INTERNET bookings in mature Asian markets such as Singapore have already reached 15%, online operator Zuji believes.
However, the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore is more circumspect, estimating that the internet and direct bookings now account for around 10% of the Singapore travel market.
NATAS Chief Executive Officer Robert Khoo says traditional travel agencies are holding their own in the Lion City, generally regarded as the most net-savvy of all South-East Asian markets.
Mr Khoo says demand for traditional agents is increasing with a 15% boost in local agency numbers over the past five years.
Both NATAS and Zuji agree that booking trends are changing due to the emergence of Singapore as the primary regional hub for Low Cost Carriers (LLC), which in 2004 accounted for 7% of all flights from Changi Airport.
Freshly fluid consumer travel patterns are also having an impact, with the General Manager of SA Tours, Alicia Seah, saying business is strong for her company, one of Singapore’s largest travel agencies.
“The main difference now is that there perhaps is less emphasis on booking flights and more on-the-ground (product) such as organised tours, cars, restaurants and cruises.”
Singaporeans are also travelling more often, says Khoo. “Previously, many Singaporeans saved, sometimes for years, to go on one long international vacation,” he says.
“Now, many have the money but not the time to take long vacations so the trend is to take several short trips on a free and easy basis.”
Zuji says internet booking is getting especially strong strong support from the small to medium business sector in relatively mature Asian market such as Singapore and also Hong Kong.
It says yearly growth (end 2003 to end 2004) was in triple digits in all markets – Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea.
Director of Corporate Affairs Kim Stockham says hotel sales are particularly strong, growing at around 300% a year.
She adds that much of Zuji forward growth will come from hotel sales following a renewed corporate and marketing focus.