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As customers hunt for cheaper options, online travel portals eye bus bookings

Nivedita Ganguly Mumbai | Updated on September 25, 2012 Published on September 25, 2012

Bus journeys have become a great alternative, especially for short-haul destinations.

Jayashree Pandit has a new rule for planning her travel. If her destination is less than 500 km away, she hits the road instead of taking a flight. Call it cost cutting or the result of soaring air fares, many travellers are switching their modes of transport.

Domestic air fare in India has witnessed a considerable increase of around 30 per cent in the April-June quarter compared with the corresponding period last year. Consequently, bus journeys have become a great alternative, especially for short-haul destinations.

With the aviation industry still experiencing turbulence, the trend is expected to continue in the October-December peak season, say tour operators and online travel portals.

To cash in on this trend, travel Web sites are shifting their focus to bus travel bookings. MakeMyTrip recently launched its bus services for customers. Customers can now book tickets for over 12,000 bus routes all across India and choose from over 800 operators.

This trend is more pronounced with short distance domestic travel. For instance, a Mumbai to Goa air ticket for October 1 ranges from Rs 3,500 to Rs 8,000. A similar bus trip would cost you between Rs 300 and Rs 1,000. The range covers everything from budget transport to a Volvo bus. For online travel portal Ezeego1, bus travel accounts for 30 per cent of their total online bookings. “We have seen a 20 per cent increase in online bus bookings in the last four months,” said Neelu Singh, Chief Operating Officer, Ezeego1.com. The company has tied up with over 500 bus operators and operates on more than 5,000 routes across India.

“A section of people, who often travel on Bangalore-Kochi, Hyderabad-Chennai and Hyderabad-Bangalore routes, now prefer to travel by bus. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector has also seen an increase in bus bookings,” said Singh.

Industry experts feel rising fare has forced many to cut their air travel bills. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a major financial think-tank, has scaled down its forecast on air passenger traffic growth this year from 11 per cent to 7 per cent. CMIE has cited the sharp rise in fares as a result of a major hike in charges by private operators of Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Travel agents that Business Line spoke to said they have witnessed a significant dip in bookings (corporate bookings and short haul destinations) in the last four months. “In sectors where the rail and road connectivity is good, we have seen a dip in air ticket bookings,” said a Mumbai-based travel agent.

nivedita.ganguly@thehindu.co.in

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Published on September 25, 2012
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