Asia to dethrone North America as largest digital travel market

Asia to lead digital travel market in 2017
Asia to lead digital travel market in 2017

North America may be losing its lucrative appeal in the multi-trillion dollar travel industry.

Digital travel sales in Asia-Pacific will surpass North America in 2017, making it the largest region in the world, according to a new eMarketer report. Customers in Asia-Pacific will spend a projected $216 billion next year, compared to North America's $200 billion, representing growth of 23 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Digital travel includes everything from booking online flights to hotels and tours.

Companies are taking note. Airbnb received funding to expand in India recently, while Ctrip, a travel services company, bought stake in Indian online travel agency, MakeMyTrip.

"The biggest opportunities for companies and startups will be in mobile and online travel agencies, as both will expand their share of online bookings," Chris Bendtsen, an eMarketer analyst told CNBC. "For China in particular, the growing number of international travelers will allow travel-related companies all over the world to benefit from increased digital sales."

The largest trend driving the shift is Chinese consumers spending more overall on travel, combined with its continued mobile phone growth.

Despite an economic slowdown, Chinese tourists spent 53% more last year than the previous year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

A recent report by Marriott International and the Hurun Report, found that high-end Chinese millennials are spending as much as $65,000 annually on luxury vacations.

The nation with the world's largest population is showing no slowdown in its appetite for travel.

According to the eMarketer report, China's share of digital travel sales will go from 17 percent of the world currently to 24 percent by 2020, while the U.S. will decline from 32 percent to 26 percent in the next four years.

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