August , 2017
Online players empowering new age travellers
15:47 pm

Anustup Roy Barman

The concept of tourism has changed over the years. In traditional Bengali literature one would often come across the term “Hawa Bodol” (change in the wind). It was a popular practice for well-to-do Bengali families to travel to regions like Giridi, Galudi, Ghatshila, and Madhupur that now lie in the state of Jharkhand. It was common for families to spend nearly a month in these destinations. Medical practitioners are also recorded to have prescribed these changes to ailing individuals.

Now people are hard pressed for time and spoilt for choices. The new age traveller is overtly independent and loves to make informed decisions when it comes to his travel itinerary. Gone are the days when holidays were solely for families. The new age traveller travels alone or in small groups apart from holidaying with his family.

The tourism and hospitality sector in India is reinventing itself to cater to the largely diversified demands that it has to now address. The new age global traveller is willing to explore new concepts such as adventure tourism, honeymoon tourism, weekend getaways, photo tourism and many others. The sector has to plan extensively so as to accommodate demands pertaining to such customised travel choices. Travel for the new age global traveller is about new experiences.

The internet has greatly benefited the sector. It has empowered the new age traveller enabling him to research his travel plan, choose his travel medium, make his own bookings and has given him an option to know what to expect in his chosen destination. Explaining the new emerging trends in the sector, Dr Renuka Kamath, Professor, Marketing at SP Jain Institute of Management, informed, “I strongly believe there is a case for destination marketing organisations to keep looking for new travellers - those who look for ‘that one very different holiday’ each time they want to pamper themselves or get away, rather than do a repeat.”

The internet has greatly eased the tourism and hospitality sector. The offline players are facing stiff competition from online giants in this sector. The internet is giving the consumer choices. It is giving them the option to preview their travel experience in detail before they actually initiate their travel. Previously there were offline agents for train, bus or flight bookings. People had to pay extra money to them. Today a person has IRCTC website for hassle free train bookings. It has reduced the long queues in front of the booking counters and uncertainty related to confirmation. There are numerous websites for flight bookings. A traveller can simply open websites like makemytrip, yatra, easemytrip etc. from their browser, compare the rates, and book the ticket. They do not have to bear the extra cost for hiring  any agent.

There are many companies like makemytrip, yatra etc. who are now planning and booking the whole tour in package formats. Budget in this format includes all the expenses that have to be paid by the customer. People have the opportunity to compare the packages of different companies online and book the suitable one. Such options have greatly empowered the new age traveller. In India the penetration of smartphones and internet is increasing exponentially. This has led to the growth of a large number of mobile travel apps.

According to a recent Google India-BCG report, the overall Indian travel market is to reach $48 billion by 2020 at a CAGR of 11% - 11.5%. The same report states on an average, travel consumers spend 49 minutes spread over 46 days visiting as many as 17 different online touch points to plan research and make a booking. The report has also forecasted that India’s online hotel market will grow to $4 billion with 31% penetration at a CAGR of 25% and that one in three hotel rooms will be booked online by 2020.

This string of impressive statistics point to a prospective growth in online travel industry. But does it foretell the doom of offline players? Even if we go by this report, two of every three hotel rooms in India will be still booked offline in 2020. According to Kankan Dasgupta, Co-founder, Travel Point, “The self-sufficient new age travellers are more prone to online portals as they are tech-savvy and constantly look for discounts. They are able to handle all other stuff on their own. Still there are certain sections of the society who do not want to take any hassle while traveling. So they mostly go to offline operators and book their travel packages.”

Under immense pressure from online players, the offline players are
rapidly reinventing themselves. They are depending on their experience and logistical efficiency. An important Kolkata-based offline player informed us, “Internet will allow you to book and plan your travel. It will not give you the personal touch that is offered by offline players. In one of our recent tours to Kedarnath, a family requested us for some milk to feed their infant child. We were in a remote location. However, we could eventually arrange a litre of milk from a local village. Such services are yet to be provided by the online players.”  Though online players have greatly helped the new age traveller to evolve, a large section of traditional travellers still depend on offline players for the personalised services and that  human touch

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