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Friday, 16 December, 2016, 12 : 05 PM [IST]

Mobile Bookings, Gaining Confidence

Post demonetisation, there has been an increase in the use of credit and debit cards with 37.4% Indian travellers choosing plastic money over cash for bookings and other travel-related expenditures, revealed a survey. In such a scenario, the mobile device is bound to be a game-changer in the coming time. Akansha Pandey reports


Travellers are now, more than ever before, hyper-connected to their mobile devices, even on the move. India is sitting on cusp of a giant technological revolution and nearly everyone from toddlers to grandparents has embraced the switch from point-and-click to touch-and-swipe. India has grown to around 400 million Internet users and is likely to cross the 500-million mark this year. Moreover, following the demonetisation announcement, there has been a rise in the use of credit and debit cards with 37.4% Indian travellers choosing plastic money over cash for bookings and other travel-related expenditures, quotes a survey by Yatra.com.

Going forward, the NASSCOM report on the ‘The Future of Internet in India’ suggests that India’s Internet users will grow two fold to 730 million by 2020, and 7 out of 10 new users will emerge from the rural areas. Out of the total Internet user base, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reported that the wireless or mobile subscriber base has increased by 0.19% from 1,033.16 million at the end of May 2016 to 1,035.12 million in June this year.

The use of technology at all customer touch-points is trending. In 2016 the percentage of passengers who checked-in online and used a mobile boarding pass rather than a printed one increased from 69% in 2015 to 71%, as per IATA. The smartphone is becoming even more integral to everyone’s lives and decisions are frequently online content driven, seeking advice and opinions from websites and applications. From exploration of options and choice to customer reviews and satisfaction, technology is gradually becoming the centre of client-consumer interactions.

A mobile phone is the number one travel accessory today, with twice as many people preferring to travel with their device than their loved one, highlights Hotels.com. Mobile is a great way for hotels to target not just Millennials and Baby Boomers, but the technologically-evolving Gen-Xers as well. The ability to quickly request a service from a mobile device and have it added to their bill leading to more on-site requests and purchases, is a major opportunity all hoteliers should embrace. Not only does it equate to a higher degree of guest satisfaction, it is also a way for hotels to generate more revenue.

INNOVATING WITH TECHNOLOGY 
Mobile technology can make life more convenient by easy management of travel bookings, cancellations, hotel check-in, check-out, cab services, etc. This convenience on mobile applications is a significant opportunity for the industry to encourage repeat visits among travellers.

Realising the surge in mobile bookings, a growing number of players in the hospitality domain are innovating with the mobile technology to speed up faster decision-making, increase bookings, up-selling, creating a personalised experience and collecting preference data to capitalise further.

To name a few, reverse bidding hotel booking platform, Findmystay. com is also noticing 60% of the traffic through mobile devices, increasing at 50% month on month. In total, 35% of actual hotel booking are taking place on Findmystay.com mobile app, said Simran Sial, Co-founder, Findmystay.com. “Seeing the trending mobile technology and immense opportunities attached to it, we are also motivating our hotel partners to go mobile,” he added.

As travellers are increasingly becoming younger, mobile as a booking medium has significantly evolved as compared to the last year, feels Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder and CEO-India, MakeMyTrip. He added, “Just like financial or career ambition, people now have travel ambition, especially the younger generation. This has had a direct effect on the travel landscape of the country which is now being driven by young Indian travellers.” At MakeMyTrip, the mobile saw a high usage with more than 8 million out of the total 23 million downloads of the MakeMyTrip app between January and June 2016. Mobile transactions saw a growth of 313% and constitutes for 54% of the total transactions, versus 25% last year.

Another OTA, VIA is now witnessing 50% traction through the mobile medium with last minute bookings, GPS-enabled services, cancellations and quick reviews dominating on mobile. Seeing this, the company has taken initiatives to enhance the user experience on mobile with personalisation features, facility of referring lowest airfare calendar and chatbots for instant services. Kousik Bhattacharya, Head- Marketing and B2C Business, VIA, outlined that even start-ups are working towards better mobile sites and mobile apps. “Travel is booming globally and the mobile medium is a game-changer in the coming time. In a market, where half of the bookings happen for business purpose, mobile is a medium that scores when it comes to booking on the move.”

Talking about the current scenario, Ankush Nijhawan, MD, Nijhawan Group of Companies, exclaimed that mobile is the strongest medium for attracting business and growing revenue. In the next five years, use of laptops could be passé. “Today over 70% of consumer shopping and 30% of B2B business is taking place on mobile. With new mobile operators disrupting the market by offering free data, this is in turn going to boost the usage and will be a win-win for the customer with other operators gearing up to competition. Demonetisation too, will be further pushing India towards a cashless economy, thus augmenting online transactions and payments.”

A new entrant in the OTA segment, BigBreaks.com’ mobile transactions have grown to about 28% this year from 20% in 2015. After office bookings (evening and night ones) on mobile, are up by 40%. By end of this month, the brand is planning to launch its mobile app both on Android and iOS platforms. The app will also boast of notification facility from March next year.

Kapil Goswamy, MD, BigBreaks.com, elaborated, “From being a mere reference platform, mobile today has emerged as an avid booking medium. Going forward, with mobile data getting cheaper, more Tier- II and III cities will adopt the mobile technology and this is bound to enhance the mobile penetration in India. Foreseeing this, not just big brands but small and medium scale brands too, are coming up with mobile-only discount offers, etc.”







TREND & FUTURE
According to a recent survey, one third of travellers from India are booking holidays on their mobile phones. The mobile uptake is higher among business travellers in India with almost 40% of them making travel arrangements, including bookings via mobile while on the move. The survey further states that most Indian travellers decide on the go and are well in tune with the latest technology. Owing this and many other factors, hotel occupancy in India also surpassed 60% for the first time in four years in 2014-15, according to HVS.

As OTAs double down on hotel distribution, they are also investing heavily in mobile offerings, pursuing a growing user base with broader product offerings and a better user experience. India’s total mobile bookings (OTAs and suppliers combined) are projected to hit USD 3.2 billion by 2017, with OTAs accounting for the vast majority of the figure.

Talking about payments through smartphones, a study by Google (Alphabet Inc.) and Boston Consulting Group reveals that the digital payments industry in Asia’s third-largest economy will grow by 10 times to touch USD 500 billion by 2020 and contribute 15% of GDP. This clearly asserted that India is headed for an exponential increase in digital payments over the next four years. The report forecasts that non-cash transactions will exceed cash transactions in the economy by 2023, which presents a huge opportunity for the hospitality industry as well.

On the whole, smartphones may still account for a minority of online bookings in 2016, but the far greater comfort that travellers have with mobile shopping and booking means that much of the mobile revolution is yet to come. As hotel brands continue to improve the mobile experiences they provide to customers, and as the younger generation becomes the traveller majority, another wave of mobile and online growth lies ahead for the global travel and tourism industry.

 
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