What the Travel Industry Can do About Online Booking Abandonment

By: Eric Walloga, Vice President, Sales, Finance, Travel & Entertainment, Valassis
Published Monday, Apr 9, 2018

Travel operators understand how difficult it is to acquire new customers through their websites. With a strong economy comes increased competition and the battle to win new traffic gets harder each year. Several years ago, Millward Brown conducted a study for Expedia and found that travel intenders will visit 38 travel sites in the five weeks prior to making a purchase.1 While the average time between when a person starts researching and actually books a trip has been shrinking over the last few years, people are increasing the amount of research they do across devices.

For example, a study conducted by Similarweb in 2017 found that online research accounted for more than 390 million visits to U.S. cruise line websites over the last year, which is more than 34 times the estimated number of U.S. cruise passengers.2

The result of all this increased research? Over $4.67 trillion in abandoned shopping carts.3 The travel industry is among those categories hardest hit with an overall abandonment rate of up to 81.6 percent, according to a recent study conducted by Salescycle4 (see chart below).


This industry’s longtime method of addressing online booking abandonment has been display retargeting. However, the rise of ad blockers, banner blindness and bot traffic has diminished those results over the years.

This poses a serious challenge for travel operators who continue to invest significant marketing dollars to drive active travel intenders directly to their brand website, only to retain 2.4 to 4.4 percent of their booking traffic on desktop and .7 percent to 1.3 percent of their bookings on mobile sites5 (see chart below).


The good news is that travel marketers need not accept high abandonment rates anymore. Advancements in identity-matching technology have made it possible to reconnect with consumers that have abandoned online bookings and influence them to return to the site and complete their purchase.

For example, direct mail, which enjoys the highest response rate of all media per a 2017 DMA report,6 is now being used in a programmatic way to re-engage consumers that have abandoned a travel-related booking.  The advantage of direct mail is that there are no ad blockers to contend with, relatively minimal mailbox clutter and human engagement versus bot traffic. 

In choosing a remarketing partner that offers a household-specific programmatic direct mail approach, travel operators should consider the following capabilities:

-         Match rates of anonymous online booking abandoners;

-         Personalization capabilities of remarketing solutions to these consumers;

-         Turnaround time to re-engage an abandoned booking consumer; and

-         Postal address accuracy.

Abandonment remarketing is a travel operator’s chance to continue the conversation with an extremely important group of customers: those currently demonstrating the highest purchase intent. Identity-matching technology and advanced personalization breakthroughs are allowing a level of abandonment re-engagement never seen before.

Now may be a great time to benchmark your current remarketing efforts against more modern practices!


  1. Millward Brown Digital, “Traveler Attribution,” 2013
  2. Cruise Lines International Association, 2017 CLIA State of the Industry report
  3. BI Intelligence, “Shopping Cart Abandonment,” 2016
  4. SaleCycle, “Remarketing Report,” Nov – Dec 2016
  5. Adobe Travel. “ADI Report,” 2016
  6. Data & Marketing Association (DMA), “Response Rate Report,” 2017