It's one of the few fads of the dotcom boom that stood up to the hype. E-tourism is fast gaining foothold in the Indian market with close to 25% of the travel business being conducted through the internet, according to industry estimates. The figure may not compare with the US market, where 90% of travel businesses are done through the Net, but industry analysts feel e-tourism may contribute 50-60% of the travel business in India in the next five years.

While a majority of online travel sales is e-ticketing, other services such as online booking of hotel rooms are also gathering steam. “Today, travel portals provide an opportunity for tourists to plan their entire trip, including air tickets and hotel bookings. While some travel agents earlier felt that e-tourism, in general, and e-ticketing, in particular, might undercut their services, the internet has emerged as an important tool for them to distribute and market various package deals,” says Subhash Goyal, chairman, Stic group.

Leading travel and tour operators such as Thomas Cook and Stic Travels provide a wide gamut of online services. Right from travel information and flight schedules, hotel room availability to booking tickets, rooms, car rentals and even purchasing travel insurance products as well as foreign exchange can now be done online. “Today, you can visit the interiors of a hotel room before booking the room, at the click of a mouse,” says Mr Goyal. There are many other travel sites, however, that act as only information windows of the services and package deals offered by the travel agency, instead of providing real-time reservation services.

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