Online travel agencies like Expedia Inc. and Travelocity are expanding their global reach and have set their sights on Asian markets as economic growth and an increase in Internet use bolster online travel bookings.

Until recently, a substantial presence in Asia was a distant goal for online travel agencies. But now that the top travel companies are entrenched in the United States and Europe, the next frontier - Asia - is becoming a priority.

Data from PhoCusWright, a travel research company, show the number of online travel bookings - excluding corporate bookings - increased by 31 percent in 2005 and by 28 percent in 2006 in the Asia-Pacific region. Bookings were expected to increase by 25 percent in 2007 and 2008.

Bookings growth in the United States meanwhile is flattening as online travel bookers achieve near maximum penetration. Unlike in the United States where nearly 50 percent of travel is booked online, only about 10 percent of travel is booked online in Japan. The presents a tempting opportunity.

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