as to the where travelers inform themselves – the web has been the leader for quite some time. When you add the fact that word of mouth is now increasingly enhanced by word of mouse via blogs, tags, feedback sites etc. the path seems clear.
It is quite a stretch, to assume that a majority of these people will gather all this information online and then go offline to wade through brochures and consult travel agents for the actual booking. Some will certainly do so, for instance to book a safari or other type of exotic trip, but that is one a minority and two a very limited niche market, definitely not large enough to sustain all the traditional companies that provide their services in it.
Another development that is a threat to the old distribution model is the increasingly important role that destination websites play in this online information gathering process. Many are not well structured and user friendly enough to really be true one-stop shops, but some are making efforts to get there, one good example Bermuda.
Destination portals that embrace the concept of becoming an eCommerce platform with selected partners providing direct online access and booking capability will be able to participate in the process and prove to their stakeholder their market viability and usefulness. Including the aforementioned tools of Web 2.0 and embrace customer participation will only enhance their position.