Last Minute Holidays: Who Won the Most Business?

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

We take a look at the holiday booking and cruise companies who have been the most successful in their advertising campaigns during the summer period

Last Minute Holiday Trend

People generally tend to book their holidays far in advance to take advantage of the best deals, however, many are finding out that the best deals are sometimes found at the very last minute. There is a growing trend in people booking last minute holidays.

A report on holiday trends in the UK by BDRC Continental, showed a decrease in lead time between expected and actual holiday bookings, as well as an increase in the amount of people who book their holiday only one month in advance. A common holiday myth dictates holidaymakers will get a better deal the closer to the time of travel they book, but this is not always the case.

There are many companies catering for last minute and cheap holidays with attractive bargains, and it has become a competitive part of the tourism industry. Like a lot of companies, most of them have employed a PPC strategy to ensure optimal online marketing.

Share of Voice Over the Last 12 Months

We investigated which travel companies were the most successful for last minute holiday keywords in share of voice (SOV) – i.e. who had the biggest presence in comparison to their competitors.

Our analysis looked into how the most popular 10 online travel booking companies are using PPC and how they fared to find out who is winning the battle for last minute holidaymakers.

As expected, the market showed volatility over the 12 month period, but the few at the top generally held their position.

Over the last 12 months (July 2013 – June 2014), the data shows an overall slight decrease in SOV among all the companies. Thomas Cook had the biggest slice of the online advertising pie over this period, while Sunmaster and Expedia come in second and third respectively. Thomas Cook had a standout increase in the end of September, while the others showed stagnant progress in SOV.

Last Minute holidays share of voice 12 months

SOV for the top 10 travel companies with the keyword ‘last minute holidays’, over a 12-month period
Source: Adthena

SOV During the Summer Period

That said, looking at the summer periods specifically from May to August 2014,

all the companies’ shares varied over this period with sudden peaks and lows. It slightly changed from June onwards with Sunmaster dominating the largest share of voice, and Thomas Cook falling behind quite a bit in comparison to the rest of the year. Among travel bookings in general, Expedia remains up there in its share of traffic, reaching its peak in August of nearly 35% share of voice, close to Sunmaster’s peak.

Most of the other companies also experience their highest traffic levels in August, so we took a look at the period to see who were the winners for last minute holidays in the period.

Last minute holidays share of voice

SOV for the top 10 travel companies with the keyword ‘last minute holidays’, over a 30-day period
Source: Adthena

Between July and August, it’s clear from Adthena data that Sunmaster, Expedia, Thomas Cook and  to a lesser degree, Holiday Discount Centre have invested most in attracting customers looking for last minute holidays.

Interestingly, the top two companies (Sunmaster and Expedia) seem to be putting a focus on the week commencing 8th August to get people booking last minute holidays, which would suggest they are targeting their PPC either at families with children looking to get their holidays in over the last few weeks of the school holidays, or it could be that the websites are trying to attract couples without children who may want to book for the period immediately following children going back to school.

Sunmaster’s spending continued at its highest level over the month as August went on, while Expedia dropped spending after its initial peak.

Thomas Cook, which specialises in family holidays, increased its SOV in the last few days, suggesting it was trying to capture those last-minute family holiday bookings.

Analysing Cruise Holidays

However, looking at just cruises, it would seem as though Thomas Cook is trying to dominate the market with second place in share of voice and the amount of traffic incurred, generating 2064 paid clicks for the “cruise 2014” keyword. But it also spends the most amount of money generating clicks and has the highest average CPC—much higher than the others (paying £2.03 per click).

IgluCruise on the other hand, has the lowest average CPC of £1.61 compared to 271 advertisers, yet it generated the most traffic out of the five cruise companies. Iglucruise spends a similar amount to Thomas Cook, but generates 24% more paid clicks. Clearly, IgluCruise’s PPC strategy is working.


The titles used by IgluCruise in their ads are effective and attract consumers immediately. They include popular keywords in their ad copy, such as Caribbean, which was one of the top three destinations included within ‘Cruise 2014’ search terms. They also use the terms ‘Today’ and ‘Now’, which creates urgency with consumers. used the dominant themes in their ad copy such as “Deals”, “Deal” and “Best”.

How to Use PPC Effectively to Catch Last Minute Holidaymakers

It is a constant battle to have the highest share of voice and rankings, and with the trend of last minute and cheap holidays, this is particularly the case for holiday and cruise booking companies. Sunmaster, Expedia and Thomas Cook have generally dominated in share of voice over the last year and this summer period.

Sunmaster has had standout peaks in its SOV over the summer period, while Thomas Cook has dominated amongst both holiday booking companies and cruise companies, generating the second most clicks overall. However, the company does pay for it, having the highest average CPC.

Iglu, on the other hand, has the lowest average CPC, but the highest generation of paid clicks—so it’s not necessarily true that more spending will get you more traffic .

Whether trying to attract families or couples heading on holiday for a last minute holiday, it’s important to consider when and how to use PPC to your advantage and ensure your hold on the market remains – come rain or shine.

[Main image source: Flickr/Badruddeen]

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. After 22 years being involved in technology businesses and start-ups, he has driven Adthena forward since 2012 and it is now experiencing rapid growth. Ian likes to foster a culture of common sense and self-reliance at Adthena, and ensures everyone has the tools they need to succeed, His flair for innovation and business has been recognised with the Developing Entrepreneur Award at the WCIT Enterprise Awards – commonly regarded as the Oscars for technology entrepreneurs. A graduate of the University of Queensland, Ian is also a fluent Chinese speaker having lived and studied in Taiwan. He is married with two children and is an avid rock climber in his spare time.