Customers are shopping around for nearly a month and visiting 22 websites on average before booking a holiday, research from Google has suggested.

A study of 22,000 web users during the first three months of 2007 has suggested that 45% of transactions occur four weeks or more after the initial search, with holiday bookers making at least 12 searches along the way.

Many start their search with a generic term such as ‘package holiday’ or ‘short break’ and end with named brands. About 10% of those surveyed never use a brand term during their searches.

Google industry leader Robin Frewer said travel companies often overlook the benefit of advertising against general terms.

“This research suggests travel searchers are becoming more brand fickle, spending alot of time considering offers from competing brands. The fact users are using more generic search queries gives ample opportunity for brands to attract new customers.“

He added: “Travel companies have got to have a presence at all stages of purchase, and brands that are not present during these searches are missing out on sales.”

The study suggested that most shoppers visit the tour operator website they eventually book with four times, but just 10% book on their firstvisit.

“Companies face a growing challenge to retain the online customers as the competition encourages travel customers to shop around,” said Frewer.