In today’s world of fast-paced transactions, the definition of time is associated with efficiency, money and mobility. It comes as no surprise that the “digital edge” has the advantage when it comes to domestic travel in India.
Gone are the days when consumers would line up at reservation counters or chase some travel agents to get them reservations for air travel or a hotel. Online bookings are growing at 20 per cent a year, and the travel industry has seen a massive jump in revenues whenever promotional offers have been made.
With wider Internet penetration, online air ticket booking portals have evolved.
However, the situation is different when Indians travel abroad as they still go to the old, trusted travel agent who they feel gives a personal touch to the itinerary and packs in activities for leisure and shopping.
There is a feeling that online booking of flights allows a lot of flexibility and freedom, be it from office or home. So people not only book cheap tickets but avail themselves of a lot more through online portals.
Pratik Mazumder, Head of Marketing and Strategic Alliance at yatra.com, feels there has definitely been a shift from the traditional ways of bookings over the past few years; more than 50 per cent of bookings are done online now. “During the lean season, we make periodic offers for our customers. Right now, we are focusing on Europe packages and have attractive offers for these holidays that will happen in the summer months. We at yatra.com are very transparent in our dealings with our customers and clearly state what the particular ticket or package contains and what it does not.”
According to Vikram Malhi, Expedia, India Country Head, online bookings have become a favourite with Indian passengers as they get cheaper and better deals . Planning things in advance always helps to save on the trip than booking last minute or closer to the date of travel. “The steady rise in airfares over the past two years has led to a significant increase in the overall cost of a holiday, as compared with 2011. For best deals, it is becoming important to plan the trip at least 3-4 months in advance through online content, reviews and personal advice.”
Promotions and discounts from travel portals or tourism boards usually offer great deals on travel and freebies while encouraging travellers to book in advance for the best deals. For instance, if you are at Expedia, by booking two months in advance you can easily bag up to a 70 per cent discount on hotel stays and get an average of Rs. 12,000 in savings, if you book your flight and hotel together,” he says.
Indian Tour Operators president Subhash Goel, who also runs Stic Travels, says that for domestic travel, 75 per cent bookings are being done online. However, for international travel, Indians still prefer the traditional way of booking through an agent as they need some kind of security or contact before and during their travel. “They would rather deal with a travel agent than an invisible travel portal. A travel agent can vet hundreds of options to find the right package…”