Online Travel Sites Unveil Asia Expansion Plans

Following a trail blazed by a host of e-commerce companies, Travelocity (Nasdaq: TVLY) and Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) have announced separate plans to expand into the Asian market within the next few weeks.

Pricelinesaid Wednesday that it will finally launch its long-planned Hong Kong venture with partner Hutchison Whampoa in April.

Testing, Testing

Priceline spokesman Brian Ek told the E-Commerce Times that the Hong Kong venture — which, like its parent company, will be known as Priceline — has been in testing for several months, with both English- and Chinese-language versions of the site being tried out.

In addition to serving as a key beachhead for companies expanding into the Asian region, Hong Kong is home to one of Priceline’s largest shareholders, Li Ka-Shing, who recently boosted his stake in the name-your-price travel site to nearly 30 percent.

Executives at Norwalk, Connecticut-based Priceline touted the promised Asian expansion in the company’s most recent earnings report, citing overseas sales as a key driver of growth in 2002 and beyond.

Tabini Anyone?

Meanwhile, Dallas, Texas-based Travelocity announced plans to work with 17 major airlines on a Japanese travel site to be known as “tabini.”

Travelocity will run the site, which is a joint venture that includes Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Air Systems — the three largest Japanese carriers — as well as 14 U.S. airlines.

Tabini will launch on March 26th, the company said.

More To Come

Travelocity and Priceline can expect more competition in Asia.

Last month, Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE) vice president of international product development Allyson Henry told the E-Commerce Times that the company has its sights set on expanding into the region.

“It’s logical to look to the Asian markets and South America next, and before long you’ll see Expedia there as well,” Henry said.

Mixed Results

The path trod by U.S. online companies on their way to the Asia-Pacific marketplace is well-worn, though results have been mixed.

EBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) recently said it would pull out of a Japanese auction venture that never took off, shifting its focus instead to Taiwan, where it paid less than US$10 million to acquire local auction site NeoCom Technology.

Meanwhile, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) reported earlier this year that its overseas sites, including a Japanese venture that soon will be expanded to include used goods, helped fuel its record sales growth and first-ever profit late in 2001.

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