Mobile to drive APAC’s undertapped online travel market

Traveller in Hanoi

Asia-Pacific is one of the fastest-growing online travel markets in 2017, with China a significant growth contributor particularly on mobile, according to Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN) and Phocuswright’s 2017 Phocus Forward: The Year Ahead in Digital Travel report.

The research further makes a surprising prediction that in markets like India, Indonesia and Brazil – where desktop habits are less entrenched – it’s likely mobile will overtake desktop bookings more quickly than in the world’s most mature online travel markets such as Europe and the US.

Traveller in Hanoi

Based on report findings, global online travel bookings this year should reach US$567 billion, up from US$513 billion in 2016. By 2020, Asia-Pacific is expected to have the largest share of online and overall travel demand, at 37 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.

Much of the region’s online travel growth will be led by mobile bookings, particularly in China. More than half (53 per cent) of online travel bookings in China are already made on mobile, based on 2016 data, versus 21 per cent in the US and 25 per cent in the UK.

The surge in mobile bookings are spurred by steep discounts for app-based hotel bookings in a hypercompetitive OTA environment, according to the report.

Now the second-largest individual travel market in the world, China is expected to become the region’s most highly penetrated online market this year.

Ariane Gorin, senior vice president and general manager, EAN brand, said: “For travel providers, this research underlines that it’s crucial to be present on mobile in Asia-Pacific, and particularly in China, from the early stages of the booking process – this is where young travellers will be inspired, do their research and most likely plan and book their trips.

“Messaging, voice search and artificial intelligence will drive a new wave of mobile innovation which could result in big mobile gains for those businesses which can tap into traveller mobile trends.”

Meanwhile, the report revealed that Asia-Pacific is underpenetrated for online air bookings, but it is making fast gains – half of air bookings in the region is projected to be made online by 2020.

As well, in-destination activities are a huge untapped opportunity and the long-tail of providers is finding its way into the global digital travel ecosystem and becoming a priority for travel’s biggest players. The value of travel activities in 2016 was US$46 billion in Asia-Pacific.

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