The Asia-Pacific tourism industry will contract by 5-10% this year due to the combined impact of the world economic crisis and the outbreak of H1N1 influenza, according to the global reservations specialist Amadeus.
David Brett, the president of Amadeus Asia-Pacific, said economic problems would dent tourist confidence, particularly among Europeans, and that H1N1 was a big concern for tourism around the world.
But the company is confident it can gain market share in the region as it has continuously invested in IT and research and development for operators including airlines, hotels, and travel agents.
Amadeus expects its market share in Asia-Pacific to grow by two percentage points to around 32% this year. Its share in Thailand is much higher at 76%.
In the first quarter of 2009, Amadeus Asia-Pacific accounted for 40% of the region's airline and hotel bookings. Last year, the travel bookings through Amadeus worldwide fell by 4% while the overall global distribution system (GDS) market contracted by 7%.
Thailand, said Mr Brett, is one of Asia-Pacific's key markets. Against the backdrop of the financial crisis and political unrest, tourist arrivals to the country fell only 1% to 14.3 million last year.
"Our key partnerships with major Thai travel players such as Thai Airways and Centara Hotels help us grow. We continue to see growth opportunities here as it becomes a more mature market with a stronger influence on the global tourism industry," he said.
Travellers to Thailand will prefer fewer, shorter and cheaper trips and domestic travel by car will be more popular. Travel agents will be concerned about payment, so online bookings could grow.
As well, he said, airlines would cut costs to maximise revenues and fine-tune online distribution to deal with a plunge in tourists this year. Hotels will offer and cross-sell value packages and recognise the importance of the internet.
Mr Brett said that while tourism in the region was poor this year, the industry had been volatile since 9/11 in 2001.
"With many negative factors, the tourism industry has been changing. For example, you will see airline consolidations and alliances to save costs while low-cost carriers and online booking are growing," he said.
"Intra-Asia travel will rise and integrated IT systems and mobile innovations are important things for people and businesses."