The findings, released today, showed that spring airfare promotions and vacation packages lured nearly 43% of all Web surfers to an online travel site in March, and that for the month traffic to those sites increased 12% compared with February.
Nielsen/NetRatings found that 51.2 million consumers accessed online travel sites such as Expedia, Orbitz and Hotwire, compared with 45.9 million in February, and that nine out of the top 10 online travel sites achieved double-digit gains.
No sales figures
The survey did not evaluate whether the increased traffic to the sites translated into sales for the travel providers. The spike in traffic could mean consumers were browsing, researching and comparison shopping, but not necessarily buying.
Expedia, which grabbed the No. 1 spot, saw its traffic increase 18% to 11.6 million users; Travelocity grew its traffic by 24% to 10.2 million Web surfers; and Orbitz lured 6.6 million users for a 14% increase in traffic.
Interestingly, the online travel spike comes as airlines halted commissions to several online travel agencies. The fees were absorbed consumers in the form of price hikes.
"Spring and summer vacation planning and special fares have brought travel buyers back to the Web, resulting in strong double-digit gains among the top travel players," said Patrick Thomas, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings.