Until about two decades ago, a typical Indian traveller would primarily visit pilgrimage destinations, and the only sources for travel planning were references from friends and family, travel magazines and travel agents. That has changed significantly now with a sharp rise in the growth of tourists.
From 1997 to 2016, the number of domestic tourist visits grew by 10 times — from close to 160 million to 1,614 million, as per Market Research and Statistics by Ministry of Tourism. The statistics further reveal that foreign tourist arrivals also grew 5.5 million in 1997 to nearly 25 million in 2016. The one big change that has happened is that a majority of travel planning and booking now takes place online.
While pilgrimage continues to command a significant share of domestic tourism, other forms such as adventure, culinary, cultural and sports tourism have also gained momentum over the last few years.
What transpired in these two decades has transformed the Indian travel and hospitality space completely. Technology has become an integral part of a traveller’s DNA and plays a critical role throughout the journey.
As per The Indian Digital Traveller Research by Travelport, in November, 2017, Indians have been termed as the most digitally-savvy travellers. The study indicates that 71% travellers use smartphones for research and booking while 82% appreciate digital boarding passes and e-tickets. Indian travellers are also avid social media users — with 87% using pictures and videos posted by friends as part of their travel research; and about nine out of 10 travellers valuing user reviews. The travel industry is increasingly innovating on its backend and customer-facing platforms through adoption of new technologies. From itinerary-building support to reservations and customer support, platforms are anticipating travel needs and resolving issues in real-time. In the process, the traveller is becoming more empowered and travel brands are aspiring to become experience platforms. The leisure travel industry trends are increasingly blending into the corporate travel segment. In addition to smartphones and social media, various technologies and tools are also impacting the way people travel and industry players operate. These include AI, voice-based applications, ‘big data’ analytics, VR and AR. Combining these, companies are able to cull out valuable insights to personalise and improve customer offerings.
Indian travellers are increasingly seeking convenience while also progressively exploring the unexplored. In the foreseeable future, digitisation in travel is only expected to grow; and Indian travellers, especially millennials, are likely to embrace it heartily.
Jaideep Ghosh is partner & head — transport, leisure & sports, KPMG India