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Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 11 : 00 AM [IST]

Technology Takes Over, changing the landscape of travel & tourism in India

Anurag Tiwari

Today one doesn’t need to visit a travel agent or tour operator to get hold of various destinations and their offerings. Internet or rather the advent of technology has educated a consumer in such a depth that they are now the new experts. The need of a travel agent to some extent is getting limited to handling the back-end processes of operating a tour or holiday for their customers, which is still not better handled by technology. The last decade has witnessed massive changes credit to rise in usage of technology. The shift created by technology can be seen across all verticals irrespective of the industry. From aviation to hospitality to B2B travel trade, technology has emerged as the game changer. The very fact that the consumer has easy and detailed access to technology led to the change in the landscape of travel industry across the globe.

With the development of technology over the last decade now there is no or slight difference between a tourist and a traveller. A traveller can anytime become a tourist with the help of knowledge he gains from the internet about the destination he is travelling to.Technology has changed the way people plan, research and book their travel arrangements. Talk about mobile ticketing, online check-ins at airports and hotels, e-visas, digital payments, elaborated informations about the destinations one is travelling to or be it about the google maps and other related stuffs, cutting out the fear of getting lost in an unknown country, the small digital device in one’s hand is enough to handle all the basic travel needs.

According to Neelu Singh, CEO & Director,, “The advent of technology and the rapid changes that are happening in the travel arena has ensured that the consumer today has a lot of options and choices available to him for taking informed decision in travel. In earlier days the consumer would be dependent on a travel consultant to guide and provide options. Today with technology – all this can be done by the consumer himself. With digitisation and convergence of data, all necessary information is available to the consumer at finger tips. So how the travel agencies can acquire and retain customers through service is the key and hence adapting to technology for providing the right content at the right time with faster response is critical. Quality of service and achieving economies of scale are the key drivers and this is only possible by automation.”

Digital Innovation
Technology has certainly led to innovations. Travel and tourism is now becoming personalised day by day. Each person has his own travelling style and own needs. With the help of technology, a traveller is now able to reach out the perfect choice. TripAdvisor, Zomato, etc., help a traveller choose his ideal preferences. TripAdvisor now claims over 300 million unique monthly visitors to its websites, and carries over 200 million independent reviews. Social media platforms have helped decide where they want to travel. Brochures and presentations about destinations are old school and digital platforms are being used for marketing a destination. Geo-tagging on Instagram and Facebook have helped a lot of destinations and properties to gain popularity. Bigger brands are concentrating their efforts on digital marketing to be in the race. To give an example, St. Regis Mumbai, launched in 2016, has certainly grown out to be one of the top brand hotels in Mumbai and the management gives credits to social media for their success. Vinay Singh, Director of Sales & Marketing, St. Regis Mumbai, exclaimed, “In the era of digitalisation, one would be out of league if absent on social media. St. Regis Mumbai is certainly not behind on social media marketing front. We are ranked number two in terms of Geo-tagging and in terms of Instagram followers. We are analysing what is the need of the hour and are innovating our services to meet the new demands. TripAdvisor is one of the biggest platforms today to look out for best hotels in a city and our next target is to be among the top five hotels in the business capital of India in TripAdvisor’s ratings.”

Paradigm Shift
There has been a paradigm shift in the travel industry around the world. Traditional travel agents have been forced to modify and innovate their working style due to birth of online travels agents (OTAs) and direct distribution of services by airlines and hotels’ websites. How OTAs have marketed themselves through digital mediums and have eventually helped consumers with the ease of travelling across the globe is a thing to be learned. Travel agents are now certainly working towards digital expansions which will help them reach out the consumer especially millennial, GenX consumer which refuses go a step ahead without technology.Innovating and offerings their services in a tech-friendly manner and through digital mediums is the key to success for traditional travel agents in today’s ever changing landscape.

Jimmy Shaw, MD, Shaw Man Software Pvt Ltd, said that technology continues to be the leader in causing disruption across industries and the travel & hospitality sector has certainly not been spared. “The consumer is today clearly the king and the winner of a very heavily tech dominated and driven business as he is spoilt for choice, supported by detailed market crowd sourced information, extended the convenience to anonymously decide without any false pressure and digitally pay as well as publicly review services rendered both in real time and post event.These changes have forced virtually every single player and brand, both independent operators as well as small and large chains to reinvent themselves, made them digitally visible, forced them to upgrade their standards, sensitised to customer demands and expectations including the importance of timely responses and to also improve on their service recovery abilities,” he added.

Success through Technology
The correct and optimum use of technology has led to the success of OTAs to a greater extent. They have targeted the Genx style of travelling. Travelling to a destination still needs an aircraft, to stay one still needs a hotel and to eat one still needs a restaurant. This was offered previously too but the present day condition is OTAs have worked towards easing out and accelerating these processes. Now one is not afraid to stay at a stranger’s home because of Airbnb and similar homestay options. Reviews and ratings have helped tourists make a choice of cuisines. E-commerce platforms like online payment, traveller cards, etc., have reduced the tension of people carrying cash and doing foreign exchange, etc. Transformation in travel and tourism industry has certainly led to rise in numbers of people travelling across the globe. According to UNWTO from 674 million in 2000, the overall international tourist arrivals have grown to 1,186 million in 2015. International tourist arrivals worldwide are expected to increase by 3.3% a year between 2010 and 2030 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. These figures are evidence about the potential travel and tourism industry carries and how digital transformation in this landscape will benefit.

Neelu Singh said, “Over the years, technology has helped create wider content, increased efficiency in travel transactions and faster tools that help agents to sell destinations and up sell additional services that the customer might choose to buy without increasing any complication of the booking process. Innovations in technology have created a seamless, convenient and connected experience for travellers and travel providers. Innovations in data convergence, reputation management, mobile commerce, digital transformation and automation has helped shape the travel ecosystem in a way that it enabled travel companies to offer not just products but also services that match customer expectations.”

There is nothing constant in this world and this applies to technology as well. Technology interface keeps on innovating itself thereby challenging its users to adapt to every change. OTAs that are already performing well also have to cope-up with this change. Solution they have opted is either merger and acquisitions or innovating their services. Recently Ola Cabs partnered with Google maps to provide Ola Outstation Cabs on Google maps. Similarly MakeMyTrip now has a 24 by 7 customer care centre assisting its customers with ease of operations and stays. Companies are studying the reviews of people on social media and analysing them to offer better customer experiences. Customer involvement has now been extended with the rise in usage of technology.

For the traditional travel agents going digital is the path to followed. They have to get smart and adapt to the changing environment. In the coming years, things will become more complicated for traditional agents as the change is inevitable. Delivering a personalised experience through the help of digital mediums can be the only possible way to stand among the elites of present day travel and tourism industry.
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