Thursday, July 11, 2002

Travel sites take off as traffic triples

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Traffic to Hong Kong travel sites has tripled in the past year, with e-commerce portals leading the sector.

Internet research company NetValue said the number of people visiting travel and tourism sites increased from 110,400 in the first quarter of last year to 341,900 this year.

Students were the biggest group with 36.5 per cent, followed by professionals, managers, executives and businessmen at 30.3 per cent.

Excluding airlines, the name-your-price ticketing site, which was launched in April, took first place among local travel portals, followed by and China Travel's

NetValue Hong Kong sales director Tony Tan said there was less than a 5 per cent difference between the top three sites.

"We see the majority are going for more information but we do see a high increase of those doing online transactions," Mr Tan said.

Priceline Hong Kong chief executive Alfredo Gangotena said the number of people buying travel online was catching up with the United States, where travel is the No 1 form of e-commerce. "In Asia, it is third and growing fast," he said.

"The convenience and ease of buying travel through the Internet is impossible to better through traditional channels. Moreover, more and more Asians are seeking an alternative to the old-fashioned package tours." is a 65:35 joint venture between Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong and Hutchison together hold about 30 per cent equity in the US portal.

NetValue research consultant Yong Soo Keong said future travel portals would have to provide more competitive packages and a faster service than their offline counterparts.

"This will be even more prevalent when the online travel industry reaches a maturity stage, where pricing and other information barriers are significantly reduced," he said.

However, a study by Nielsen//NetRatings found that since its launch, Priceline's popularity had dropped.

Priceline ranked first in May with 52,080 unique visitors, followed by with 50,621. But Cathay regained its No 1 spot last month with 37,405 visitors. The airline was followed by Chinatravelone and Wing On Travel. Priceline ranked fourth.

The research firm's Hong Kong director Peter Steyn said Priceline's drop in popularity might be due to lack of local interest in online shopping. "They find it just as convenient, and more secure, to conduct the transaction across the street at their favourite travel agent," he said.

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