Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Battle for offering better content and package deals heats up in travel sector:

Hong Kong, August 18, 2004 – Hong Kong Internet users are increasingly turning online to plan that perfect vacation or hassle-free business trip, according to the latest information from Nielsen//NetRatings.

During the second quarter ending June 2004, most of the top five travel websites showed an impressive increase in Hong Kong at-home users compared with a year ago. The fastest growing site, China Travel Net Hong Kong* (ctshk.com) increased by 103% to reach 158,000 users. Yahoo! Travel remains the most popular online travel site among Hong Kong's at-home surfers, attracting more than 271,000 unique visitors, a growth rate of 20%.

However, there is no clear answer as to whether increased surfing on popular websites is translating into a significant increase in tickets purchased over the Internet, or whether consumers are simply conducting research online before purchasing offline from their favourite travel agent.

"Hong Kong's travel industry boom in the post-SARS period presents an excellent opportunity for the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong, just as online ticketing has been driving recent Internet business growth in the US," said Peter Steyn Managing Director, Nielsen//NetRatings Hong Kong. "For this to happen, travel industry players must continue to improve their online service in order to encourage more local surfers to take advantage of the convenience of the Internet – not just to browse but also to purchase goods and services".

Citing the convenience of face-to-face shopping in Hong Kong and the continuing reluctance of people to trust the Internet with their credit card number, Steyn added: "E-commerce faces some additional challenges to building momentum among local consumers, however the latest report shows that traditional travel agencies are boosting their efforts online with positive results"

The Nielsen//NetRatings quarterly review of Hong Kong's at-home Internet users showed that Cathay Pacific clinched the top ranking airline spot with its site receiving 157,000 unique users, an 8% increase compared to the same period last year. China Travel Net Hong Kong (CTN) was ranked number one among travel agencies followed by Wing On Travel and Hong Thai Travel. Hong Thai Travel, which ranked in sixth place, increased its audience by a healthy 19% over the past year. Zuji, the increasingly popular online travel-booking site that didn't even exist a year ago, now has an audience of 149,000 unique for the quarter ending June 2004. Other travel websites that have performed well over the past year include Cathay Pacific Holidays, Airticket.com, Dragon Air, Evergloss Tours, and Morning Star Travel.

Among the top ranking local transportation sites were Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB), MTR Corporation, Citybus, Hong Kong International Airport, KCRC, and New World First Bus.

In addition Steyn pointed out that the number of at-home Internet users increased by 34% over the past 3 years while the amount of time people spent online almost doubled during this period. On average, at-home Internet users now spend 35 and half hours online per month.

"Internet audiences have reached significantly higher levels after the travel sector was badly affected early last year," said Steyn. "The question now is whether these gains will be sustained in the longer term and convert shoppers into purchasers.

Qtr Ending June 04Unique AudienceQtr Ending June 03 Unique AudienceChange
TOTAL TRAVEL1,281,0001,170,0009%
Yahoo! Travel271,000226,00020%
China Travel Net Hong Kong158,00078,000103%
Cathay Pacific Airlines157,000146,0008%
Wing On Travel136,000100,00036

Information provided by Nielsen//NetRatings