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Most Indians log on to plan travel

India leads the South Asia, West Asia and Africa region in using the internet most to plan its travel itinerary, reveals a survey.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 20:28 IST

Trendy India uses Internet the most to plan its travel itinerary, declares the latest MasterIndex of Consumer Lifestyles survey. The study, commissioned by MasterCard International, reveals that Internet savvy Indians are leading the South Asia, West Asia (Middle East term used by the survey)and Africa (SAMEA) region, when it comes to researching and booking travel via the Internet.

Travelling via the info highway
Despite India having relatively low level of Internet access in the South Asia, Middle East and Africa (SAMEA) region, the 67 per cent of Indian travellers that do have access to the Internet log on more often (82 per centdo it every day compared to the 64 per cent average of their regional counterparts) and use the Internet more for travel related tasks. A significant 39 per cent said the Internet was a key source of information in deciding where to travel, a much higher figure than the regional average of 10 per cent .

“The strong use of the Internet by Indian travellers demonstrates the willingness of Indians to embrace the benefits of new technology. While a large proportion of Indians prefer to rely on traditional methods in booking and paying for travel, the emergence of a new Internet generation indicates how e-commerce is coming of age in South Asia," Nitin Gupta, country general manager, South Asia, MasterCard International.

Boom in online bookings
An earlier survey by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) also revealed India's high comfort level with technology for making travel bookings online.

The IAMAI survey of online shoppers on ‘How To Sell Rooms Online’ showed that 20 per cent of Internet users had made hotel reservations online; 31 per cent indicated that they were likely to do so in the near future. As per IAMAI’s estimates, Rs 29 lakh worth of ‘hotel stays’ were sold online in 2004-05 and Rs 2.36 crore worth will be sold in 2005-06.

Comfort above all
The fastest growing areas are airline and railways reservations. The biggest benefits of booking online is avoiding the hassles of standing in long queues and of course, having to deal with surly, sulky personnel at the counters. Says Neeta Sharma, who has routinely been booking railway tickets online: "I save time travelling to the station and then standing in the long queues. It also saves me the physical discomfort of standing in stuffy reservation rooms during the hot summers. Best of all, I don't have to deal with sulky railway officials at the counters who are so unwilling to give out information."

It is then just not for booking that Indians are logging on while planning their travel schedule. It is also to check out the travel information, the route their mode of conveyance will take, the availibility, the pricing among a whole lot of things.

People don't seem to mind the online transaction cost while booking tickets. The convenience more than makes up for the cost of booking online, which again is not very high and makes a difference of about Rs 40 to Rs 60.

Ravinder Bakshi, a doctor, says, "Railway tickets I book today reach me the next day, so it's fast. Plus I also get to conveniently check the timings, the pricing for all the levels, AC or three tier, the changed schedules. Imagine going to the enquiry counter and getting all your confusions resolved. The internet makes my life easier."

On ground, in air
According to the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), around 24 per cent of the Rs 11.8 billion Indians spend in online shopping is for railway tickets, with 47 per cent of all online rail ticket buyers between 26 and 35 years old. Adding airline ticket bookings, overall travel makes up nearly 58 per cent of Indian online spending.

When it comes to booking air travel, a regional high 17 per cent of Indian travellers with Internet access preferred to book travel online, while 57 per cent of preferred to do it through a travel agent and 21 per cent preferred to buy tickets direct from airlines, as per the Mastercard survey.

This compares to the SAMEA regional average of 5 per cent who book air travel via the Internet, 50 per cent who book travel through an agent and 38 per cent who book air travel through airlines.

Hotels go hi-tech
Sensing the smart returns that online bookings can bring in, hotels too are heavily into making all their inventories available online. It's not just Indians they are looking to to boost their sales, but international tourists too, who have greater access to technoloy.

Indians can also soon look forward to online booking engines which will also give them the opportunity to check real time inventories.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 20:11 IST