India will be Asia’s fastest growing market for online travel retail by 2010, according to global market analyst Euromonitor International.

The online travel retail market in India is expected to boom over the next five years, with Internet-based travel retail transactions increasing by an incredible 271% between 2005 and 2010. Euromonitor International is predicting that online travel retail sales generated in India will exceed US$2 billion in 2010 alone.

This unprecedented growth in India’s internet travel retail transactions will be driven by a number of major factors, which are also affecting other key Asian markets, including Vietnam, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Primarily, the rapid growth of the urban population in India expected over the next five years will provide the perfect environment for travel retail companies with online operations, as ever-increasing numbers of Indians wishing to travel will have access to the Internet.

Parita Chitakasem, Asia Pacific Travel and Tourism Manager at Euromonitor International explained, “A strong correlation has emerged between the highest computer ownership rates and the largest urban populations, as they provide the ideal infrastructure for internet services. With double-digit growth forecast in the number of urban households between 2006 and 2010, India is showing great potential for online businesses and as a result, great potential for online travel retail.”

Government support is the second crucial factor in the development of successful online penetration. As the Indian government steps up its support of internet usage in education in particular, Euromonitor International predicts that this will be a key driver of the online market, providing a wealth of opportunities for online travel operators.

The South Korean government has already set an example by actively supporting Internet-based companies. As a result, South Korea now stands as one of the world’s most advanced countries for communication technology, boasting the world’s highest usership of broadband and has the second largest internet travel retail market in Asia, behind Japan.

Euromonitor International is also predicting that online travel companies in Asia will benefit from a recent shift in demographic usage of the Internet, to increasingly include older travellers. The over-65 generation in Asia is becoming more adept at using the Internet and as such, they should be a target consumer group for all online travel companies, particularly as over 65s typically have high disposable income levels to spend on expensive or long-awaited holidays.

At present, Japan is leading the way by offering internet services tailored to its ageing population. Euromonitor’s Chitakasem commented on this, “In Japan, there has been a rise in computer schools that cater specifically for people over 60, plus a growing number of websites aimed at senior bloggers. Although it is only early days in Asia for this emerging trend, it is clearly not a development to be ignored.”