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Interview: Experiential travelling is the next big trend in India

The Indian tourism industry is evolving but fails to score well on customer satisfaction. The industry needs certain regulations and interventions in aspects like safety for women travellers, keeping the tourist sites clean and creating a great experience only then people will look upon India as a promising tourist destination, said Saurabh Sharma, the founder and director of Travel Unravel Holidays Private Limited, in an email interview with Yahoo India.

Travel Unravel is a UK-based organisation, working to create a better travel experience for every traveler. Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:

Saurabh Sharma feels that travelling places is a journey to ‘self- discovery’.

1. What is Travel Unravel all about? How would you convince a traveller to use Travel Unravel services?

Travel Unravel Holidays Pvt Ltd. is an Online Travel Agency (OTA) based in the United Kingdom, USA and India. The company specialises in services ranging from hotel bookings to ticketing and hassle-free holidays.

The travellers are convinced on account of the facilities like, ‘Price-match guarantee’, ‘Price Drop Policy’ and Travel Trust Association (TTA) & Air Travel Organiser’s License (ATOL) protection. These factors are the major reasons for making bookings on Travel Unravel. Above all, we are a value-based travel company promoting integrity and delivering excellence.

2. What is the revenue model of Travel Unravel? Kindly throw some light on the same.

The current focus of Travel Unravel is on corporate travels and the organisation is constantly trying to strengthen that up. So, the major revenue source is from corporate bookings which the company provides through its best-offered services in the form of special offers and discounts to the corporates as their trusted travel partners.

3. What are the unique services provided by Travel Unravel? How is it different from other online travel companies like MakeMyTrip?

The major USP of Travel Unravel is the personalisation feature on all the travels. Personalisation feature allows the travellers with the best possible solution to all their travel-related queries. The major centre is on complete customer satisfaction. This feature is not being offered on most of the other OTAs in India, presently.

4. What is your take on the Indian travel industry? How is the travel industry responding to the rising demand for vacations and individual journey needs?

With the evolution of Indian traveller, the travel industry has matched up to their expectations in a seamless fashion. The focus now is majorly on experiential travelling instead of budget-friendly travels. The companies are now offering the customers the freedom to compare the prices and a simple booking process. All these factors are contributing and completing the demand-supply chain of vacations.

Currently, experience-based travel is gaining momentum; The Indian market is emerging as travellers are getting matured. Trends are changing; people are now exploring new destinations like South Africa, Tunisia, Jordan. Fiji, and Mexico. Cruises have taken a huge leap, people are into experiencing good. Now people between 30 years and 40 years are travelling more. People travel for experience be it food, fitness or adventure, sports for their favourite cuisines, yoga or sports. More and more people are opting now for destination wedding the cost remains the same and it is better coordinated.

In the last 7-8 years, the buying power of Indians has increased along with the internet and mobile technology giving thrust to the travel and tourism industry. Blockchain technology ensures complete automation and it is changing the game in terms of ease of travel. Indians are now among the top five spenders for abroad trips.

5. How can the online travel industry utilise technology with the availability of artificial intelligence tools and analytics?

The AI tools and analytics help the OTA industry by deriving the data for the companies and creating personalised travel experiences for the customers. The data which has been gathered gets processed to draw conclusions about customers, best business practices and the best pricing strategies for the companies. Also, blockchain technology has facilitated travelling in a big way.

Also, 60% of consumers believe that their travel experience should deploy the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and base their search results on past behaviours and/or personal preferences. Google’s data shows that 36% of consumers are willing to pay more for these personalised experiences.

6. Do you think the increase in smartphone penetration and a rise in digital payments has helped boost the online travel industry?

Online payments have been a popular mode of transaction in foreign countries. Of late, in India, smartphone penetration has accelerated the growth of digital payments and the market has seen a rapid shift in the last few years. The online payment penetration has grown drastically and the customers have realised that the transactions made via mobile payment methods benefit them more. With the SSL authentication process and a simple procedure, this mode has further led to a strong boost in the online travel industry.

Looking at the current trend, I see tremendous growth in this area. With newer technologies like facial recognition and thumbprint technology, the payments are being accepted in Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies as well.

As per the recent data, the travel searches conducted on a mobile device totalled 47% in Europe; 40% in Asia; 38% in Middle East Africa; and 34% in Latin America and 26% in the USA. Booking.com found that 80% of customers prefer to self-serve in order to get the information that they need.

7. How do you plan to expand Travel Unravel business in India and abroad? What would be the key areas of focus?

In the future, the plan is to expand in new areas of travelling which include group travelling, excursions and individual bookings. The idea is to ride high with the growing tide of Indian travel but at our own steady pace. And also, we will be creating programs focusing on life experiences for our customers.

8. Do you think the current government’s policies and schemes are adequate to promote tourism? If not, what interventions can be done to ease the travel of tourists?

Indian tourism has seen tremendous growth over the last decade and the credit must be given to Indian tourism for investing in infrastructural development and further, banking upon travel growth.

The country has a lot to offer in terms of tourist sites but we fail to score well on customer satisfaction, having said that, there is still huge scope of improvement when it comes to enhancing the overall experience of travellers. The government still needs to create regulations and interventions in aspects like safety for women travellers, keeping the tourist sites clean and creating a great experience. Only when it manages to accomplish these, there will be an ease for the travellers to trust India as a tourist destination to look up to.