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Chinese Consumers Moving to Online Booking

July 19, 2010 By: George Dooley

As recently as one year ago, Chinese travelers could not do much online except research and share information. Buying travel was almost exclusively an offline activity, as online payment processing was difficult and travelers preferred face-to-face cash transactions with travel agents. Less than 15 percent of China's $58 billion in travel bookings were transacted online in 2009, according to PhoCusWright's report on the Emerging Online Travel Marketplace in China.

This is changing, PhoCusWright reports. A growing number of the 404 million Internet users on the mainland are making travel-related purchases online, and that growth will accelerate in the coming years, according to iResearch. The Shanghai-based Internet research firm projects that by 2011, 20 percent of China's travel market will be web-based. And iResearch estimates that revenue from the online travel service market will more than triple between 2009 and 2013.

“Though online booking is still in an early stage, the tools that support it have been developing rapidly, in anticipation of the shift” PhoCusWright says. “Chinese consumers are quickly becoming empowered to find and share travel information online. Tools like metasearch engines and online travel agencies are now widely used. Chinese Internet users are highly active with social media, and this extends to travel as they share destination tips, review hotels and restaurants, and upload photos for other travelers to view.”

According to Nielsen Outbound Travel Monitor, 48 percent of Chinese travelers use online forums to research travel. And 25 percent of those who used social media to research travel also booked online last year, according to PhoCusWright.

What does the move toward greater online distribution mean for suppliers, and how can travel industry players capitalize on the rise of the social media-savvy Chinese consumer, PhoCusWright asks. The 2010 China Travel Distribution Summit in partnership with PhoCusWright—September 15-16 in Beijing—addresses these and other fundamental issues that together will shape the future of the industry.

In the summit's opening keynote address, Ram Badrinathan, PhoCusWright's Asia Pacific general manager, will present research and analysis on how technology influences travel distribution and consumer behavior in China. An eclectic roundtable featuring executives from Expedia, American Express and Abacus International will explore Asia's emerging online travel market. Jens Thraenhart, executive partner of Dragon Trail, will anchor a discussion on how to leverage social media, as the balance of power shifts to the consumer.

For information and registration visit www.phocuswright,com.


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