SINGAPORE (XFNews) - Online travel bookings in Asia are set to double 2003's figures to reach 16 bln usd by 2006, according to a report by Asia's leading air ticketing and reservations company.
An estimated 29 pct of regional air travel bookings will be made online by the end of 2005, up sharply from 3.5 pct in the previous year, Singapore-based Abacus International said at the weekend.
"These figures are very encouraging and are by no means the peak, suggesting that there is still immense growth potential in online travel," Abacus chief executive Don Birch said.
The report cited the increasing ease of access to the Internet within the region and the emergence of budget carriers as major factors contributing to the online travel boom.
"With Internet penetration levels continuing to rise steadily throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the result is more Internet-savvy travellers," Abacus said.
Besides the traditional markets of Japan and Australia, residents in tech-savvy Taiwan and Hong Kong are also fast embracing online travel, which refers to the purchase of travel products such as air tickets, hotel rooms, short-haul packages and weekend breaks over the Internet.
The increasing proliferation of low cost carriers (LCC) in the region, accompanied by their "online-centric" sales model, has also drawn travellers to go online when making their bookings, Abacus noted.
The number of regional budget airlines has increased dramatically since its inception, from just one in 2001, when Malaysia's Air Asia first took to the skies, to the current 16.
"As their low ticket prices fulfils pent-up demand from the low-income travellers, more travellers have become familiar with the LCC's modus operandi, thereby displaying increasing confidence in and propensity for online booking," the company said.
Among the report's other significant findings, air travel in Asia continued to grow steadily, with ticket bookings rising 3 pct in the first half of 2005 over the corresponding period last year.
Travel within the region in June accounted for more than 80 pct of bookings that month, Abacus said.
The usage of electronic air tickets also climbed 86 pct in the first half of the year. June alone witnessed growth of 51 pct compared to a year ago, with the Philippines and Thailand registering the highest growth rates.
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