It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues – the smell of spices, loud honks from a sea of cars and every pair of eyes glued to a smartphone. Welcome to India, home to about 1.27 billion people with the potential to be one of the world’s largest markets in terms of domestic and outbound tourism.
With over a billion prospective customers, it is essential for travel players to stay ahead of the game in providing the best experience possible for travellers.
Affordable technology, rising affluence and an abundance of flight connections have ignited the wanderlust bug in Indians. A TripAdvisor questionnaire revealed that nearly seven out of ten Indians surveyed are planning to travel abroad this year – and this figure is expected to rise.
So what has sparked this growth? With over 60 million additional people gaining access to the internet annually, India is now the second largest internet market globally. Coupled with breakthroughs in technology, India – touted as Asia’s fastest growing smartphone market – now boasts more channels than ever before for Indian travellers to seek inspiration for their next destination. This is driven in part by the rapid rise of affordable domestic mobile phone brands – last year, Micromax, Karbonn and Lava combined grabbed about one third of sales.
What does this mean for travel players in the industry?
According to a recent Amadeus survey of Indian travel agents, more than half of travellers compare information across hotel sites for themselves, indicating that travellers are taking ownership of inspiration and research. Yet, at the same time, the role of the travel agent remains vital with four out of five Indian travellers still consulting with an online or offline agent at the planning and booking stage.
Therein lies the opportunity for the travel agent to ensure that the online and offline worlds for the traveller are seamlessly connected for the perfect travel experience.
The same survey also revealed that location and price are the two most important factors when deciding on a hotel. This may not seem particularly ground breaking, but given the abundance of information available online and the Indian travellers increasing access to this information, it means that travel agencies need to carefully source partners and booking channels that provide competitive rates and rich hotel information.
With the rise of these tech-savvy travellers, personalisation is also key in a sea of competitive travel players vying for the Rupee. Whether it’s capturing seat preferences or choice of pillows, personalisation is now more highly prized than ever before. And this goes a long way, as more than half of Indian travellers are likely to share photos and information about their holiday on their social networks. So, the next time they share a vacation experience on Facebook, not only will they share about the amazing food they had, but also their personalised travel itinerary that catered to their preferences.
At the end of the day, travellers simply want to be in control of their experience, but also have the assurance of a travel consultant to provide the expert opinion that may not have been readily available online.
At Amadeus, we believe that the traveller is king, and we have created the tools to empower our partners to best serve their customers every step of the way, whether it is connecting hotels to ticketing services, or providing a suite of solutions to capture customer preferences. The age of the new Indian traveller is here, and we are ready for them. The question is, are you?