Travel, an experience that defines joy but at the same time is hectic enough and many of us get scars when we hear of travelling. The only term that defines the best travel experience is “convenience”. More than travelling, planning for the same is painful. A perfect travel experience is when you don’t have to face the hustle of pre-travel preparation such as booking tickets & hotels, budget, making calls, going through a chain of mails, ticket confirmations and many more. Though travel has become cheap and affordable, understanding purchase behaviour of Indian travelers is surely a thing to deal with.
No doubt, online travel industry in India has seen a humongous growth over the past couple of years. A recent research says that consumers in India are turning to the internet to take advantage of ease of booking and comparative pricing. 95% of consumers search online before making any travel purchase. Online ticket booking attracts majority of the customers but still tour packages and hotel booking are preferred to be done offline. This is mainly because of the gap between expectation of the customers and actual facilities provided.
Evolving players & services
Online travel industry got its spot in India with the inception of MakeMyTrip in 2000 followed by Yatra.com and many others. Surely it (2000) was a much less tech-savvy era and so convincing customers to shift search and booking preferences online was not that tough task. But as consumer expectation started rising, these online travel agencies started having hard time in the retention of their customers. Major factors supporting this downfall were: customer acceptance, gaining airline trust, technical infrastructure and many others. Now once again, the market is all set to regain what it wanted to achieve in the past.
A study says that best deals and discounts are important motivation for customers to go online. 36% of consumers make unplanned trips if offered a discount. Backing on the same, a lot of new-age travel meta-search engines and trip planning portals have come up to change the dynamics of this low riding online travel industry. Search engine such as eXigo that allow travelers to search across multiple travel booking sites or apps in just one click including flights, hotels, buses, trains, cabs, packages and many more have taken this industry with a storm. “Our business model is based on lead-generation for OTAs, airlines, hotels, bus-booking sites, cab-booking apps etc. and on targeted contextual advertising from brands who wish to target a premium travel audience,” says Alok Bajpai, CEO & Co-Founder, iXigo. These online players have come up with a lot of innovative models to boost this segment. Various formats of travel such as solo travel, specialty tours etc. have created a buzz in the market. Portals such as Wenomads.com, an online market place for specialty tours that includes road trips, trekking, wellness tours, photography tours etc. is an example for the same. As per Animesh Singh, CEO & Co-Founder, WeNomads.com “Specialty Tours are purely purpose and experience-driven vacations that aim at giving people best travel memories that they will cherish for life. As long as trips have a specific purpose, they get categorized under Specialty Trips and WeNomads.com is home to many such trips.”
On the same lines, Wetravelsolo is a start-up trying to tap the community of Solo Travelers in India. The online marketplace largely intends to empower individual travelers by connecting them with a community that understands the passion of travelling. It gives a hand crafted budget, experiential or backpacking trips by other individual travelers. When asked about the future of solo traveling industry Shefali Walia, Founder, Wetravelsolo said “I See huge potential for solo traveling community industry, as huge number of people, especially the youth are turning travel enthusiast and wants to experience the thrill of solo traveling as it helps them to gain confidence and taking their travel experience to the next level.”
The road ahead..
With the growing number of Internet and smartphone users, the industry has evolved and will continue to do the same. Online ticket booking, tour packages and hotel bookings are emerging as new segments for growth and these industry players have hit on the right spot to bring back the lost trust. “With the Online Travel Agency (OTA) model seemingly having reached its peak already, there is bound to be disruption by start-ups in various niches of online and mobile travel. Travel meta-search and Trip Planning are two areas that are growing very well with the latter having several new entrants”, Bajpai added.
The constant growth in hotel and tour industry projects a huge headway for new players in this segment. Since the number of Indians travelling abroad is low, the potential market is huge. “In India, the online travel sector is growing @30% and constitutes more than 70% of overall e-commerce business in India. In fact if we talk about the leisure travel market in India alone, it stands at $80 bn which by 2025 will have risen to $150 bn,” said Singh.