Asia's tourism industry buoyed by online bookings

Asia's continued growth as a tourism destination and as a tourism source were among the main talking points at the region's largest travel industry gathering which wrapped up Tuesday in Beijing.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association's four-day 60th Anniversary and Conference attracted more than 1,000 industry leaders for a series of seminars and celebrations, and the news they heard was good.

PATA released a survey into the global online travel market - seen by the industry as the way of the future for bookings - and it found that while Asian consumers might have constituted only 26 percent of the market last year (compared to 36 percent from Europe and 27 percent from North America), more than 50 percent of that number were aged under 34.

With the Asia Pacific region accounting now for 41 percent of total global internet users, PATA claimed this indicated that the Asian consumers would soon dominate the online market.

The study also found that, in terms of visits to airline websites, two-thirds of the "fast growing markets" were in Asia. Leading the way was China, which saw a 147 percent increase in airline website usage in 2010, or - in layman's terms - 6.8 million hits.

Asia's low-cost carriers attracted a wealth of attention with AirAsia attracting 51 percent more hits last year (1.2 million hits), and PATA identified this trend as being one that would continue - thanks again to the younger generations.

AirAsia counts 55 percent of its website users as under 34, while fellow low-cost carriers Tiger Airways and Cebu Pacific see the figures at 59 percent and 60 percent respectively.

In contrast, North America's two biggest low-cost carriers - Southwest Airlines and JetBlue - see the figure at 31 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Overall, PATA members heard the future looked bright for the region.

"The Asia Pacific is getting a bigger share of the tourism pie," Marcio Favilla, the WTO's executive director (External Relations and Partnership) told the gathering.

"Thirty years ago, 70 percent of travel was within advanced economies. Last year, 53 percent of travel came from developed countries and 47 percent from emerging economies. In no time, the percentage will be broken down to a 50-50 split."

PATA's survey was compiled in partnership with online data analysts comScore (

For more reports from the PATA conference, see