Online travel agency Zuji.com is hoping to negotiate better air ticket prices with its shareholding airlines but expects the process will take more than two years. The portal, launched in Hong Kong yesterday, is a joint venture with 16 airlines but operates as an independent travel agency living on commissions from selling tickets, commercial director Martin Symes said. The company needed to convince airlines to offer better prices to enable Zuji.com to compete with traditional travel agencies, which hold the majority of market share in Asia. 'The industry is supply driven . . . There isn't much there to compel people to change the way they buy tickets. It's a long process to change the market,' Mr Symes said. With the help of its customer database, the portal would be able to provide statistics showing demand for certain routes and ask for discounts from the airlines to pass on to customers. 'Our big advantage is that we have the access to people [in the airlines] . . . It will take two to three years. It's a long process,' he said. According to travel market research firm PhocusWright, 5 per cent to 6 per cent, or US$8.4 billion of all travel in the Asia-Pacific region will be booked online by 2004. Mr Symes' firm wants to see the market response in the next few months and hold back on marketing until early next year. Hong Kong is the third market for Zuji.com, which launched in Australia and Singapore in July. The portal will also be expanded to Korea and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members next year, and plans later to serve other travel agencies. Apart from the 16 leading airlines behind the company it also includes one of the world's leading travel portals, the United States-based Travelocity. Zuji.com's technology platform is based on booking and fare-search engines used by Travelocity.