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Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 12 : 18 PM [IST]

2017 Phocuswright India urges to go ‘GLOCAL’

The second travel technology innovation summit –2017 Phocuswright India: The Asian Advantage, organised by research agency-Phocuswright focussing on the Asia Pacific region gave a glimpse of the technological innovations that are set to drive the travel and tourism industry forward. P Krishna Kumar & Akansha Pandey summerise the key highlights of the travel technology summit held in Delhi-NCR
Similar to the first edition of the travel innovation summit, Phocuswright has been able to present a wide range of travel & tourism industry stakeholders on a single platform to deliberate on the technology changes that are taking place in the industry, especially the innovations that are focused on the end consumer. These included big corporate entities in the travel domain like the GDS, Online Travel Agents (OTAs), hotels, alternate accommodation players, e-commerce companies, and finally the investors.

The conference started with Innovation Battle Ground, where selected technology start ups from the Asia-Pacific region presented their innovative technologies before the ‘Dragons’ which included the likes of Ankur Bhatia of Bird Group, Sumit Jain of Kalaari Capital, Rod Cutbert of Rome2rio, Mayank Khanduja of SAIF Partners. The winner of Asia Pacific Travel Innovator of the Year; and People’s Choice Award at the end of the Battle Ground was Mileslife. com, a lifestyle+travel mile-earning platform for locals and travellers. The winner will move on to compete on the Phocuswright Conference Summit stage in the US in November.

Google to go ‘Bookable’
Participating in an ‘Executive Interview’, Rob Torres, MDTravel, Google, said that Google Trips was a big product launch last year. This exploration platform will also exhibit a bookable feature in a year’s time, he said. He added that immersive experiences will be the next big thing where voice command feature will play a big role. 25% of queries to Google are voice activated. Baby boomers are great adapters of such technology and they will take it to the next level. Also personalisation in buying of travel products will be a game-changer, he said.

Apps in preferred language:
Travellers have been using multiple apps before and during travel and it is observed that 75% buyers purchase travel products from apps which display product information in their own preferred language, said Kyle Martinowich, Sales Director, Smartling, a technology company which helps brands access new markets, customers, etc. Uber and Airbnb have been the two most downloaded travel apps in 2016. While Uber is available in 46 different languages, Airbnb can be used in 27 languages. Realising the traction, similar players such as Ola have also moved to 8 languages which has made the working easy for drivers along with 10-15% increase in revenue in Q4 2016.

Martinowich stressed that in order to stay ahead of the game, developers should incorporate localisation with more content in less time and investment. The millennial class which is a major customer base using apps expects quick content translation. In emerging countries, people have recently started using the Internet, however by 2025, the annual consumption in such emerging markets will reach USD 30 trillion.

When to go for localisation pertains differently to each company. Companies can track the profile of its customers and accordingly should integrate localisation seamlessly such as in bill receipts too. It also enhances the customer base of the app, he stated.

Session-What 2016’s Most-Downloaded Travel Apps
Have in Common and How Yours Can Be Like Them

Convergence made sense in the merger - MakeMyTrip & ibibo Group
Participating in a combined interview with Chetan Kapoor of Phocuswright India, Ashish Kashyap, Founder, Ibibo Group and Rajesh Magow, Co- Founder and CEO, MakeMyTrip, underlined the fact that the convergence of two companies made sense for both in the highly competitive online travel space. Magow said that while monitoring the competitors they realised that all players were going through the same drill. ibibo disrupted the hotel booking marketplace and were catching up on the air travel ticket booking segment as well.

Post the merger, the brands placed the customer and strategy at the forefront and made sure of a rational play. Ashish Kashyap, Co-Founder and President, MakeMyTrip and Founder and CEO, ibibo Group aims to build on unique experiences and expand the reach of all three brands – Goibibo, MakeMyTrip and RedBus. “The idea is not to force integration but ensure delivery to end customer. We will continue to be experimental and will focus on both seamless and reliable customer service,” he said.

Magow added that many new start-ups have ventured into the travel space in the past few years and this highlights the trust in this domain. “The online shift will continue to happen and we will keep a check on how competition pans out,” he said.

APAC most dynamic Travel Market
Enumerating the Asian advantage in the global travel market, Chetan funding into travel start ups have hit USD 48 billion since 2005, and USD 35 billion has come in the last two years alone. In the total funding, 50% has come in China and India, with China claiming almost 80% of this funding. Kapoor of Phocuswright India said that GDP growth of a country is not the sole indicator of the potential of the travel market. He said that China is the second largest travel market in the world after the US, and India has overtaken Australia and New Zealand to claim the third spot recently in the APAC.

He said that APAC is truly the most dynamic travel market in the world today. China, he said, is the world’s first mobile majority travel market, with 50% of the travel bookings are done through mobile. The intermediaries are making this switch possible. 55% of the mobile bookings are done through intermediary platforms. In India, this figure is 85% for mobile enabled bookings.

Talking about global funding in travel start ups, Kapoor said that the global funding into travel start ups have hit USD 48 billion since 2005, and USD 35 billion has come in the last two years alone. In the total funding, 50% has come in China and India, with China claiming almost 80% of this funding.

Talking about the travel start ups, he said that they are aggressive and fierce, and conventional players have to work hard to preserve their turf in coming years.

Strategy is to grow by building alliances: Dhruv Shringi
In his keynote address, Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder & CEO, Yatra Online, said that their strategy is to build alliances in the competitive market scenario. “If you are not the best capitalised company, it is always better to look for alliances,” he said, especially in the light of deep discounting tactics being used by competition. Yatra has recently tied up with Reliance Jio 4G network by which around 35 million mobile users of Jio will carry the Yatra app.

Taking a jibe at other OTAs which spend huge money on brand marketing, Shringi said that Yatra has been able to remain the “most trusted brand” despite competition out-spending 10:1. “We have invested early in our lifecycle in brand building,” he said.

He said that being in the online space, they understand the need to innovate to remain relevant before somebody else comes and disrupts the market.

Having organised two annual Phocuswright India Innovation conferences, what is the kind of traction the conference has been able to evoke?
We are still in the growing phase in India. The attendance has really matured in terms of the people who are coming to our conference between last and this edition. In respect to numbers, we had small growth. But being only our second annual essay, we are really pleased with the numbers and attendance. We see the potential to grow in the entire APAC region and also in India.
  One of our focus at our conferences is to deliver really good content to our industry participants. Therefore, we do not want these conferences to be country-centric, but region- centric. That is the purpose of us coming to India to set up a regional conference here.
  If you look at the size of the market here, countries like China, India, etc. with a very high population base are potential markets for technology start ups. Platforms like this enable them to get exposed to the industry and find value in the participation.
  The ultimate goal of these start ups is to get an exposure at our US conference. 30% of our attendance at our US conference comes from the financial industry. Therefore, they get an exposure to the financial capital as well. Hence, we select the right start ups at our regional conference such that they get the right traction at our US conference. We see a success of over 90% for start ups we select in going forward and establishing their footprint in the travel segment.
  It’s important that these start ups to have an international strategy to mitigate the risk involved of being stuck in a single geography.

How different is India experience compared to your more matured and established shows in the US and Europe?
Not having the brand strength in India like what we enjoy in markets like the US or Europe is obviously a challenge for us. The other challenge is obviously the large size of the region as well as the competition in terms of number of events and conferences in this region. Our focus therefore is to establish our brand and set our products out in this market and build traction through that. Therefore, it is a polyvalent strategy we have here combining the strength of more established technology brands like Amadeus and mixing it with online travel companies to build our base. Yes, we understand the challenge in attracting the right audience, but we are working on it seriously.

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