Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are looking at capturing higher market share in international flight bookings and hotel reservations. Himanshu Singh, Managing Director, Travelocity India interacted with THINKING ALOUD and discussed industry issues
THINKING ALOUD: From the perspective of Indian travel industry,
what kind of transition or change is happening due to the
emergence of online?
Himanshu Singh: Yes, there is a big shift happening and I could only say that this is a great opportunity for all of us. Domestic flights are the biggest online selling product in India. Almost 46 % of total domestic flights bookings are happening through Online Travel Agents (OTAs) in India. This shift is due to several reasons. One of them is the power of comparing and selecting from the options.
TA: Domestic flights are of course an action packed area, but in which other areas you believe more work has to be done from the perspectives of OTAs?
HS: There is a huge scope and need to enhance the pie of hotel bookings and outbound or international travel. We have to cover a long way in these directions since business prospects of these segments are lucrative.
Although, these categories have a meagre 5 % share as of now,
the motivating point for us is the fact that they are growing at
TA: What steps are required to increase this share and to grow the OTA business in India?
HS: The foremost thing is to establish and strengthen the credibility of online. We also need to bridge the gap of offline and online. Innovative solutions are required to fill this gap. For example, if we are showcasing any hotel room, we can showcase a virtual video of the rooms and facilities available so that the consumer can easily relate the rooms with themselves.
This should be designed in a way that it should offer a wholesome experience for customer’s requirement. Online booking should also be made easily available to the end customer.
Thirdly, options of making payments shoul d be made more consumer oriented. We need to effectively bring the offline expertise in front of the consumer using online technologies. For example, there are various travel agents who have expertise in specific areas like Kerala travel, adventure travel etc. We can think of some innovative solution in order to establish a direct connect
with the consumers and travel agents.
TA: What could drive this growth?
HS: I certainly think that 3G and mobile commerce can drive this growth. Once high bandwidth is available, we would be in a position to offer a wholesome experience with the help of full dimensional videos. It will be like showing the entire product to the customer who walks into a shop and then it’s the sales skills of the sales person to convince them.
TA: With regards to payments options, how is the option of alternative cash on delivery expected to work?
HS: Considering the ground realities, online and credit card penetration are limited in India. In such market dynamics, the
option of cash-on-delivery holds great value. I look at this situation and believe that we could have a network of travel agents who can act as last mile contact points for the end consumers.
These local travel agents can act as the payment collection centres./p>
TA: What prospects does mobile carries in this business?
HS: I see mobile as a significant prospect for our business. There are multiple ways to use mobiles effectively. One way is to use the effective potential of mobile devices for the convenience of the customer and in the second case, utility
comes into picture.