COMPETITION in the Asia-Pacific online distribution arena is heating up, with homestay booking websites like Wimdu launching operations in the region.
Italy-based Wimdu, which made its global debut in May, is an online platform that facilitates booking of privately owned accommodation by independent travellers. The platform manages the booking and payment processes online, making it efficient for hosts to manage reservations.
Online peer-to-peer accommodation platforms like Wimdu offer travellers the premise of living like a local, and are an alternative to B2C booking sites such as Zuji and Hotels.com.
Wimdu is the third online homestay portal to expand its reach to Asia-Pacific. The first was US-based Airbnb.com, which expanded to the region in June last year. Arizu, a site targeted at the Chinese market, went live in April 2011.
Steven Kim, co-founder of Wimdu Asia, said: “Today’s travel is not just about staying at a faceless hotel room, Wimdu opens up experiential travel. For instance, some of our listings can be as unusual as a castle in UK for US$12,000 or a hut in the Philippines jungle for just US$6.”
The growth in the global peer-to-peer bookings sector has been promising. According to Airbnb, bookings on its site soared by over 800 per cent between 2009 and 2010.
The proliferation of these homestay platforms in Asia also reflects the wider trend of Asians becoming more receptive towards FIT travel, albeit from a smaller base compared to the US or Europe.
Nonetheless, mainstream booking sites still dominate the online travel market. Data drawn from siteanalytics.com highlights that in June 2011, Airbnb received less than five per cent of the total number of unique visitors generated by Hotels.com.
Still, a spokesperson for Wimdu said the company sees a lot of potential in Asia. To garner a slice of the burgeoning regional FIT market, Wimdu will be rolling out strategies from “a local perspective, addressing all the concerns that a Western strategy might not bring up”.
Besides Singapore, Wimdu plans to expand to Malaysia and Indonesia. It already has a presence in Thailand, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Australia.