Australian online hotel booking company Wotif.com expects its Malaysian business to jump 60 per cent in 2006 as it doubles the number of member hotels to 180 this year.

The company, which specialises in last-minute online bookings, said the value of Malaysian bookings carried out by its website would reach RM1.76 million by June 30 2006.

“Business into Malaysia stood at about 11.5 per cent of total business at the end of December 2004. As at June 2005, total business into Malaysia had grown to 13 per cent,” wotif.com’s chief operatiang officer (Asia) Charles Tee said at a briefing in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He added that five hotels — Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur, Grand Plaza Park Royal, Dorsett Regency, Radius International and Corus — made up 60 per cent of wotif’s business into Kuala Lumpur.

Lee pointed out that research consultancy MarketShare estimates that the online travel market in the Asian region will double to US$16 billion (US$1 = RM3.77) in 2006 from US$8 billion in 2003.

Interestingly, the research shows Malaysians have the best potential to drive online travel bookings with 87 per cent intending to buy flight tickets online and 84 per cent planning to book a room online within the next 12 months.

The company is budgeting up to RM3.5 million for advertising and promotions between now and June 2006.

Wotif.com also sees a boost when it allows bookings to be made 28 days in advance, from two weeks now, effective September 28 2005.

“Overall for wotif, we hope our bookings will grow by 40 per cent as we add two more weeks to make bookings possible 28 days in advance,” Lee said.