Global Sites Grow Fastest As Locals Struggle to Stay With The Pace, 2014 Hitwise Hottest 100 Reveals

Wow! Australian sites are getting hammered by global juggernauts – that’s the biggest take-out from the 2014 edition of Hottest 100 travel websites from Experian Hitwise and TravelTrends.biz.

It shows the global OTAs and meta-search sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com. Expedia, Skyscanner and Trivago have all the momentum, growing at five or six times the rate of Aussie sites.

TripAdvisor.com.au – #2 behind Google Maps – in particular is killing it, growing 18% over the past year to record more than 10m visits during August 2014.

These stats put it on another level with a huge gap to site #3, Qantas.com.au, on 6.8m August visits – more than -3m less than TripAdvisor.

Clearly everything’s going TripAdvisor’s way – why?

For mine, the big factor is content.

No other site apart from Google has more, or is creating it quite so quickly or effectively.

Thousands of new searchable pages are being created every day by TripAdvisor reviewers – the company doesn’t have to do a thing.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor’s transition to a hotel meta-search business model has been seamless and the site is stickier than it ever has been.

Another inevitably impressive performer was #5 website Booking.com, which last year became Australia’s top-ranked OTA for the first time.

Booking.com grew swiftly at +16%, pulling away from its nearest OTA rivals, #7 Webjet (+3%) and #8 Wotif (+1%).

The weak traffic growth of Webjet and Wotif  typified the generally poor domestic performance of long-term local brands.

Holiday rental Stayz, for example, came in at #16 with an increase in visits of just 2%.

It looks like new owner HomeAway, which bought the site last December from Fairfax Media for AUD220m, has had little impact on what’s been a long-term trend at Stayz.

An interesting exception to the domestic rule was Australian travel retail giant, Flight Centre.

Site traffic for Flightcentre.com.au grew 8%, making it the #14th ranked site overall.

What sets Flight Centre apart in terms of online growth?

The answer is probably marketing.

Flight Centre has much bigger advertising budgets than the struggling local travel sites.

Wotif’s lack of firepower in this area has been well-reported.

No such problems of course at well-entrenched OTA market leader Booking.com, which Hitwise says is getting more than 6m visitors a month, more than 2m ahead of Webjet and Wotif.

Another way to put it – Booking has 50% more visitors a month than the immediate competition.

And at their present respective trajectories, the gap will grow wider unless something happens to change the dynamic; extremely unlikely.

Meanwhile, times were generally tough on the aviation front – low cost carriers a notable exception.

In budget carrier land, a resurgent #19 Tiger Airways grew 67% off the back of new services, while #18 AirAsia also did well (+21%).

All the top airline site numbers went backwards in terms of numbers: #3 Qantas -4%, #6 Jetstar -7%, #10 Virgin Australia -13% despite greater capacity over the previous August.

Elsewhere Singapore dropped -6%, Emirates was down -14% and visits to can’t-take-a-trick #74 Malaysia Airlines fell -23%.

Sure there were a couple of good performers (eg #42 Air NZ grew traffic 23% and #63 Cathay Pacific was up 45%) but generally online aviation was down over the previous year.

Why? Here are a couple of theories:

  • More consumers are buying their fares through OTAs
  • Or they are researching fares more heavily through meta-search sites before hitting the airlines

Certainly the well-funded meta-search sites are going gangbusters, supporting this second theory.

#17 Skyscanner Australia traffic doubled year on year to 1.9m visits during August while #27 Trivago, which has been advertising heavily on TV, trebled its monthly traffic, up by 293% to 1.1m.

On the accommodation meta-search side, #31 HotelsCombined ‘s numbers increased 38%.

It’s worth noting the HotelsCombined – which has always had a global perspective – grew faster than any other major Australia travel site.

No coincidence that it is also advertising heavily with its ubiquitous TV ads clearly working.

Moving further down the Hottest 100, the airline and OTA sites start making way to niche providers such as car and cruise.

A standout performer here has been Rentalcars.com, where traffic grew 81% propelling it from #100 last year to #56 this August.

No surprise. It’s part of the Priceline Group, which also owns Booking.com and Agoda.

This makes it the most popular of all the car rental sites and the only niche OTA in the Hottest 100.

In the cruising sector, Carnival Australia properties dominate with the P&O Cruises and Princes Cruises sites the highest ranked at #49 and #51 respectively.

Its nearest competitor, Royal Caribbean, came in at #85.

There were no cruise OTAs in the Hottest 100.

Maybe this shows that while cruise is enjoying spectacular growth, the sector still hasn’t got its act together in terms of the web and online distribution.

Another perspective is that perhaps this cruise OTA void presents an opportunity for a new, aggressive player in this space.

On the accommodation front, Australia’s largest hoteliers Accor #40 and Mantra Group #88 did best, their results reflecting the number of properties they each operate.

IHG also made an appearance at #98.

No surprise that the biggest mover in the accommodation OTA space was #96 Airbnb.com.au, where traffic grew 931%, from 25,979 visits in August, 2013, to 267,877 this year.

#23 Hotels.com also did well, increasing visits by 37% over the year.

But of course, where there are winners, there are also losers.

Notable omissions from this year’s list include past strong performers such as:

  • BestFlights: #36 last year but controversially killed off by its owner Helloworld, the retail travel conglomerate. All BestFlights traffic now points to Helloworld.com.au, which is getting far fewer visits at #93.
  • TotalTravel: #35 last year and like BestFlights always represented. But not this year. Its fall from grace since being purchased from the founders by Yahoo! now seems complete.
  • Jetabroad: #83 in 2013, Jetabroad has been a Hottest 100 fixture, but not this year.
  • Wego: #70 last year and another perennial. Perhaps a reflection of its Asian focus. You don’t see the Wego brand in the Australian market as much as you used to.

In conclusion, this year’s Hottest 100 shows that the Australian travel web has never been tougher.

Commitment, imagination and major marketing budgets are required to cut through.

And global experience and perspective certainly seems to help.

Here is the Hottest 100 for 2014:

Websites Domain Visits Aug-14
Google Maps Australia maps.google.com.au             30,331,014
TripAdvisor – Australia www.tripadvisor.com.au             10,099,993
Qantas www.qantas.com.au                6,789,214
Google Maps maps.google.com                6,553,634
Booking.com www.booking.com                6,239,336
Jetstar www.jetstar.com                5,523,510
Webjet Australia www.webjet.com.au                4,154,175
Wotif.com www.wotif.com                4,098,599
Whereis.com www.whereis.com                3,459,241
Virgin Australia www.virginaustralia.com                3,430,357
Public Transport Victoria www.ptv.vic.gov.au                3,381,649
Expedia Australia www.expedia.com.au                3,269,645
News.com.au Travel www.news.com.au/travel                2,985,884
Flight Centre www.flightcentre.com.au                2,555,096
Agoda.com www.agoda.com                2,525,081
Stayz www.stayz.com.au                2,144,605
Skyscanner Australia www.skyscanner.com.au                1,931,682
AirAsia www.airasia.com                1,855,455
Tiger Airways www.tigerair.com                1,665,452
Lastminute.com.au www.lastminute.com.au                1,641,100
NSW – Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) www.rms.nsw.gov.au                1,551,482
TransLink www.translink.com.au                1,550,940
Hotels.com www.hotels.com                1,442,865
WeekendNotes www.weekendnotes.com                1,405,855
Sydney Trains www.sydneytrains.info                1,276,437
Qantas – Frequent Flyer www.qantasfrequentflyer.com.au                1,170,008
Trivago www.trivago.com.au                1,143,397
Agoda Australia www.agoda.com.au                1,002,434
Emirates www.emirates.com                   961,241
flightradar24.com www.flightradar24.com                   953,244
Hotels Combined www.hotelscombined.com                   896,379
www.transportnsw.info www.transportnsw.info                   856,163
Western Australian Department of Transport www.transport.wa.gov.au                   837,449
Lonely Planet www.lonelyplanet.com                   813,117
Transperth www.transperth.wa.gov.au                   785,493
Knapsack Inn www.backpackers.com.tw                   761,827
au.edreams.com au.edreams.com                   720,168
ABA Travel www.abatravel.com.au                   701,259
Viator www.viator.com                   700,024
Accor Hotels www.accorhotels.com                   696,953
Singapore Airlines www.singaporeair.com                   692,783
Air New Zealand – Australia www.airnewzealand.com.au                   683,128
Bing maps www.bing.com/maps                   682,925
TripAdvisor www.tripadvisor.com                   666,380
Time Out Australia www.au.timeout.com                   649,945
Adelaide Metro www.adelaidemetro.com.au                   643,203
Visit New South Wales www.visitnsw.com                   639,972
Melbourne Airport www.melbourneairport.com.au                   561,308
P&O Cruises Australia www.pocruises.com.au                   528,118
STA Travel Australia www.statravel.com.au                   524,981
Princess Cruises www.princess.com                   520,869
NSW Transport and Infrastructure www.transport.nsw.gov.au                   518,178
BYOjet www.byojet.com                   514,228
Travel Groupon Australia travel.groupon.com.au                   479,558
FlyScoot.com www.flyscoot.com                   479,083
RentalCars.com www.rentalcars.com                   479,003
My NRMA www.mynrma.com.au                   471,976
FareCompare www.farecompare.com                   460,807
HotelClub www.hotelclub.com                   445,141
ExplorOz.com www.exploroz.com                   443,291
Metro Trains Melbourne www.metrotrains.com.au                   423,267
travel.com.au www.travel.com.au                   411,810
Cathay Pacific www.cathaypacific.com                   407,815
EscapeTravel www.escapetravel.com.au                   399,978
Cheap Flights Australia and New Zealand www.cheapflights.com.au                   395,579
Velocity Frequent Flyer www.velocityfrequentflyer.com                   376,079
Go Behind The Scenery www.gobehindthescenery.com.au                   372,134
Sydney Airport www.sydneyairport.com.au                   363,033
RedBalloon www.redballoon.com.au                   356,450
StreetDirectory.com.au www.street-directory.com.au                   355,013
Transurban CityLink www.citylink.com.au                   349,226
Thebookingbutton.com.au www.thebookingbutton.com.au                   348,212
Perisher Blue Ski Resort www.perisherblue.com.au                   343,981
Malaysia Airlines www.malaysiaairlines.com                   342,382
bookingbuddy www.bookingbuddy.com                   336,738
VirtualTourist www.virtualtourist.com                   336,281
Budget Rent A Car Australia www.budget.com.au                   335,757
Etihad Airways www.etihadairways.com                   331,605
Avis Rent A Car Australia www.avis.com.au                   329,210
Sydney.com www.sydney.com                   325,019
Discover Australia www.discoveraustralia.com.au                   319,773
V/line www.vline.com.au                   319,677
Visit Victoria www.visitvictoria.com                   317,849
ZUJI Australia www.zuji.com                   316,497
RoyalCaribbean.com.au www.royalcaribbean.com.au                   310,977
Carnival Australia www.carnival.com.au                   309,338
Australian Business Traveller www.ausbt.com.au                   304,273
Mantra Resorts www.mantra.com.au                   304,002
AGFG (Australian Good Food & Travel Guide) www.agfg.com.au                   302,867
www.luxuryescapes.com www.luxuryescapes.com                   300,778
Travel Online Australia www.travelonline.com                   290,915
CheapOair www.cheapoair.com                   282,645
Hello World www.helloworld.com.au                   280,105
I Want That Flight! www.iwantthatflight.com.au                   279,822
Thrifty Car Rental Australia www.thrifty.com.au                   277,451
Airbnb Australia www.airbnb.com.au                   267,877
TakeABreak www.takeabreak.com.au                   264,599
IHG www.ihg.com                   263,733
Student Flights www.studentflights.com.au                   262,161
Time Out www.timeout.com                   260,224

 

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