The number of North American consumers who take leisure trips is falling even as online travel revenue continues to climb, according to Forrester Research data cited in The New York Times. Forrester found that 9% fewer people will book travel online in 2007 compared to 2005.

"Online travel distributors’ booking tools were made for mass consumption of uniform goods," Mr. Grau said. "They have yet to switch to to an era of individual consumption of unique goods."

Consumers and Internet Users in North America Who Take One or More Leisure Trips per Year, 2005-2007 (% of respondents)

The Times also cited PhoCusWright, which found that online travel booking by Internet-using travelers had fallen to 62% in 2006 from 68% in 2005. Bookings among those who usually arranged travel offline increased to 31% in 2006 from 25% in 2005.

“Customers are tired of spending two or three hours trying to find the airline or hotel or vacation package that meets their needs," said Henry Harteveldt, Forrester analyst, in the Times.

Online travel revenues are still strong because average booking amounts have risen, according to Forrester.

eMarketer predicts continued growth in US online travel through 2010, when revenue will reach $145.8 billion.

US Online Leisure/Unmanaged Business Travel Sales, 2003-2010 (billions and % increase vs. prior year)

Mr. Grau said that personalized service from traditional travel agencies was still very much in demand, presenting a challenge for online travel distributors.

"They must become more flexible by allowing travelers to put together travel packages that fit their unique needs," he said.

Via eMarketer