Online travel agencies have not been particularly active in Singapore despite the market being a solid adopter of the internet.
The dominant player has been Zuji, the Travelocity-owned (once airline-owned group) website. Zuji operates in several markets in Asia as the local brand for the Sabre Holdings company.
A couple of local agencies have good websites, the largest of which is Chan Brothers.
According to the most recent data for Singapore'e most popular websites from December, Zuji is the #1 booking site but with only a small share. Expedia is #2.
And this is where it starts to get interesting. Australia's most popular website for travel is Webjet. Webjet has announced it is launching in the Lion State with effect from the end of this month.
The site is actually now live at Webjet.com.sg. The company has its travel agency license (TA 02049) in Singapore. Webjet's partnership in Singapore is through a 50/50 joint venture with Westminster Travel, a Singapore Stock Exchange listed corporate travel agency.
Webjet's ambitions in Europe, unveiled in January 2011, are through a partnership with Malta-based World Aviation Services, which is itself a joint venture between Air Malta and Cassar Aviation.
For those outside of Australia this may mean very little, except there is an interesting connection. Les Cassar is currently an advisor to the Australian National Association for Motorists.
He is also a bit of a luminary in Australia as the founding managing director of Concord Travel (once a large air consolidator), which later sold to AMB Amro and eventually became part of the Jetset Travelworld Group created last year as the merger with Stella Group.
Expedia announced late in 2010 that it would be opening in Singapore, as well as other markets.
The OTA already has a local office in the country and senior execs are expected in the region shortly to finalise plans for its full launch.
Expedia.com.sg is almost live today, with the homepage showing a local number and offering air, hotel and air+hotel. However these services are not available with Expedia currently sending the user to the Australian or the US site.
It is not clear whether Expedia has a local agency number which it is required to display.
Ironically, Expedia selected Concord Travel to be its fulfilment partner at the original launch of the global mega brand's foray into Australia. There is also a bit of history. Webjet director Richard Noon previously worked for Cassar at Concord before joining Jetset.
While Singapore is a relatively transparent market, there are still some consolidation products available. The market has become a solid LCC hub, with its own LCC terminal at Changi airport.
The region's LCCs have a good presence - Jetstar has a local company there (formerly Jetstar Asia) and Tiger is also based there. Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Silk Air are well represented.
The match up will be an interesting battle between the global behemoth or the agile Australian. Also, don't count out Zuji - it will more than likely put up a good fight.
Local metasearch companies Wego and Sprice (owned by Travelport) have good product offerings but have recently focused on hotel search - but with Priceline’s Agoda, TUI’s AsiaRooms and even the Aussie giant Wotif, the market is getting pretty crowded.
With such low numbers and no clear dominant player - there is all to play for.
This will be an interesting market to observe as it starts to see some real competition. It’s not huge but it’s a crucial one and will be fun to watch.