Five things that changed the way India travels

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 14, 2019

Ever wondered what travelling in 1998 was like? Well, it would be more of going to the local travel agency, choosing among a handful of destinations which fit your budget, relying on the agent’s knowledge, paying in cash, reading from the travel guides. Clicking photos of a camera- and no social media to upload these photos on! Can’t imagine travelling like that. Right? 

Here are the 5 things from OAG’s report that changed the way Indian's travelled! OAG, is a research company based out of the UK which gives travel insights, data and releases whitepapers. These inputs are from a recently released report on India’s Online Travel Agencies: Look How Far We Have Come.

1. Liberalized air market: Today, India has 22 commercial airlines including, private airlines, PSUs, and UDAN scheme airlines. While India already had the private, full-service carriers like Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Vistara, in the early-2000s Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) changed the face of Indian travel market as we know it. 

Then was the emergence of IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir. Two years ago, this became all the more better than ever with with UDAN airlines like Trujet, Air Deccan, Star Air among others.  Increased competition among airlines lead to increase in supply, new flight routes, attractive – and often cheap – airfares across domestic and international routes. Above all, India’s demographic dividend became the biggest asset. 

There is no doubt that India's aviation industry is among the most attractive markets globally. Also, because it is under utilised. According to OAG, the number of domestic flights (frequencies) operating within India grew an astronomical 626 per cent from 165,070 in 1998 to 1,034,404 in 2018. According to the DGCA data of as of 2018, domestic passenger enplanements in India totaled 139 million, growing 19 per cent year-over-year basis.

2. Disposable income: According to reports, the per-capita income rose by 10 per cent in FY19. According to the 2011 census, more than 50 per cent of India’s 1.37 billion population are aged 25 years or under. There is no doubt that Indians have been bitten by the travel bug, especially millennials and their disposable income acts as a booster for this bug. According to reports, the per-capita income rose by 10 per cent in FY19. The youth is definitely spurred by a growing need to travel within and beyond the country, use their inherent tech-savviness to discovery, plan and book travel.

3. Digital India and SmartPhones: The overall growing awareness of e-commerce and its subsequent penetration. Relatively cheap mobile data plans, as low as $3 per month for up to 30 GB of 4G speeds. It is no surprise that an increasing number of Indian travelers have access to Internet via smartphones. Increased accessibility to sub-$100 budget Android smartphones have definitely boosted the accessibility for Indian travellers. This is leading to more and more citizens being connected by data park for a nominal amount of for free. India had 390 million active Internet users – or 28 per cent of its population – in 2017 All of these have obviously acted as a booster for the Indian travel industry.

4. OTAs: The unabashed, and easy use of internet in India has given birth to something called as Online Travel Agencies (OTA) in India as well. OTAs have brought travel agencies to the doorsteps, more to the fingertips and laps of Indian households.
The earliest memorable form of online travel bookings in India were of Indian Railways through their IRCTC website. However, the launch of new airlines and airports has resulted in a steep rise in domestic air travel. This is where OTAs such as MakeMyTrip, EaseMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra,, Paytm, etc. play a vital part. OTAs bring in price transparency in airfares and offer choice to customers through aggregation, thus attracting travelers who now rely exclusively on these websites to plan their trips.

They have also championed search engine marketing to boost their position online and they are well funded. With increasing visitor traffic and funding, OTAs further enhanced their digital retailing capabilities through the use of actionable data, targeted promotions and offers. 

OTAs have undergone a 360º transformation to tap into the Indian mobile user opportunity. Travel stands second in India’s online purchasing by segment according to Phocuswright’s Indian Consumer Travel Report of 2017. This is a considerable standing, one that OTAs are not taken lightly and are cashing in on to the maximum.

5. Payment options: While, digital India, disposable income, OTAs and the aviation industry did give a boost to the Indian travellers, what really changed the face of the Indian travel industry is the revolutionary usage of a variety of payment options at a click.

Twenty years ago, the maximum one could pay with was a cheque, now, Indians are swamped with a variety of payment options! This empowers them to use their money at their discretion and how the want to use it. 

Even today cash is undisputed payment method among Indians, despite demonetisation! But digital payments are on the rise through the proliferation of debit cards and Internet banking. As of December 2018, there were 952.8 million debit cards in circulation, as compared to a paltry 44.2 million credit cards. 

Taking this a notch ahead are the FinTech companies, especially mobile wallets such as Paytm, Google Pay, PhonePe and Amazon Pay. Not only do these companies offer incentives on transactions made directly on their platforms, but they also partner with a string of e-commerce companies including OTAs to simplify the payment process.

Published on November 14, 2019

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