The best way to book a holiday is on the internet, according to the majority of children aged five to 15 surveyed by YoungPoll. Less than one-third named travel agents as their preferred booking channel.

The survey, on behalf of Teletext Holidays, showed 65% of the next generation preferred booking online as it allowed the family to choose a holiday at the same time, and look at pictures and videos together.

In comparison, 28.8% said the best way to book a holiday was through a travel agent because it was fun looking at brochures. A total of 6% said they would choose a holiday through the TV, because it could be done so as a family.

Online activity

The survey did not distinguish between the different types of companies online, many of which operate as online travel agencies.

The importance of technology throughout the holiday process is a constant theme in the results of the survey, where the average age of respondents was 10.

Nearly half (45%) of the children questioned would take their iPod or MP3 player on holiday, 42.5% would take handheld games such as a Nintendo DS, and 41% their mobile phones.

In addition, more than half of those surveyed would either send a text message (39.5%) or put a message on social networking sites such as Facebook (14%) to contact friends, while less than half would send a postcard (46.4%).

The results will send a warning to the trade on how the next generation will interact during the booking process, and demonstrate the need for all businesses to be as web-savvy as their customers.

Teletext Holidays will use the survey to improve content on its website, and encourage advertisers to upload more interactive content.

Managing director Victoria Sanders said: “It’s all about interaction, and we are looking at new ways to display holidays on the site.

“It’s important the industry realises how much influence children have on what families’ holiday needs are and looks ahead.”

The Co-operative Travel Group distribution director Alistair Rowland said the survey results were not surprising, but stressed that the family and younger markets were only segments of its customer base. “Would you see a 20-year-old going into an agency to book a holiday? Probably not. They will go online,” he said.

But he warned that many travel companies were finding it hard to keep up with the developments of how the younger generation of holidaymakers was communicating.

“Children today are almost beyond the web; they want to do their web transactions through their mobiles. Travel companies are struggling to catch up with moving their online technology to mobiles,” he said.

Generation Y

The Co-operative Travel has a strategy focused on Generation Y, and is looking at better forms of communication with younger customers. “At the moment, we will text a customer to say their tickets are in. But we want to send them a link that takes them through to £99 deals, for example, and get a call to action through mobiles, rather than waiting for them to log on to the website.”

The survey also high-lighted the influence children have on their parents’ decision on where to go on holiday, with 78% saying they were either always, or sometimes, involved in the destination decision.

This ‘pester power’ is most controversially associated with toys or junk food, according to PR Week editor Danny Rogers, who warned travel companies to avoid advertising to youngsters through children’s magazines or TV.

But he said: “There is nothing wrong with slanting your advertising towards families.”

Family market

First Choice focused its TV advertising last year on swimming pools, particularly at its Holiday Villages, to attract the family market. First Choice general manager of marketing Stuart Mayo said: “We do not advertise directly to children. We did advertise during children’s TV, but we did it to target housewives who were watching.”