In most markets, the online segment accounts for only a small portion of total revenues and sales. But that is not the case in the travel business.

According to a new report from Burst Media, based on data from PhoCusWright Research, this year the Internet will make up over half of all of the travel industry’s transactions.

The rush of travel consumers to the Internet has led to an online travel marketplace estimated at $68 billion — and that is the US market only.

In a Burst survey of 2,100 Web users ages 18 and older who plan to travel in the next three months, 79% of respondents said they would be using the Internet to plan their upcoming personal travel.

There is no statistical difference in the percentage of men, 79.9%, or women, 78.1%, who will use the Internet to plan their travel.

Among the respondents using the Internet to plan their upcoming travel, 47% said it would be their primary travel resource.

Internet travel planning does skew younger. Respondents ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to use the Internet as their primary travel resource, with 53% indicating so, and respondents ages 55 and older are the least likely, with 41% indicating so.

Usage also skews to higher-income households, with slightly over half, or 52%, of respondents with household incomes of $75,000 to $99,999 annually and nearly two-thirds, or 63%, with household incomes of $100,000 or more annually saying the Internet will be their primary travel resource.

The survey leaves little doubt that the Internet is the primary planning channel for travelers, and therefore a vital travel advertising platform.

A full two-thirds, or 67%, of the respondents who will use the Internet to help plan their upcoming travel will conduct travel research as well as make online travel transactions, and 33% will use the Web solely as an information resource.

Among respondents planning to make travel transactions online, 74.0% will likely purchase airline tickets, 72.9% will likely make hotel reservations and over one-third (40.4%) will likely rent automobiles.

In addition, of the respondents making transactions online, 60% will also research destinations and 29% will research travel/tour operators.

Travel vendors should be up front about pricing, as the survey found it was the most cited factor driving customers to sites.

When respondents were asked what features of a travel resource Web site make them want to return, the ability to check flights, hotels and rental car rates and availability scored highest, at 55%, closely followed by destination information and travel promotions and specials, both at roughly 50%.

Interestingly, women placed much greater importance than men on travel promotions and specials, 55% vs. 45%, respectively.

Via eMarketer