Sripad Vaidya, Co-founder, Confirmtkt
The fact that almost all of Travel & technology industry purely revolves around technology is a no-brainer. Offline ticketing businesses and travel agencies are shutting down at a fast pace and the reason is being irrelevant to the market that is in; a market whose consumers rely heavily on tech. ‘Offline’ is not even on the radar as the term ‘OTA’ stands for Online Travel Aggregators and travel counselors/ agents are being replaced by curated content which is available online. The reason being a traveler’s psyche is a lot different compared to what it was a few years ago, solo trips and group of friends trips are becoming the norm, as the trends show a steady decline in conventional family trips.
Desktop or websites bookings are the mainstays for travel bookings, including air tickets and hotels. But the trend is shifting focus towards mobile apps with people gaining trust gradually. Online travel booking has been around in India since the early 2000s, but much like other online services, it was considered fraudulent and not advisable. Mobile phone usage drastically in the mid-2000s, with 400 million internet users in India alone, much has been given to the growth of online-based services in spite of the early lack of interest. IT boom in the country has given its own talent pool, giving birth to better software every day, has its share in the booming online travel booking industry.
Talking about the Tech – IT relationship, startups in India eying into the travel market, hit jackpot when they didn’t have to go overseas for development. This meant a win-win situation for everybody in the picture, low-cost skilled work for the companies and a fantastic end result for the users to enjoy. User interface goes a long way in roping in a customer. Exceedingly great front fascia coupled with seamless back-end algorithms getting bookings done to exact precision has resulted in hassle-free experiences for everybody. This has been purely dealt with the quality of tech development present in-house and the constant ability for re-structuring by the day, has got travel tech to where it is now. Asia leads its way when it comes to mobile booking, surpassing Europe and the Americas, largely due to the stern competition and constant development the OTAs of the Southeast, Middle East and the subcontinent has kept themselves in. Experts say the booming travel tourism in these regions and the great consumer responsibility the locals have shown overall is key.
Travelers don’t want to take guides anymore, or so seems to be the trend. More and more travelers believe in ‘authentic’ experiences rather than the fixed itinerary of the old. Immersing into the local culture while seeing everything there is to see is the top priority now. You see, if you already haven’t visited a place once, there is no way of knowing ‘authentic’ experiences. Technology builds the bridge here. Social media and travel blogging websites are the number one source for researching the places you are about to travel to. The percentage of travelers aged 18-50, getting a go, in general, is upwards of 60%. These are the main catch of the sea, the ones who are able, fund trips or even tour on their own. They make the bulk of the market. Given the technology is right with the age group at the discussion, it’s easy for one to conclude there is no way bypassing tech in travel. “An adult has to use his mobile phone for at least one booking on the trip”. Unless one is completely spontaneous or a hippie, the internet is your friend while on the road.
Social media and the internet had to play its part. The most obvious fact being, the internet is needed for all these techs to work. A non-relative subject became more and more a subsidiary for the online travel space, has become a market of its own. Today, apart from TV ads forcing you to take the Buy one get one offer for hotel rooms even if there is no absolute need, Social media content and Travel blogs give the most authentic, subtle hints to take that next trip. Brands including OTAs, Hotels and even airlines use influencers and bloggers for their luscious and alluring content and subtle brand placement in the same has made more people pack their bags than ever. There is no exact number but the number of people getting ‘influenced’ for good to travel has reached to a great extent.
The technology was invented to be the augmentation. Tech into anything makes lives easier. Augmentation of technology has changed and influencing everyone even remotely concerned about travel. It has made everything faster and slowly but surely, we are positive that the travel and tourism industry will be made everything technology and robots, perhaps.