The internet continues to gobble up traditional channels for travel bookings.
Online travel is growing at an “impressive pace” in Australia and New Zealand, with predictions it will account for more than 40 per cent of the market by next year. Respected industry research firm PhoCusWright says online travel (leisure and independently booked business travel) is growing at almost twice the pace of the overall travel market.
Australasia is already among the top regions in the world for online penetration, with more than a third of travel booked through the internet, and online bookings growing 13 per cent in 2011. Airline bookings are the largest and fastest-growing segment, while hotel bookings have slipped due to weakened demand.
Suppliers are getting the bulk of the online business, with direct bookings five times greater than those made through online travel agencies. PhoCusWright says local online travel agencies such as Webjet and Wotif are facing increased competition from global booking sites and even from traditional travel agents moving online.
A senior director of research for PhoCusWright, Douglas Quinby, says it is the fragmented accommodation and intermediary arenas “that are really heating up”. ”Home-grown online and traditional agencies are stepping up the fight,” Quinby says.
This article is an excerpt from Jane E. Fraser’s weekly travel column in The Sun Herald, Sydney.