Hong Kong Walks While India Runs

By Martin Kelly

ONLINE Indian travel website Make My Trip will take just three years to achieve the booking volumes of 250-year-old industry stalwart Cox and Kings, PhoCusWright analyst Ram Badrinathan forecast at Wired Travel Asia.

In a fast-paced summary of key Asia pacific markets, Badrinathan identified India as the market with the most significant potential despite lingering infrastructure issues such as poor broadband penetration.

The key driver has been the explosion in the number of internet-orientated Low Cost Carriers.

There were nine at last count accounting for 37% of the domestic aviation market.

This fragmentation of the air inventory has resulted in a slew of online travel agents such as Make My Trip, cleartrip, travelguru, tripMela, India Times Travel and Yatra.

He said suppliers will continue to dominate but Online Travel Agencies will gain traction at the expense of offline agencies.

The Indian online travel market forecast to grow from US$295 million in 2005 to more than US$2 billion by the end of 2008.

“People are talking about oversupply in this space but in India oversupply is impossible.”

Elsewhere, he said Australia is the most mature of the Asia Pacific online markets, while others still had some way to go.

“In (high-rise) Hong Kong the reason online has not got traction is that people like to get out and walk – simple as that,” he said.

“Why stay cooped up in a room when you can get out and walk … there is a ‘hanging out culture’.

“Hong Kong people are researching online but booking offline.”

He said while there are similarities in Singapore, the online travel market is fundamentally different with major players driving change.

Among the key differences between the cities is that Singaporeans are better travelled than Hong Kong counterparts, while Singapore’s population is very comfortable speaking English.

Badrinathan forecast that the Lion City will have the fastest internet travel growth but offers limited opportunity because of its relatively small population of 3.5 million.

November 8, 2006

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