Next year could be a landmark one in the evolution of online travel as sales in Asia-Pacific surpass those in North America for the first time.
Research house eMarketer has forecast that online travel will reach some $216 billion in sales in the APAC region in 2017, compared to $200 billion for North America.
This year is expected to be $191 billion for North America and $178 billion in APAC.
Looking further out, by 2020 the APAC region will have hit $329 billion versus $226 billion in North America.
North America's growth between 2017 and 2020 will be just $25 billion compared to $113 billion for APAC.
The massive jump in online trave sales in APAC being credited in part to "heavy activity within China", where high levels of mobile adoption, combined with a growing middle class that is keen to explore the world, have "led to a booming digital travel market".
In terms of share of the global online travel pie, North America and APAC are expected to reach similar levels shortly after 2020.
eMarketer forecasting analyst Chris Bendtsen says:
"Consumers in China are now able to take advantage of the rising disposable incomes and simplified visa policies that have been progressing over the past few years. And it’s the digital companies that are benefitting."
In particular, Bendtsen argues, online travel agencies such as Ctrip, Qunar, Tuniu and Alitrip" are all triggering the growth in sales.
Both Indonesia and India are seen as other important countries in the region that expected to fuel the rapid growth.
NB:Online travel Hong Kong image via BigStock.