NB: This is a viewpoint by Chetan Kapoor, research analyst covering Asia for Phocuswright Inc.
Over the past decade, the Indian travel market has undergone a dramatic transformation. Driven by improving telecom and banking infrastructure, a growing Indian consumer class has migrated online, fueling explosive e-commerce growth.
Travelers initially lured online by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation’s (IRCTC) electronic ticketing have grown confident with online shopping, as innovative web and mobile offerings from Indian online travel agencies (OTAs) and suppliers keep the travel vertical at the forefront of India’s online revolution.
India is among the world’s most intriguing emerging travel markets. Yet, it is a highly complex and diverse nation, with substantial income disparity across urban and rural populations. Only a subset of Indians possesses the financial means and desire or ability to indulge in leisure travel.
Online or offline?
Digital sources play a key role in planning Indians’ most significant leisure trip (the trip with the most money spent and/or the longest duration).
According to a new Phocuswright report, holiday travelers rely on a range of information sources, but websites via computer were the most common, with 54% of travelers going online to search and shop for travel components. Phocuswright’s Indian Holiday and Packages Market: Now Empowered, Travelers Take Control shows that travelers were nearly as likely to shop via smartphone (40%), underlining the substantial influence mobile websites and applications are having on travel planning.
An analysis of payment methods, however, indicates that a few – nearly four out of 10 – prepackaged holiday travelers used an online payment method. While the payment distinction is important within the travel industry, travelers themselves are often unclear on what constitutes an online booking.
Many are searching online but still reserving through call centers or visiting storefronts to make payments. Indian travelers use the best of both worlds to shop and book their travels.
As holiday travelers go down the funnel, they start moving back to offline channels. While price is most important, other factors such as trust, convenience, content and validation from peers or professionals are also big influencers when searching and shopping for travel components.
Destination selection: family meeting
When choosing a destination, recommendations from friends and family are among the most influential factors, and 35% of holiday travelers were motivated by personal advice when planning their most significant leisure trip. Although price is not a primary motivator for most important leisure trips, three in 10 holiday travelers were inspired by a great deal.