Buoyed by increasing popularity of online travel booking in Australia, travel portal Zuji reportedly says its sales volumes had increased 167 per cent in 2004.

Zuji says: “Australians are in fact the most savvy when it comes to paying online - 83% are purchasing their travel via the website and this represents the highest level of online payment across Zuji Asia Pacific markets.” According to Jo O'Brien, general manager, Zuji Australia, this trend reflects the habit of some first time Zuji customers who may have visited a Zuji office for the first payment, but are subsequently paying online for repeat purchases.

According to local media, the growth had come from online customers booking overseas trips where the percentage of international bookings lifted from 49% of total bookings in January 2004 to 75% in January 2005. Also, O'Brien said that there was a lot of unexpected traffic from small medium enterprises in the last year or so.

Zuji attributed the growing trend to consumer confidence when it came to booking travel and accommodation online, and its services.

“You might just go to the Qantas site for fares but if you come to Zuji we give you Qantas, and also Jetstar and Virgin Blue fares. It allows you opportunity to weigh up whether its worth the extra A$100 (US$79) to get Qantas frequent flying points. Consumers have become more aware of online security in general and they now know what they should be looking out for and can shop with confidence,” O’Brien told media. “Customers know that they can trust Zuji when handing over payment and are reassured by the fact that the website is secured by VeriSign, the global leader in online security for e-commerce payments,” said O’Brien.

As per the Q4 2004 research conducted by Zuji, the online consumers are embracing the convenience of e-ticketing. 99% of domestic flight tickets were issued as e-tickets, reflecting a greater acceptance by Australian travelers for this ticketing system. International e-ticketing has also increased, at the beginning of 2004 only one in 100 tickets were issued as e-tickets, by the end of 2004 this figure was one in 10 and Zuji predicts that by the end of 2006, airline paper tickets will be a thing of the past at ZUJI.

Zuji Australia had launched Cruise Guru in November 2004 and findings from the Online Travel Report have shown that consumers are booking their cruises with an average lead-time of 109 days - much further in advance than those making air or hotel bookings. In terms of most popular destinations, 66% of Australian consumers are choosing Asia or Pacific cruises.

Auckland, London and Singapore are the three most popular international destinations for Australian travelers according to the Report.