Tele-Depths / Surveys News 3/11/12

Travelocity overtakes Expedia in annual satisfaction survey


Squeezed between travel providers on one side and meta-search sites on the other, it seems online travel agencies (OTAs) have one ace in the hole: Consumers still like using them.

That’s the upshot of a new American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report released on Tuesday. Focusing on Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity, the report rated overall satisfaction with the sites at 78 on a 100-point scale last year, matching the record high set the year before.

“A score of 78 is good,” said Larry Freed, CEO and president at ForeSee, which helps produce the Index. “We consider 80 the threshold for a great performing site and they’re bumping up right against it.”

While the aggregate score was unchanged, individual results showed more fluctuation. After nine years in the top spot, Expedia slipped 3 percent, from 79 points to 77, losing its crown to Travelocity, which climbed from 77 to 79.

Orbitz and Priceline also posted better numbers, rising from 75 to 76 and 73 to 76, respectively.

Speaking anecdotally, Freed says Travelocity may have gotten a boost after it redesigned its homepage last summer.

“It’s a bit more of a guided navigation — Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 — as opposed to just filling out a form,” he told msnbc.com. “We don’t know explicitly if that’s the reason it improved, but it’s definitely a fresher, cleaner look.”

Changes at Priceline may also explain that site’s improved rating. In recent years, the company has gradually moved away from its opaque, “Name Your Own Price” focus toward a more traditional OTA model. (In January, the company even went so far as to kill off the Priceline Negotiator, the celebrity spokesman played by William Shatner.)

“They’re now more in sync with everybody else,” said Freed. “Knowing what you’re getting is probably a little more palatable for a larger base of consumers.”

Still, as a group, the OTAs face fundamental challenges because they all serve a similar role as middlemen to the travel providers whose inventory they sell.

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