The convenience of online travel decision-making and ticket purchase has seeped into the consumer psyche. Gone are the days when people used to collect travel package brochures from different agencies just to decide on the best deal and places to visit.
Trendy, interactive, competitive and convenient, the travel portals educate travellers about when, where, why and how to visit a destination and then enable them to book their tickets without any hassles through the portal itself. Gautam Verma, 23, business development manager with a reputed firm, said, “Such websites assist me along with a digital demo. They offer interesting packages at competitive prices, safe transactions and a variety of products that makes my travel easy and enjoyable.”
From being mere ticketing agents, travel websites have graduated to being one-stop-shop travel enablers, expanding their product portfolios and services. With margins being low on air tickets, travel websites are now focusing on the non-air business and have been steadily getting hotels across India to feature on their websites. Online hotels are fast becoming an important revenue stream for the websites, travel experts say.
The travel sites are investing resources in helping consumers choose the hotels with hotel reviews, photos, videos and many other digital services uploaded on the site.
“We are making deliberate efforts to understand consumers and are constantly designing and developing products that address specific consumer needs,” said Keyur Joshi, COO and co-founder, MakeMyTrip.com.
Emerging trends in this kind of effort includes maximising the mobile platform, further strengthens the security of online transactions, integrating the sector through unifying agents and offering various product combinations.
“We have acquired compliance with PCI-DSS, an association that certifies all online transactions on the portal as safe and secure. Besides, with the launch of the Apnaagent platform, we are reaching out and connecting with our growing network of agents,” Joshi said.
Similarly, instant ticketing, a highly popular application, provides users the ease and convenience of printing, emailing or downloading the booked ticket immediately after the booking process. Experts feel that the significance of these developments is staying ahead of the curve. With growing competition, organised and unorganised, there is a need to highlight the quality of the products and services and provide that little extra that consumers seek.
On this click and travel revolution, Euromonitor International predicts that online travel retail sales in India will exceed $2 billion in 2010. Other predictions say that the online travel retail market in India is expected to boom over the next five years, with internet-based travel retail transactions increasing by an incredible 271 per cent between 2005 and 2010.
India's travel industry is expected to expand at five-six per cent in 2010, a little higher than the expected global average of 4.5 per cent. According to PhoCusWright, a travel industry research authority, the Indian online travel market place grew 11 per cent to reach $3.4 billion in 2009.
Ashwin Damera, CEO, Travelguru.com, says “We have seen tremendous growth over the previous year, both in terms of visitors and booking. We have grown by over 90 per cent over the previous year.”
MakeMytrip.com claims to have achieved sales of Rs 2,200 crore in the fiscal year ending March 2010.
The market is expected to grow much more. Pratap Suthan, one of the people behind the Incredible India campaign, said, “The travel industry should focus on budget travellers. We should create an ‘Affordable India’ campaign or adventure holidays or honeymoon campaigns under the mother brand of Incredible India, to witness more growth in the space.”