The inaugural award in this category went to NCR for some questionable implications from their research that went out in a press release earlier this year. But the winner this week comes from from a group calling themselves Continental Research;  no relation to the airline as far as I can see. Their infringement is minor compared to NCR, as the real reason they have won this award is because of the way one of their findings has been hyped up and reported elsewhere, such as this headline: Car rental sites more popular than blogs for holiday information.

But why on earth Continental Research in their report even waste their time asking 750 online participants what sites they visit when searching for travel comes as a complete mystery. Last week I was scathing of those in business who blindly swallow survey data without the slightest hint of a critical mind. Some of the things in this research report are probably useful, such as UK consumers’ intended travel destinations for 2009, but asking people what types of sites they visit when planning a vacation is utterly useless. It reminds me of the following hypothetical example:

We surveyed 1,000 people and asked them how many minutes per month they spent looking at porn sites on the internet. Every respondent answered zero, so therefore we conclude that online porn sites have no visitors.

If you want to know where online travel buyers are searching, ask someone like Hitwise or Nielsen who will give you real facts. Neilsen have come out saying 67% of internet users are browsing blogs and social networks and it accounts for almost 10% of their time. And Nielsen would know as they monitor actual usuage of the internet from their global panel of consumers. Surveys have their place, but not for determining peoples’ internet browsing patterns.