Published on : Tuesday, April 16, 2019
The Indian traveller has come of age, spending approximately $94 billion in 2018, on around 2 billion domestic and international trips, helping the Indian travel and tourism industry achieve unprecedented scale. The momentum is expected to continue and the industry will grow at a 13 percent CAGR to $136 billion by 2021, according to a report, ‘How Does India Travel’, released by Bain & Company and Google India today. The report outlines how India spends on travel, the influence of online channels in their purchase journey and potential growth opportunities for travel businesses till 2021.
Deep diving into the $136 billion spends, the report cites a 12 percent growth in transportation ($50 billion), 13 percent growth in lodging ($21 billion) and consumption, which includes spends on shopping, recreation and food, to grow at 13 percent ($65 billion) over the next three years. Additionally, as more people come online, smartphone penetration improves and use of digital payments goes up, the report estimates that Indian travellers will spend an additional $24 billion on online travel bookings over the next three years, a growth from 25 percent in 2018 to 35 percent in 2021.
Online is a significant source of research
Elucidating the planning journey of Indian travellers, both for business and leisure, the report calls out five phases of a customer journey – Interest, Research, Booking, Experience and Sharing. The report states that during key research-heavy phase of interest, research and experience, digital plays a pivotal role with over 86 percent of consumers being influenced by online channels. During this phase, travellers spend their maximum time on search, travel tour provider websites, price comparison websites, and travel articles. Online video too plays a significant role with 21 percent of travellers being influenced by this platform. In the booking and sharing phase, the report states that nearly 60 percent of customers book transport and lodging online, and over 50 percent share feedback online with social media being the dominant platform.
Talking about the market opportunities for online travel players, Vikas Agnihotri, Country Director – Sales, Google India said, “New users perceive that online channels are geared towards the more frequent flyers and experience-oriented travellers; and existing travellers research online but the lack of trust in payments and booking experience make them end up booking offline. If travel players tap these online users through personalised marketing, messaging and travel plans, they can further augment online travel bookings. This can be done by adopting digital technologies to influence customers early in the journey and moving from one-time engagement to ongoing relationships to have a positive impact.”
“There is a perception amongst consumers that online channels are geared towards premium customers, along with a marked distrust around payment and pricing terms. It is imperative for businesses to address these concerns in order to effectively tap into the growing base of users.” Arpan Sheth, partner Bain & Company said.
Decoding the Indian travellers
The report further identified the five cohorts of travellers in India, across business and leisure travel, and categorised each against their online research behaviour:
However, challenges remain in meeting the expectations of these travellers. Customers perceive online channels geared towards premium cohorts (frequent flyer and experience-oriented traveller), while mass cohorts, with $55 billion in spending, remain underpenetrated. There are about 160 million non-transacting active Internet users in India with only 5 percent of online travellers from Tier-2 or Tier-3 cities. There is a significant (20 percent) difference between the booking rates of premium cohorts and mass cohorts, the latter being also dissatisfied with online channels (~33 percent satisfied) vs. premium cohorts (~42 percent). The second challenge is in penetrating existing users who exhibit a marked distrust in use of online channels to make bookings, especially around payment and pricing terms and booking experience compared with offline channels. Consequently, their online usage drops between the research (>86 percent online influence) and booking phases (~40 percent offline bookings).
How travel businesses need to adapt to the needs of online consumers
The report cites five major shifts that marketers need to make to market to the online travellers – First, alleviate consumer concerns by improving the booking and payment experience to build a trusted brand and increase adoption. Second, they need to address the negative customer perception issues by mass customisation to drive higher share in the segment. They also need to utilise consumer technology to penetrate mass segments (standardise, enable sharing), reach non-transactors (build offline presence), and create new user access. Moreover, they need to find innovative and frugal ways to package the experience to increase both adoption and retention. Finally, they need to create a robust digital backend to adapt to customer needs across the purchase journey.
Joydeep Bhattacharya, partner Bain & Company said that the contribution of travel and tourism’s spending in India has reached developed market levels, from 6.7percent of GDP in 2013 to 9.4 percent in 2018. This growth, combined with a rapidly growing internet user base and adoption of online bookings will lead to $24 billion in incremental revenues through online channels by 2021. In order to benefit from this trend, businesses need to actively increase new user adoption and increase penetration in the existing user base across the purchase journey.