Keeping up the pace with the development of technology and global trends, Bangladesh's travel market is expected to experience exponential growth in online management of customers' travel needs.
However, this new phenomenon needs policy support and strict monitoring by the government for its proper and healthy growth, said speakers at a seminar titled "Travel and Technology: Emergence of OTAs in Bangladesh," held at a Dhaka city hotel on Tuesday.
Kazi Wahidul Alam, editor of The Bangladesh Monitor, in his keynote paper noted that online travel agencies (OTAs) started emerging in Bangladesh in 2017.
At that time, OTAs occupied about 5% of the total travel market in Bangladesh. Currently over 50 OTAs are operating in the country, said the industry expert.
"Today OTAs are not only providing ticket booking services, but hotel booking, visa processing and other relevant services as well. According to a prediction made in 2019, the market share of OTAs is supposed to be over 45% by 2025," said Kazi Wahidul Alam.
With a gross merchandise value of $1,820 million in 2019, the air market of Bangladesh had an average daily ticket booking of 31,240, 8% of which was occupied by OTAs, said speakers at the seminar.
Wahidul Alam stated that with a population of 164.5 million, 58% internet penetration, an e-commerce market worth $2 billion, $97.4 million in digital payments a year, and 9.5 million transactions per day through mobile financial services – with a total transaction amount of $173.5 million per day – OTAs are expected to flourish exponentially in the coming years.
The experts said internet penetration, digital payment and overall awareness on e-commerce are broadly the handful of conditions for an OTA business to succeed, and if we look at the numbers, we will see Bangladesh has been witnessing a rise in these trends for quite some years.
The travel industry is one of the sectors worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was more of a blessing than a curse for the OTA industry, said speakers at the programme.
With the resurrection of the industry, the travel agencies' shift to online became more apparent as people avoided physical visits to agents' offices, stations and so on. Slowly, the ease of online booking started paying off and the appeal of e-commerce in travel is continuing to grow, they added.
Monsur Ahmed Kalam, president of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh, said there should be a common regulatory policy for both the online and traditional travel agencies.
The seminar was organised by the aviation and travel publication The Bangladesh Monitor with support from the City Bank, Eastern Bank and global distribution systems like Sabre, Galileo and Amadeus.