites. In the last two years alone, Airbnb launched their appropriately-named Experiences feature and TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer predicted that tours and activities could account for $2 billion in business opportunities – not surprisingly, the travel aggregator behemoth has been making significant investments in its experience offerings. And with the exception of TripAdvisor and Airbnb, the travel aggregator landscape – services that allow consumers to research and purchase flights, accommodation, and tickets to experiences like tours or classes – is dominated by Expedia and Priceline, which collectively own six of the eight top travel aggregators, based on monthly user numbers.
With Airbnb keen on becoming a “super brand of travel” by capitalizing on its ability to provide hyper-personal, hyper-local experiences to customers, and TripAdvisor flexing its sizeable revenue and customer base to dominate the experiential travel sphere, Expedia and Priceline face challenges from both long-term peers/competitors (Expedia owned TripAdvisor until a 2011 split) and startups trying to disrupt the space.