The Physical Travel World has Gone Digital !

By Manmeet Ahluwalia, Head – Marketing, Expedia, India

Digital era has opened a whole new world for travelers and facilitators alike. Travel business has almost completely moved online in more developed economies and here in India too, the migration to digital travel facilitation continues at rapid pace. Numbers are impressive!  India's online travel market is poised to reach USD 13 billion by 2017 up by 53 percent over 2014. By then, online travel penetration will also reach 44 percent as compared to 35 percent today. India will also outpace several western markets in terms of online travel growth; of course their migration to digital world is near saturation point. Our own figure is a good testimony to this trend. Indian OTA gross bookings stood at USD 3.1 billion in 2014, accounting for 36 percent of online travel market. Overall, OTAs will grow faster than suppliers through 2017 and their share of online travel is expected to increase to 39 percent by 2017.

Mobile, the proliferation of smartphones, better internet penetration and arrival of a plethora of travel apps is making travel more visual and social. Sharing moments from holidays on the go has become a critical part of the holiday experience in itself. Little wonder mobile travel booking in India has been surging over 100 percent year-on-year for the last few years and businesses amounting to USD 707 million were booked through this device. With more and more Indians researching and booking travel on handheld devices, mobile travel gross bookings will reach USD 3.2 billion by 2017, up 350 percent over 2014. Mobile gross bookings will account for 25 percent of the online market and 11 percent of the total travel market in 2017.

Social media has acted as a booster and inspiration for travelers. The exciting ability of social media to share pictures, video acts as a fuel to fire the urge to travel. Social media will continue to grow its influence on the travel industry, as travellers increasingly use it as a tool for information, resources, and recommendations such as where to stay and what to eat. Credible studies reveal that more than half of Indian holiday travellers researched travel destinations and local activities on their smartphone/phablet browsers, while nearly half do the same via apps.

So how are millennials - the first digital citizens – driving this change? Well, the new age travelers are highly connected through mobile devices, tablets and various latest applications which help them search, plan and book their travel itineraries. Millennials are greatly influenced by the culture and the world evolving around them. They see technology not as a mere device or platform for communication but as a means to improve life, make better choices, and contribute to society. This young generation relies a lot on opinions shared by their friends to make more informed decisions. They use their smartphones to access various social media platforms like the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Social media has transformed the complete mindset of this connected generation in terms of their thoughts and viewpoints, and the way it wields influence over others. They are connected 24X7 on diverse social media sites and prompt in their response to the stars, likes, and comments. They enjoy the power they have to share their notions and pass judgment on the things they approve and disapprove of. They use the social media to support a cause or offer a viewpoint about a product.

So, digital is the exciting reality! Welcome to the whole new ways of exploring the world.

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