J.D. Power Ranks Online Travel Web Sites

Hotwire.com ranks highest among independent travel Web sites in satisfying customers who book their reservations online, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Independent Travel Web Site Satisfaction Study released today.

Following Hotwire.com in the ranking are Expedia.com and Travelocity.com (in a tie) and Priceline.com.

Measuring the satisfaction of travelers who book airline, hotel or rental car reservations through one of eight major independent travel Web sites, the study is based on six factors: competitiveness of price, ease of booking, usefulness of the information on the Web site, availability of booking options/travel packages, appearance/design of Web site and ease of navigation.

Hotwire.com receives the highest ratings for the two most influential contributors to customer satisfaction—competitiveness of price and ease of booking—as well as appearance/design and ease of navigation.

"With the scramble for holiday travel deals in full swing, travelers are increasingly turning to the Internet to finalize their plans," said Linda Hirneise, executive director of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Price is by far the leading reason for online booking, and independent travel sites simplify the process for consumers. Hotwire.com, which offers unsold inventories from their travel partners, is particularly successful in satisfying its customers by tapping into consumers' craving for deep discounts."

While the study finds that 50 percent of travelers now book online—up from 46 percent in 2005—-twice as many book their reservations directly through airline, rental car or hotel branded Web sites (33 percent), such as Hilton.com or JetBlue.com, as compared with an independent travel Web site (17 percent). Travelers who book airline, hotel and rental car reservations through a branded Web site tend to be more satisfied with their experience than those who use an independent Web site.

"As many airline, hotel and rental car companies increasingly offer low-price guarantees and other incentives, it is more difficult for third-party independent travel sites to attract new customers," said Hirneise. "Independent sites need to continue to find ways to connect with travelers and offer them unique services that generate the best possible travel deals."

One of the key advantages of independent sites is the convenience of booking travel packages that combine airfare, hotel and car rental for one discounted price. Many independent sites also allow visitors to book activities at certain destinations, which can be highly attractive to consumers.

The 2006 study is based on responses from 6,800 consumers who booked their travel reservation through an independent Web site. Travelers were surveyed between March and October 2006.

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