Travellers are now, more than ever before, hyper-connected to their mobile devices, even on the move. India is sitting on cusp of a giant technological revolution and nearly everyone from toddlers to grandparents has embraced the switch from point-and-click to touch-and-swipe. India has grown to around 400 million Internet users and is likely to cross the 500-million mark this year. Moreover, following the demonetisation announcement, there has been a rise in the use of credit and debit cards with 37.4% Indian travellers choosing plastic money over cash for bookings and other travel-related expenditures, quotes a survey by Yatra.com.
Going forward, the NASSCOM report on the ‘The Future of Internet in India’ suggests that India’s Internet users will grow two fold to 730 million by 2020, and 7 out of 10 new users will emerge from the rural areas. Out of the total Internet user base, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reported that the wireless or mobile subscriber
base has increased by 0.19% from 1,033.16 million at the end of May 2016 to 1,035.12 million in June this year.
The use of technology at all customer touch-points is trending. In 2016 the percentage of passengers who checked-in online and used a mobile boarding pass rather than a printed one increased from 69% in 2015 to 71%, as per IATA. The smartphone is becoming even more integral to everyone’s lives and decisions are frequently online content driven, seeking advice and opinions from websites and applications. From exploration of options and choice to customer reviews and satisfaction, technology is gradually becoming the centre of client-consumer interactions.
A mobile phone is the number one travel accessory today, with twice as many people preferring to travel with their device than their loved one, highlights Hotels.com. Mobile is a great way for hotels to target not just Millennials and Baby Boomers, but the technologically-evolving Gen-Xers as well. The ability to quickly request a service from a mobile device and have it added to their bill leading to more on-site requests and purchases, is a major opportunity all hoteliers
should embrace. Not only does it equate to a higher degree of guest
satisfaction, it is also a way for hotels to generate more revenue.
INNOVATING WITH TECHNOLOGY
Mobile technology can make life more convenient by easy management
of travel bookings, cancellations, hotel check-in, check-out, cab services,
etc. This convenience on mobile applications is a significant opportunity
for the industry to encourage repeat visits among travellers.
Realising the surge in mobile bookings, a growing number of players
in the hospitality domain are innovating with the mobile technology to
speed up faster decision-making, increase bookings, up-selling, creating a
personalised experience and collecting preference data to capitalise further.
To name a few, reverse bidding hotel booking platform, Findmystay.
com is also noticing 60% of the traffic through mobile devices, increasing
at 50% month on month. In total, 35% of actual hotel booking are taking
place on Findmystay.com mobile app, said Simran Sial, Co-founder,
Findmystay.com. “Seeing the trending mobile technology and immense
opportunities attached to it, we are also motivating our hotel partners to
go mobile,” he added.
As travellers are increasingly becoming younger, mobile as a booking
medium has significantly evolved as compared to the last year, feels Rajesh
Magow, Co-Founder and CEO-India, MakeMyTrip. He added, “Just like
financial or career ambition, people now have travel ambition, especially
the younger generation. This has had a direct effect on the travel landscape
of the country which is now being driven by young Indian travellers.” At
MakeMyTrip, the mobile saw a high usage with more than 8 million out of
the total 23 million downloads of the MakeMyTrip app between January and
June 2016. Mobile transactions saw a growth of 313% and constitutes for
54% of the total transactions, versus 25% last year.
Another OTA, VIA is now witnessing 50% traction through the mobile
medium with last minute bookings, GPS-enabled services, cancellations
and quick reviews dominating on mobile. Seeing this, the company
has taken initiatives to enhance the user experience on mobile with
personalisation features, facility of referring lowest airfare calendar and
chatbots for instant services. Kousik Bhattacharya, Head- Marketing and
B2C Business, VIA, outlined that even start-ups are working towards
better mobile sites and mobile apps. “Travel is booming globally and
the mobile medium is a game-changer in the coming time. In a market,
where half of the bookings happen for business purpose, mobile is a
medium that scores when it comes to booking on the move.”
Talking about the current scenario, Ankush Nijhawan, MD, Nijhawan
Group of Companies, exclaimed that mobile is the strongest medium for
attracting business and growing revenue. In the next five years, use of
laptops could be passé. “Today over 70% of consumer shopping and 30%
of B2B business is taking place on mobile. With new mobile operators
disrupting the market by offering free data, this is in turn going to boost
the usage and will be a win-win for the customer with other operators gearing up to competition. Demonetisation too, will be further pushing
India towards a cashless economy, thus augmenting online transactions
A new entrant in the OTA segment, BigBreaks.com’ mobile transactions
have grown to about 28% this year from 20% in 2015. After office
bookings (evening and night ones) on mobile, are up by 40%. By end
of this month, the brand is planning to launch its mobile app both on
Android and iOS platforms. The app will also boast of notification facility
from March next year.
Kapil Goswamy, MD, BigBreaks.com, elaborated, “From being a
mere reference platform, mobile today has emerged as an avid booking
medium. Going forward, with mobile data getting cheaper, more Tier-
II and III cities will adopt the mobile technology and this is bound to
enhance the mobile penetration in India. Foreseeing this, not just big
brands but small and medium scale brands too, are coming up with
mobile-only discount offers, etc.”
TREND & FUTURE
According to a recent survey, one third of travellers from India are
booking holidays on their mobile phones. The mobile uptake is higher
among business travellers in India with almost 40% of them making
travel arrangements, including bookings via mobile while on the move.
The survey further states that most Indian travellers decide on the go and
are well in tune with the latest technology. Owing this and many other
factors, hotel occupancy in India also surpassed 60% for the first time in
four years in 2014-15, according to HVS.
As OTAs double down on hotel distribution, they are also investing
heavily in mobile offerings, pursuing a growing user base with broader
product offerings and a better user experience. India’s total mobile
bookings (OTAs and suppliers combined) are projected to hit USD 3.2
billion by 2017, with OTAs accounting for the vast majority of the figure.
Talking about payments through smartphones, a study by Google
(Alphabet Inc.) and Boston Consulting Group reveals that the digital
payments industry in Asia’s third-largest economy will grow by 10
times to touch USD 500 billion by 2020 and contribute 15% of GDP. This
clearly asserted that India is headed for an exponential increase in digital
payments over the next four years. The report forecasts that non-cash
transactions will exceed cash transactions in the economy by 2023, which
presents a huge opportunity for the hospitality industry as well.
On the whole, smartphones may still account for a minority of online
bookings in 2016, but the far greater comfort that travellers have with
mobile shopping and booking means that much of the mobile revolution is
yet to come. As hotel brands continue to improve the mobile experiences
they provide to customers, and as the younger generation becomes the
traveller majority, another wave of mobile and online growth lies ahead
for the global travel and tourism industry.