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Travel serach on the rise despite slowing economy

Bapun Raz

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By TBM Staff | Mumbai


A slowing economy has not dented the appetite for travel and tourism among Indians, who are increasingly using the Internet for travel-related queries. According to the latest travel report by the Indian unit of Google Inc, travel-related queries on the firm's search engine grew 59 per cent in the year ended July compared with the previous 12 months. The report, which was released recently mentioned that travel queries using mobile phones had grown over 250 per cent in the same period.

“Travel is the second largest segment in the online space in terms of queries after entertainment. India is a very inquisitive market, though the penetration is low,” said Kiran Mani, Head of Vertical Sales, Google's India unit. India is the third largest market after the US and China in terms of queries as more and more users are depending on the Internet. Mani and other travel experts said the online space offers firms the right audience and they can design a strategy for the right kind of pricing and promotion based on query patterns.

According to a report in Mint by PR Sanjai, interestingly, while Indian airlines and hospitality firms are encouraging customers to buy tickets online by offering discounts up to 10 per cent, online travel agents such as MakeMyTrip (India) Pvt Ltd, Cleartrip Travel Services Pvt Ltd and Yatra Online Services Pvt Ltd are also selling tickets through offline stores. Another online agency, Ezeego One Travels and Tours Pvt Ltd, has started sending representatives to customer doorsteps to collect cash and deliver tickets and other holiday products. “We are providing our customers an additional payment option, and secondly, there are a set of customers who do not wish to transact online. We are tapping into this segment,” said Neelu Singh, Chief Operating Officer, Ezeego1, that introduced executives to collect cash and deliver tickets.

“Overall, this initiative will open up a new segment that did not transact online at all and we expect this segment to grow by at least 25 per cent. We have already seen a growth in the number of bookings with this new initiative,” said Deep Kalra, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Makemytrip. He said his firm opened retail stores four years ago in the top 20 cities to connect with local, traditional travellers in these markets, who were not ready to go online to research and buy holiday travel products. It was partially an effort to build its brand at the local level and also enhance customer base beyond the minority comfortable with online buying, Kalra said.

Dhruv Shringi, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Yatra, endorsed a similar sentiment as there are many Indian travellers who do not have credit cards, or are not comfortable using credit cards online. He said, “Affiliates or travel agents act as distribution points where his firm does not have a presence or where his executives cannot reach.”

“Local Internet parlours will now start helping booking tickets for some of these firms. There is a clear sign of massive growth in travel searches in India,” Mani said. These measures are adding layers to the existing business. Google's study found that travel queries are growing despite an economic slowdown. The study shows that the travel segment is growing sequentially too. As per the study, 54.43 per cent of the people search for hotels and accommodation, followed by air travel by 27.45 per cent. The top Indian brands featured in the travel segment are Cleartrip, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, Makemytrip, IndiGo and Yatra, while the top activities are online booking, searching for cheap flights and fares, and checking seat availability.

Metros topped the list of the most-searched flight destinations. In the hospitality segment, a majority of the searches are in non-brand accommodation while hill stations and beaches are the most preferred destinations for leisure for Indian users. Indians are also looking at shorthaul destinations overseas with Dubai being the most popular, the report said. “In the hotel space, people are looking at a price range of Rs 3,000-3,500 room nights,” Mani said.
 
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