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Trip-booking site Travelocity on Wednesday emerged the favorite in the annual J.D. Power ranking of online travel agencies, beating out competitors just as spending in the sector is returning to pre-recession levels.
Travelocity's top ranking was followed by Expedia.com, Booking.com, Hotwire.com, Priceline.com, Cheaptickets.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz.com and lastly, Cheapoair.com. Travelocity is owned by travel technology company Sabre, which earlier this month held its initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock market.
For customers, the most important factors for travel booking are pricing; quality information; booking and reservation options; online access; ease of booking; competitive promotions; and the ability to reach customer service, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Online Travel Agency Satisfaction Report.
"In today's competitive market, offering a low price is a necessity but does not automatically ensure customer satisfaction," said Rick Garlick, the globaltravel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, in a statement issued with the report. "Online travel agencies need to provide a user-friendly Web experience to meet customer expectations. If the site does not function well or provide the kind of information customers expect, they will either move on to a competitor's website or phone the agency's call center, costing the agency time and money."
Hotels were the most popular item purchased on the sites (at 58 percent,) followed by airline tickets, (52 percent,) vacation packages (33 percent,) and rental cars (31 percent,) according to the survey.
Actual travel spending has been up in recent months, according to numerous sources including U.S. Department of Commerce data that showed real spending on travel and tourism in the fourth quarter of 2013 increased at an annual rate of 4.2 percent.
The survey is based on responses from 2,673 customers who made an online purchase from an independent travel website during the 12 months prior to March 31. It measures overall customer satisfaction with the purchase experience when buying a vacation package, flight, hotel or rental car using an online travel website.
Earlier this month, JD Power issued another report on satisfaction in the travel sector. In the inaugural J.D. Power 2014 Hotel Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction Report, Marriott Rewards ranked the highest among hotel loyalty/rewards programs.