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‘‘Rupee depreciation means that foreign travellers will get more value for dollar spent’’

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With rupee depreciation, has there been an adverse impact on the travel booking scenario among travellers in the India market?

Vikas Agnihotri

We have not seen any change in the search volumes for overall travel and travel related elements. Search volumes for domestic destinations, both hotels and flights are holding good but given the state of affairs we will see some shift in international destination searches. The trend is that travellers who are looking for or planning their holidays will look at domestic options. This could be a boon for some of the regular holiday destinations like Goa, Shimla and Ooty, and also for some of the exotic destinations like Ladakh and Kashmir.

The rupee depreciation means that for the inbound travellers more value for the same dollar. It’s an opportunity for suppliers especially hotels/agents to capitalise on this and offer foreign travellers options to extend their stay or see a little bit more and visit a city or two extra.

What is the expected growth of the M-commerce segment in the Indian market for travel bookings?

Mobile is growing at a stupendous pace in India. India is already the third largest country in the world behind China and the US for smartphones shipped (Source: IDC). By the end of 2013 we will have close to 70 million users (Source: KPCB) with a smartphone.

In a recent study conducted by Google in India through Ipsos, it is evident that today’s consumer is a multiscreen traveller, using multiple devices, being device agnostic during the course of his/her planning to buying (dreaming – researching – booking) journey for travel related booking. Today’s consumer is researching more across travel elements and booking more using both desktop and mobile depending on their comfort and convenience for booking. Booking and transactions are picking up on mobile and with more players adding mSites and apps this space will continue to grow strongly. Some online travel agents already have mobile assets and they are seeing higher engagement levels.

Corporates today need quantitative measures tagged towards smart incentivising. According to you how has India’s MICE industry grown?

We anticipate this demand to grow over the next few years. There has been an increase in both domestic and international corporates who look at India for meetings, off-sites, conferences and so on. Given the huge increase in the number of hotels coming up, especially branded hotels, international chains adding inventory in India, and the fact that tourism facilities are being constantly improved by the central and state governments, this space is one to watch out for. MICE will offer hotels with a spike in revenues and hence is an important part of their design and growth plans. For multinationals looking towards ‘Incredible India’ as a destination now with the rupee depreciation, having conferences in India should be a compelling proposition. Researching for such options almost always starts online. Suppliers should look at augmenting their online assets to address such a demand.

Google was looking at launching Flight Search Engine in India as per reports?

There has been some misreporting and speculation on this. Flight search is not available in India. We only offer flight status search in India. For example: If you type your flight number 9W 333 – we will tell you its departure and arrival time. We’re constantly innovating to provide more value to our users through innovative product offerings. We also have hotel finder which makes it easier to compare and book hotels that are found across the web. Users can find hotels according to what is important to them, such as price, location, and user ratings.

According to you what are going to be the game changers in the travel sentiments among Indians?

Insights into consumer buying behaviour and understanding of the multiscreen options that he has will have a significant impact on how marketers reach out to their consumer. Mobile is definitely the largest game-changer given its adoption by all. Today’s generation is hyper-connected and hyper-informed. Another game changer will be the growth in suppliers – hotels as new airlines take off and new properties mushroom.

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