Innovation is one of the key components to growth and development in any field. India needs to focus upon nurturing innovation and introducing new products in the market that aim for excellence. The travel industry has not undergone substantial transformation as well; technology and its widespread acceptance by the common man bring forth the need to create ripples in this area. The prevailing new-age startup culture will extensively contribute to the same.
According to Forrester Consulting and Google search trends, India is expected to serve 100 million online shoppers. Considering this from a monetary perspective, the ecommerce market is likely to touch $38 billion mark by the end of 2016, as reported by ASSOCHAM. With over a dozen sectors associated to travel industry – airlines, hotels/motels, travel agencies, buses, car rentals, gift shops and a majority of other related online businesses – it is believed that almost 70 per cent of the ecommerce industry is comprised of the travel-related platforms. These are no small numbers!
One case study that corroborates the growth of this industry and how technology has come a long way is the escalation story of IRCTC, whose online ticketing service went live in the year 2002. On the first day of commencement, it was able to garner a mere amount of 27 bookings in spite of all the hype and promotion. But the online operations began craving their own space in the travel ecosystem very fast; it witnessed approximately 13 lakh bookings on a daily basis in the year 2015.
Also, the online travel agencies were able to gather a loyal userbase right from the time they were introduced to customers and they further revolutionized the travel booking system. The trend of using travel agents for bookings slowly became passé as online bookings done by the users themselves began to overpower the offline processes. Multiple factors have contributed to this, some of them being the convenience and independence experienced by users, ability to choose from a plethora of time and money-saving travel options, take customer reviews into account, make changes to the bookings immediately if needed and getting discounts (also saving the agent’s fees).
Consequently, the use of mobile devices for these purposes started gaining momentum and became the new fashion. With mobile users touching 1 billion in India last year, m-commerce is expected to contribute up to 70 per cent of the total revenues. Travel bookings are still a cumbersome process to carry out on a mobile device due to the inconvenience faced while comparing different modes’ prices, time slots, duration etc. Online travel platforms, such as Routofy, have been working on making this process easier. The key takeaway is that the potential of technology has been largely untapped in this area of technology.
Here’s a lowdown of different technology trends that will keep the users’ engaged to the online platforms in the coming year:
The purpose of trip engineering is to take the requirements of the user into consideration and create a seamless and efficient travel experience within the constraints of availability, cost & time. For example, consider corporate travelers; a person plans to board an early morning flight at 9 a.m. next morning for an impromptu meeting, wherein everything is spontaneous and unplanned. Trip engineering will utilize technology to make recommendations according to the filtered parameters. The time has gone when showing tons of data to the users was a sign of technical superiority; it’s all about increasing the functionality and keeping things simple now.
Despite an increasing level of physical connectivity amongst airports, railway stations, bus terminals and public transport hubs due to infrastructural development, these different transport modes continue to operate separately. The lack of online integration and inter-connectivity among these remains a barrier to dramatically improve the experience and efficiency of our travel. We expect to see an evolution in the new travel information ecosystem in order to offer a multimodal experience to users.
Personalized Automated Services
Personalized recommendations have been a focus area for many ecommerce portals in the past few years as they make the customer feel special and valued with ‘immersive merchandising’. This uses technology, algorithms and past trends to make intelligent suggestions to the users when they need it the most. It’s all about understanding your preferences, needs and presenting the most suitable option for you. The travel industry is yet to develop this extensively. Imagine travelling from destination A to destination B via train and being auto-suggested to book lunch/dinner according to your preferred cuisine and time, eventually getting the delivery right to your seat.
A New Wave of Virtual Reality
VR will allow anyone to experience what it’s like to travel and be immersed in any destination anywhere in the world with such realism that it will blur the line between reality and the ‘virtual world’. For example, if you want to choose a hotel room, VR would instantly teleport you to the location so that you can view the room in entirety to your satisfaction. If you are unsure between economy or business class, you can instantly check out how the airline’s classes compare. Furthermore, 360-degree photography, drone photography, smartglasses and wrist-mounted activity trackers will amplify your user experience to leaps and bounds.
Australians already have access to biometric passports that store personal information, allowing them to travel effortlessly to select countries and quickly clear immigration via a SmartGate. Virtual passports are a step ahead as they would contain personal information like biometric data, a digital photo, and other identification. Not only would it eliminate the need to carry an actual passport, it could also cut down the number of missing or stolen passports. An interesting concept to explore for India, as well.
2016 is set to be a year of excitement, growth and development for the travel arena!
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