Online bookings buck the trend
By Ollie Quiniquini
In a year when travel markets suffered massive hits, online bookings actually grew for GDSs.
Amadeus saw online travel agent bookings grow 119 per cent last year, over 2008. Amadeus Asia-Pacific president David Brett said: “This growth has not come at the expense of travel agents who still maintain a critical role since many travellers need the type of value-added services that cannot be fulfilled online.”
The online travel segment performed just as strongly for Abacus International. President and CEO, Robert Bailey, said online bookings increased by more than 15 per cent in 2009, despite the global economic downturn. He believes growth for this segment would accelerate by 20 per cent this year.
Bailey said: “Higher Internet penetration and rising incomes from the emerging markets will bring forth an increased dependence on (the online) channel for travel consumption.”Citing PhocusWright fore-casts of a 20 to 30 per cent increase in online bookings this year, Abacus International vice president channel management Patrick Lai said Taiwan, South Korea and India were among the fastest-growing markets for online growth.
Bailey added that the GDS managed to make further inroads last year in the online segment of markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and China.Travelport figures were not available at press time but president and managing director Asia-Pacific, Simon Nowroz, said many online travel agents (OTAs) achieved double-digit growth last year as “customers, particularly leisure travellers, sought to cut costs and search for low fares and competitive hotel rates”.
According to Nowroz, Asia-Pacific online travel is now worth almost US$30 billion annually, with OTAs holding approximately 43 per cent of this business.“This year, we should not be surprised if more OTAs establish themselves, particularly supporting niche customer segments,” said Nowroz.With the online space growing in importance, GDSs are concentrating on providing online solutions for travel agents. Last month, Abacus launched the newest version of Abacus WebStart, which integrates with Abacus FareX net fares solution and allows online payment.
Travel agents across Asia have ranked the online channel as one of the top items in their 2010 wish list. Responses for the Abacus Asia Travel Sentiment Survey indicate that market players are gradually shifting to embrace the online platform as one of their core revenue streams in the new decade.Of the travel agencies that do not have an online business component at present, 71.3 per cent intend to develop one.
More than half of these respondents said their website will be ready within the next six months.
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