Travel Sites Surge in March

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Traffic to online travel destinations surged 12 percent to 51.2 million surfers in March, compared to 45.9 million in February, Nielsen//NetRatings reported yesterday.


Nearly 43 percent of all Web surfers accessed an online travel site in March, as compared to 39 percent the month prior, according to a statement from the New York online audience measurement firm.


Other findings from Nielsen//NetRatings include:


· Nine out of the top 10 online travel sites posted double-digit gains in March.


· Expedia claimed the No. 1 spot as the largest online travel destination, jumping 18 percent to 11.6 million surfers.


· Travelocity grew 24 percent in traffic to 10.2 million, while Orbitz.com attracted nearly 6.6 million visitors, posting a 14 percent gain.


· Southwest Airlines drew nearly 5.2 million visitors, jumping 16 percent.


· CheapTickets.com surged 51 percent to nearly 4.4 million unique visitors.


"Online travel experienced robust growth in March, despite the rise in fees passed along to consumers in light of the recent decision by airlines to cease paying commissions to several online travel agencies," said Patrick Thomas, senior Internet analyst, NetRatings.


"Spring and summer vacation planning and special fares have brought travel buyers back to the Web, resulting in strong double-digit gains among the top travel players."


To arrive at its figures, Nielsen//NetRatings monitors the Internet usage of a panel of volunteers and extrapolates


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