Members of the travel industry who attended the recent WIT-Web In Travel 2008 conference felt that the online travel market in Asia Pacific would truly come into its own in the next five years. That's when they feel travel booked online as a percentage of total travel bookings would cross the 50% mark. Currently, according to PhoCusWright research, the figure stands at between 15 and 20%.

In the US, the percentage of travel booked online crossed the chasm in 2007, reached 56% in 2008 and is predicted to go past 60% after 2009, said PhoCusWright. In Europe, the number stands at 42% in 2008. This means that globally, travel booked online now stands at just under 50% of the total market.

WIT delegates, who were surveyed throughout the two-day event also felt that the most opportunity for online transactions existed in China, India and Singapore.

Those surveyed at WIT primarily represented GDS, travel websites, destination marketing and travel agency organisations. They were in C level or executive management positions or were team leaders of sales, marketing and technology departments in the travel industry.

When asked about their confidence in the market and the existing brands, those polled felt that brands would become increasingly important on the Web. Tripadvisor, Expedia, Travelocity and Zuji were among the most trusted brands named.

64% were of the opinion that the global recession would not halt investment and innovation in travel technology.

Most felt that intermediaries were the most trusted source of information, followed by meta search methods. Search engines were considered to be the least trust worthy source of information. 87% of those surveyed felt that Google was a friend rather than a threat.

In terms of new media, 37% of survey respondents felt that mobile technology was an acceptable method of buying travel, but more felt that it was reliable, but not yet for transactions. When asked how best to enter China with an innovative travel product or experience, the most common suggestion was ?mobile transaction?.

62% stated that social networking was a sound business model rather than a fad. They expressed that websites in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan should be in the local language, with English being acceptable for the rest of Asia Pacific, subject to the type of local market.

The survey was conducted by a team of students from the Singapore Management University (SMU).

Read also "Brace yourself for perfect storm, Asia told" at webintravel