With the online travel space getting highly commoditised and players looking beyond pricing to differentiate themselves, unique service offerings are becoming the order of the day. The trend is seen across the sector, with players such as Airbnb, MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip launching services such as Trips, Assured Hotels and Local, respectively. Within the Indian online travel space, the `19,200 crore (2016) hospitality segment (RedSeer Consulting) especially has seen considerable action lately with the entry of large global players such as Airbnb.
Experiential travel and local experiences are the new buzzwords among online travel players that have potential for adding additional revenue streams. Thanks to rising disposable incomes, experience-led travel is driving the travel industry in India, says Amanpreet Bajaj, country manager, Airbnb India, which launched its Trips in Delhi in March and has 15 listed local experiences so far, which include ‘Bollywood dance’ and ‘home décor’. “Our aim is to inspire people to move away from templatised way of bucket-listing destinations,” says Bajaj. With 3.5 million homes across 191 countries, over 800 experiences in multiple cities, Airbnb’s focus is on outbound Indian travellers, primarily looking at 230 million urban millennials in India.
Cleartrip, which launched ‘Local’ last year, sees it as more of a customer acquisition strategy, with 75% being new customers. Local includes services like cycle tours, rafting and camping, with focus on creating frequent use cases. “Travel is a need-based vertical and frequency in India is an average of two trips per year. In western countries, it is 10-12 trips a year,” says Subramanya Sharma, CMO at Cleartrip.com. “I don’t see it contributing more than 15% revenue by next year, as the average ticket size of Local is 1/10th that of travel.”
Then alternative accommodation is increasingly being seen as a major disruptor in the category. Experts see homestays as more than just a way to fill a vacuum in the budget segment and agree that standardisation of services and government guidelines will further boost the sector. From MakeMyTrip (MMT) to Yatra, Cleartrip and Paytm, domestic players are looking at homestays to attract experience-seeking travellers.