Online travel poised for more growth

Online travel sales totaled $68 billion last year, which was 27% of total travel revenue, according to PhoCusWright. But thats nothing compared with whats projected for 2010.

PhoCusWright expects that online travel revenue  will total $104 billion in 2010, accounting for 34% of total travel revenue.

Part of that projected $36 billion increase in online sales will be due to the growing number of new users going online.

Currently, 67% of U.S. residents are plugged into the Internet; that percentage is expected to grow to 73% by 2009, according to research firms Pyramid Research, IDC and Economic Intelligence.

The U.S. is expected to be on par with Japan in that regard.

Meanwhile, 52% of people in the U.K. have access to the Internet; by 2009, 68% are expected to have access.

In comparison, only 9% of people in China have Internet access; that percentage is expected rise five points by 2009.

That may not seem like much, but such an expansion in China would add 68 million people to the global online marketplace, said Deloitte and New York University in their report titled Hospitality 2010.

Defining and implementing an online strategy for emerging markets such as China and India will be critical in maximizing direct bookings by 2010, according to the report.

The challenge for suppliers in the hospitality industry is to drive bookings through their own Web sites rather than through those of online travel agencies, said Deloitte and NYU.

As direct bookings cost suppliers less, pulling more customers to their online distribution channels remains a key focus, according to the report. To stay ahead, hotel operators need to be innovative and find ways to outsmart the intermediaries next move.

Capturing customer information is crucial, according to Deloitte and NYU.

With the Internet now becoming the first touch point between the guest and the hotel, CRM (customer relationship management) strategies will need to engage the guest of 2010 and capture personal data, said the report.

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