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OTA heavyweights eye Asian markets

Rapidly increasing Asian markets for flight and travel booking services are at the heart of global strategies for OTA's.

Rapidly increasing Asian markets for flight and travel booking services are at the heart of global strategies for online travel agents (OTAs), according to indications given at a travel conference.

The chief executives of the three largest publicly traded OTAs, Expedia, Orbitz Worldwide and Priceline.com, told listeners at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in Los Angeles that harnessing Asian travel bookings was a key imperative.

Expedia saw 34 per cent of its fourth-quarter bookings from international points of sale, highlighting the potential held by growing travel markets like China’s, where the recent announcement of plans for nearly 100 new airports have helped to fuel the country’s air travel boom.

Eyeing up the immense Chinese and Indian markets for potential opportunities, Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said: "The Asia-Pacific market is the biggest market that we’re looking at." He added, however, that "everything we see about Europe is that it looks like the US did four to five years ago", indicating that web bookings penetration in Europe was still only around 30 per cent, leaving plenty of room for growth in more traditional markets.

Orbitz – recently adopting public traded company status – acknowledged having focused strongly on Europe through its Ebookers.com, but looked forward to wider penetration, with chief executive Steve Barnhart claiming: "We have a very broad footprint with the businesses we have today."

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