Tech on the go

Written by Abhishek Chakraborty | Updated: Aug 17 2014, 06:59am hrs
AMIT RANJAN Paul, a 30-something marketing executive at a Delhi-based multinational company, is constantly on the move. But unlike the traditional traveller, he logs on to the

TripIdeas app of MakeMyTrip to zero in on his next holiday destination or to simply get inspired. While waiting at the airport due to a flight delay, he opens the app TripAlong to bump into a friend, who might give him company. Once at his destination, Paul uses TripAdvisors travel app and clicks on its Near Me Now feature to find nearby places of interest. Upon his return, Paul makes a personal directory of his favourite places on Blix, which helps him record, track, save places important to him and share it only with the people he chooses to.

Call it the dawn of new-age travel or ease of technology at disposal, modern-day travellers are swearing by mobile apps and other innovative online platforms to enhance their travel experience. Smart travellers are now researching, planning and booking vacations on their smartphones and tablets and are, in fact, finding these platforms more convenient than the traditional ones.

Mobile apps are becoming the new way of doing thingsbe it search, communication, buying or commutingand the way people shop and share experiences is also undergoing a transformation, says Rajesh Magow, MakeMyTrips co-founder and CEO.

Recently, the Windows app store launched five apps to help travellers get the maximum out of their holidays. The five apps include IRCTC, which helps you book train tickets; Skyscanner, which finds the best deals, giving you complete information on the cheapest flight prices, hotel rates and bus/car bookings; Local Search that helps navigate a city from the nearest coffee shop that may sell your favourite cinnamon cappuccino to the closest gas station; ATM Finder, which, as the name suggests, finds the nearest ATM based on your location; and Fun Travel Deals, which has a detailed list of restaurants, attractions, hotels and even shopping areas and specialities of any city of your choice.

Today, mobile accounts for over 19% of our monthly unique visitors and 15% of online transactions. In domestic flights, mobile bookings account for 15% of the total online transactions, while standalone hotel bookings from mobiles represent 27% of the total online domestic hotel transactions, says Magow.

Its not just to facilitate hotel and flight bookings, apps are also coming in handy for other value-added services like finding a friend or searching for locations and navigation, among others. With Indias travel and tourism industry poised to grow by about 7.3% in 2014, better than last year, as per the World Travel & Tourism Council, app developers are leaving no stone unturned to cash in on the trend.

Take, for example, the TripAlong app from MakeMyTrip. While waiting at an airport due to a flight delay, isnt it a good idea to have a friend to give you company TripAlong helps enable such serendipitous meetings. Users can log on to

TripAlong, register and key in their flight details. The app syncs their travel itinerary with those of friends, who are also registered with

TripAlong, and informs the user if any friend is at the same placeflight, airport or cityat the same time as them.

Additionally, MakeMyTrip has another app called TripIdeas, which offers holiday and destination trivia to inspire people to travel. Its app RoutePlanner enables trip planning between any two destinations in India in a faster and easier manner. The app has registered over three million downloads so far.

TripAdvisors travel app also provides travellers with a comprehensive travel planning resource on the go. Travellers can use features such as Near Me Now and Point Me There to find places of interest in their vicinity. The apps ability to work offline allows single travellers to use City Guides to go on self-guided walking tours.

With travel planning shifting from something you do ahead of time to something thats possible anytime, the TripAdvisor mobile app has become the essential companion for millions of travellers, says Stephen Kaufer, president and CEO of TripAdvisor. TripAdvisors app, available on iOS and Android, has crossed 100 million downloads.

Another app, Blix, lets travellers have a personal directory of their favourite places and find their way back to these later. Developed by two Seattle-based app developers, Bruce Woolsey and John Samuel, the app helps you record, track, save important places and share them only with people you choose to.

Sometimes, there are locations from a special vacationa hidden cafe, a beautiful beach or a unique local boutiqueand at times, places that need to be saved for practical reasonsyour childs friends house, or office locations of your clients, etc. Blix comes in handy here, says Bruce Woolsey, one of the two co-founders.

Similarly, Wegos app for iOS and Android devices features easy, gestured navigation, advanced filtering and sorting options, clear and concise images, a highly-optimised logic for lower data and battery consumption and a convenient option to email travel search results to a friend. It is a must for travellers to help them save time searching travel providers online and save money, says Jackson Fernandez, managing director, Wego India, adding, It has been the iTunes featured travel app in Singapore, China and Thailand, number two in India, and ranked in the top 100 travel apps in 20 countries.

Not to be left behind in the tech travel race, hotels and restaurants have also joined the fray and are launching mobile apps and user-friendly mobile sites. Most of them claim these apps are opening up a whole new world by enabling bookings at the press of a button.

Marriott International, which launched the first version of its mobile app for iPhone and Android devices in early 2012, is seeing 15% of its total booking done through the platform. The objective behind launching the app was to help people book a room conveniently in our hotels across India, says Prasad Iyer, e-commerce manager (India, Malaysia and Maldives), Marriott International.

The app allows travellers to find nearby hotels, make or cancel bookings, check in or check out, join Marriotts customer reward programme and even find out whats happening in the local area. We are in the process of using this app for online table reservations for our hotels across the world, adds Prasad. The app gives access to Marriotts 4,000 hotels across the world. The company currently has 24 hotels in India and four more are coming up by the end of 2014.

Taj Hotels joined the list with the release of its mobile application for Taj Gateway Hotel in Agra in May. Available for both iPhone and Android devices, the app provides audio tours of three of the famous monuments of Agra, including the Taj

Mahal, and comes with maps for navigation assistance. The company also plans to use the app for their 28 properties across India.

We were looking to solve the specific problem a traveller has that they do not get reliable and up-to-date information. Many of the websites are not always accessible, as they need Internet connection. So this app becomes a practical offering, as it doesnt require one to be online to work, says Siddharth Verma, managing director, iTravelApps, the company behind the app.

InterContinental Hotel offers mobile apps across all its brands in eight different languages. Available for both iPhone and Android devices, its mobile app and Web channels generated over 80,000 room bookings across Asia, West Asia and Africa alone.

Mobile visits accounted for over 30% of our website visits globally, while over 50% of our emails are opened via mobile devices. Last year, the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) website and mobile booking sites reached 300 million visitorsan increase of nearly 20% from 2011, says Gopal Rao, director, sales and marketing, south-west Asia, IHG.