Seoul, Jan 31 (Asia Pulse) - Cyber travel agencies selling airline tickets and travel products through the Internet are emerging as strong competitors in the tourism industry. Existing agencies are also striving to survive by transforming themselves into Internet-based businesses.
The first cyber travel agency in Korea was 3W Tour (www.worldtour.co.kr), which opened a Web site in February 1998. The number of cyber travel agencies is now 200 though most of them are Web sites of existing agencies.
Cyber trading took between one and two percent market share of the domestic travel industry last year but the share is expected to soar to 20 percent thanks to the advance of large companies and Internet portal service providers and ticket sales by air carriers on the Internet. Recent data also shows that 32.8 percent of office workers mentioned travel and leisure sites as among those they frequently visited.
The most popular tourism site based on daily hits as of Wednesday was 3W Tour with about 80,000, followed by Jayoo Tour, Cyber Travel Network, Aju Tours and Boranet, according to 100Hot (www.100hot.co.kr). 3W, which recently posted monthly sales of over 100 million won (US$88,890) for the first time among cyber travel agencies, has custom-made travel products, or those made according to each gathering like a family or a club, and offers an email information service.
Tour Express, a subsidiary of Daum Communications, will launch an Internet airfare booking site (www.tourexpress.co.kr) from February 10, which enables customers to compare ticket prices of various airlines. Daum will also set up an integrated cyber travel agency jointly with hotels, rent-a-car companies and door-to-door delivery companies soon. Korea Telecom Hitel also recently opened a travel portal site Yeshotel (www.yeshotel.com) through which 35,000 hotels can be booked easily.
The service is supplied by GL Network, which has exclusive sales right of Pegasus System that dominates 80 percent of the worldwide hotel booking industry. It can offer up to a 70-percent discount to customers. In a bid to meet rapid changes in the industry, existing agencies are upgrading their services to compete, with most of them already opening their own Web sites. The well-known agency Onnuri, for example, recently agreed with Dacom on strategic co-operation for cyber tourism to take advantage of Dacom's Internet expertise and Onnuri's experience in the industry.
The two will establish a system allowing customers to book airplane tickets, hotels and rent-a-cars and package tours by March. Meanwhile, airlines are also selling tickets via the Internet in keeping pace with cyber travel agencies. Korean Air (www.koreanair.co.kr), and Asiana (www.asiana.co.kr) are selling their tickets on the Internet and Korean Air will launch a new system to sell tickets through cyber travel agencies 24 hours a day, in a bid to cope with a surge in the demand for overseas travel from next month.