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Asia Pacific Travel in 2005 - a Year of Robust Growth

Travel News Asia 9 February 2006

The Asia Pacific travel industry put the shocks of the previous two years firmly behind it in 2005, with record numbers of travel bookings, according to figures released by Abacus International.

In 2005, there were more than 54.3 million bookings on the Abacus system, an increase of 6% on 2004 and 36% on 2003. Total bookings showed healthy year-on-year increases for all months except February, which typically records a slow down in traffic following the Chinese New Year festive season travel surge around the region.

2005 was a robust year of growth for the entire Asia Pacific travel industry, said Don Birch, President and CEO of Abacus. Although some regions saw tourism numbers dropping in the aftermath of the Tsunami, most travellers opted to visit a different area of Asia Pacific in the meantime while the clean-up and rebuilding were occurring.

Attractive promotions by airlines and hotels following the Tsunami also helped fuel the recovery. While these offers were taken up very quickly, travellers continued to return, even after the promotions had finished, said Mr Birch.

Intra-Asia travel accounted for over 81.6% of bookings on the Abacus system during the year, outstripping all long-haul routes.

The total number of Free and Independent Traveller (FIT) bookings during 2005 increased 8% over 2004, 33% over 2003 and 22% over 2002. Events such as the Invasion of Iraq and SARS coinciding in March 2003 had a ripple effect on the travel industry in the region.

The best performing months were March with more than 3.17 million FIT bookings and September closely followed with more than 3.12 million FIT bookings.

E-ticketing

Electronic ticketing (e-tickets) continued to gain in popularity throughout Asia Pacific in 2005, with more than one in every four tickets issued on the Abacus system being an electronic ticket. Some 4.8 million e-tickets were issued from January to December, which is an increase of around 70% from 2004 figures.

Abacus is seeing a trend towards paper-free travel in Asia with more technology-savvy travellers opting for e-tickets. Paper tickets really are becoming a thing of the past, with travellers opting for the hassle-free ease and security of electronic tickets, said Mr Patrick Lai, Vice-President, Air Content Associates and North Asia at Abacus International.

E-ticketing continues to be a very efficient and cost-effective travel option for not only the travellers, but also the travel agents and the airlines due to their booking flexibility and increased security, said Mr Lai.

While Abacus is technically enabled for electronic ticketing of nearly 60% of all its tickets, the slow adoption rate of only a quarter of the tickets is an indication that more may be required in this arena. While North and Southeast Asian markets have been on e-ticketing for a while, some South Asian and Indochina markets require more concerted efforts to move in line.

With 29 airlines enabled for e-ticketing on the Abacus system, available to agents in 11 of its 24 markets, we need to work together as an industry GDSs, airlines, travel agents, BSPs, IATA, the various responsible government authorities, etc - to meeting IATAs stated objective of making air travel paperless by 2007.

Taiwan led e-ticket adoption with over 1.35 million e-tickets sold in 2005, ahead of Hong Kong (1.23 million) and Singapore (1.07 million).

Asia Pacific travel growth it is not going to stop there

According to the latest IATA statistics - in passenger traffic measured in terms of revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) - total Asia Pacific travel grew at 6.3% in 2005. The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) reported a 5.1% increase in 2005. Abacus recorded a 6% growth in total bookings in 2005 compared to the previous year.

Influencing factors in this growth included the increases in business relationships between Asia and the Middle East, inter-regional trade with China, along with contributing factors in the aviation industry such as Low Cost Carriers stimulating overall demand for travel and robust investment in the hotel sector, especially by international chains.

The economic growth in Asia Pacific is predicted to sustain robust growth, as travel growth is related to that, we are anticipating travel growth across the region in excess of 4-6%, said Mr Birch.

As a result, we can expect to see the major airlines in the region and beyond adding sufficient capacity to meet this growth, he added.

See other recent news regarding: Abacus

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