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The rate of adoption for mobile bookings is up and growing in Asia, despite the region traditionally trailing behind much of the developed world in this area, according to a recent travel industry conference held in Bangkok, as outlined in an article by HotelNewsNow.

"Only a quarter of all travel bookings are made online in Asia, compared to half of all travel bookings in the US", said Bambos Kaisharis, Google’s industry head of travel for Southeast Asia.

But now Asia is finally catching up, with mobile searches surpassing desktop searches in countries such as Japan and South Korea.

Smartphone Adoption Rising

As affordable smartphones begin to make headway in even the least developed Asian markets, expectations for increased mobile use are rising with confidence. According to research from GfK, sales of smartphones in Thailand have grown from one in every five mobile phones sold, to over two in five during the past year. This equates to nearly 2.9 million smartphones sold during the first quarter of 2013.

As far as the travel industry is concerned, mobile bookings are showing great promise in the Asian market as consumers gain confidence and begin using their mobile devices more frequently for tasks such as hotel booking, check-in and trip planning. In fact, 48% of travel planning in the region is now carried out via mobile devices, while 65% of guests check into their hotels within 24 hours of booking. This suggests a definite emerging trend in the region for increasingly spontaneous, last-minute travel decisions.

Last-minute Booking Apps Hit Asia

The popularity of same-day and last minute booking, propelled in the US by apps such as Hotel Tonight, hit Asia recently with the launch of two regionally focused travel apps, Hong Kong's HotelQuickly and Cambodia's Check-in Tonight. These apps are spreading like wildfire, with HotelQuickly experiencing 100,000 downloads since its launch earlier this year.

But according to online travel agency Agoda's CEO Rob Rosenstein, the regional distribution landscape for same-day booking platforms is already crowded, and there is little room for newcomers. Rosenstein pointed out that the 'days are done' when a new website can emerge and start competing with established industry players in a short space of time.

Tarandeep Singh of Intercontinental Hotel Group Asia, Middle East and Africa highlights the fact that hotels are not obliged to use these discount last-minute websites just because they are there. In fact, Singh believes that hotels could be sending out the wrong signal by using discount deal sites, a move which may harm the hotel's branding efforts and hamper attempts by hotels to raise their rates alongside gains in occupancy.

Martin Kelly, director of TravelTrends.biz, has the final word where he points out that occupancy rates are moving up (in the Asia region), but average daily rates are not.

What will the immediate future bring for the Asian mobile booking market? As usual, we'll keep our ears to the ground for the latest shifts in the market.

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