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How clicks changed travel

business Updated: Oct 08, 2011 01:48 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo
Himani Chandna Gurtoo
Hindustan Times
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Vineet Sinha, a 27-year old software professional from Kanpur, travels home every other month in an overnight train from Delhi. And he doesn't remember when he last stood in the queue to book a railway ticket.

"I log on to Indian Railways website (www.indianrail.gov.in) to book a ticket and use my credit card to pay," Sinha said.

Wanderlust, with a mouse for help

Sinha is one among the growing tribe of unique users of the two Indian Railways ticket reservation portals (www.indianrail.gov.in and www.irctc.co.in). On the last count, there were about 13 million people using the the two portals to get on to the Indian Railways network that criss-cross the country.

For Sinha and his ilk, booking a train ticket through Internet offers two distinct benefits: it is convenient. Add to that a growing number of travel portals that are offering hotels, homestays, holiday packages and airline tickets, and the game gets bigger and better.

Over the past few years, the logistics of travel planning has moved entirely online. Corporations, vacationers and even backpackers now click online to plan their trips-from buying tickets, to choosing destinations, making hotel reservations and even deciding on niche tours such as wine tasting and adventure tours.

According to a report by the Indian unit of Google Inc, travel-related queries on the firm's search engine grew 59% in the year ended July compared to the same period last year. A Euromonitor International report showed that online travel retail sales in India exceeded $2 billion (R9,800 crore) in 2010.

Complete package

A clutch of Internet portals offer not just hotels and air tickets, but also bus tours, holiday packages, adventure expeditions and niche excursions such as wine tasting trips to explore picturesque vineyard landscapes and fascinating cellars.

"Wine tours are generally booked for the regions of France, Tuscany and Rioja but the emerging Indian wine testing markets, Bangalore and Pune also provides a pocket friendly, unique leisure trip," said Anand Kandadai, head (holidays), makemytrip.com.

As a result, destinations are being discovered like never before.

"We have seen tremendous traffic, especially in offbeat destinations such as Brunei, Philippines, Macau, Laos and Bhutan where we have sold out 100% inventories," said Sabina Chopra, co-founder, yatra.com.

The trends in travel industry mirror people's rising confidence on internet infrastructure, web-enabled payment security and also about the portals' service delivery promise.

Experts say the spike in individual travel as opposed to group tours also reflects the surge in confidence about making online travel plans.

"The preferences have shift towards scuba diving and white water river rafting. It gives them delight to explore marine life combined with activities like underwater photography," said Kashmira Commissariat, COO, Kuoni India.

This holiday season, despite signs of a slowdown, the travel schedules have not been hit.

"Within the country, the room occupancy rate in popular travel destinations is almost 60% where the room rents have gone up by over 40%," said S.M Shervani, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India.