Deep dive into APAC online travel agencies – Part 1

There are 4.3 billion active internet users in the world. Over half of them or 2.2 billion are from Asia. A growing middle and upper class with travel as a popular lifestyle choice, mobile penetration, emergence of low-cost-carriers and smartphone adaption has made the region the fastest growing online travel market across the world.

With over US$386.4 billion in gross travel bookings, APAC has long been the largest regional travel market with online booking expected to grow upward of 10% for the next couple of years. With 40% of the bookings coming from online, no wonder this is the hottest market for the online hospitality players. According to a recent study by Allied Market Research, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are expected to grow higher over the next 5 – 6 years, even as direct travel suppliers, such as hotels, airlines and car rental companies are increasingly adding booking facilities on their website.

Consider this – according to IBEF, digital is expected to account for around 40%-50% of the total travel transactions in India by 2020 – for hotels, every third booking will be made online, predicts a report by Google BCG.  The market is presently dominated by MakeMyTrip-Goibibo – which accounts for 45% of all transactions, followed local players like Cleartrip, Yatra and global majors like and Agoda. In China, Ctrip and Qunar combined control 53.6% of the total online travel market, followed by Fliggy with a share of 14.7%. The top three altogether took 68.3% shares of the online travel market.

Clearly online travel agencies are playing the dominant role in this unfolding story. In this multi-part series, we take a deep dive into OTAs in the region who are playing vital role in shaping the digital travel.


Over 180 million Chinese travellers are expected to take an international trip this year, and most of them are likely to book through Ctrip – the largest OTA in the country, and a global player in its own right. According to PhoCusWright, Ctrip is almost at par with Expedia and in terms of gross bookings, and controls over half of online travel market in China. In a country with 100% mobile penetration, and 772 million mobile internet users, Ctrip’s app with rich content and location-based information has led the mobile booking revolution – 80% of its transactions are from the mobile platforms. The channel has over 300 million subscribers, lists 700,000 overseas hotels and as many within China. With its acquisition of budget OTA Qunar, Skyscanner, and stake in Elong and India’s MakeMyTrip, Ctrip has emerged as the dominant player in Asia Pacific.


Agoda, which has been one of the most popular online travel agencies in the region, started with discounted leisure hotel bookings across Asia, and continues to be a hotel-focused OTA. Headquartered in Singapore, and operating largely from Bangkok, the channel, owned by Booking Holdings, lists out 1.8 million properties including vacation-rentals and BnBs. With 22 million reviews from customers who have stayed at properties, Agoda is way ahead of its competitors on user-generated reviews, which can only be matched with Google or TripAdvisor.  In sync with the mobile-savvy APAC population, the channel has invested heavily into mobile app which currently accounts for half of all bookings made on the channel. The channel also shares its inventory with sister companies like and Priceline to expand its global reach. However, unlike its parent brand, Agoda primarily relies on the merchant or wholesale model – where the property sets the net rate with OTA adjusting the markup.

Make My Trip

The earliest entrant to Indian online travel market, Make My Trip has been a dominant player since its inception. The recent acquisition of Ibibo Group’s travel business has made it the largest player in online air ticketing and hotel booking business. Leveraging big data and machine learning, the company has recently introduced an artificial intelligence-based chatbot Gia, which is serving up to 5,000 unique users post sales query daily. Last year, the company introduced Goibibo Express, a conversation-based app targeted at the entry level internet user which accounts for close to 100 million. The app available in both Hindi and English, allows users to book hotels, trains and buses. The Make My Trip loyalty programme, which has close to 800,000 subscribers is also driving repeat bookings.

As hoteliers, are you ready to tap into the Asia Pacific market? Are you managing these channels well and keeping them updated with rates and availability on a regular basis?

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