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Tuesday, August 27, 2013, 17:05 Hrs  [IST]

Singapore Tourism Board's India Travel Forum focuses on 'Online Travel Trends'

For the first time, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) today held an India Travel Forum at Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai as a lead-up to its annual travel trade festival, TravelRave, which will be held from October 21-25, 2013 in Singapore. The Forum aimed at creating a platform to gain a deeper understanding of the Indian travel and tourism landscape, and to gather some of the most prominent leaders from the industry to share their experiences and knowledge on 'Online Travel Trends in India - Crossing the Technology Edge to Drive Business Growth'. Understanding the need to have thought leaders in the travel and tourism industry to exchange their insights and explore opportunities offered by the growth of tourism in Asia, STB will organise TravelRave.

Among the panellists were Rajeev Wagle, Managing Director, Kuoni India; Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.; Stuart Crighton, Co-Founder and CEO, Cleartrip; and Mohit Gupta, Chief Business Officer – Holidays, Makemytrip.com. The session was moderated by Neeta Lachmandas, Assistant Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board. The panellists discussed the role of digital technology in shaping consumer behaviour as well as the impact on Indian travel companies as businesses continue to innovate and explore ways to leverage digital platforms in order to drive growth. The panel also explored how the growing reach of digital travel platforms are reshaping the ways Indian consumers research, book and share their travel experiences, and how travel companies are innovatively deploying technology to drive growth.

There are 120 million Internet users in India—the third largest user base in the world, constituting a digital economy that translates into 1.6 per cent and contributing USD 30 billion to India’s GDP. McKinsey & Company forecasts India to triple its Internet user base to 330-370 million and the GDP contribution of the Internet to double to about 3.3 per cent by 2015.

Making a presentation, Lachmandas said, "According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, Asia will see a year-on-year growth of five to seven per cent in 2013 where travel is concerned, outstripping the global average of three to four per cent." By 2020, two in five travellers will come from Asia. Travellers from the continent will contribute to nearly half of the global tourism spend. By 2020, middle-class and affluent consumers from China, India and Indonesia will account for 46 per cent of the world’s population, embark on 160 million outbound trips per year, and contribute USD 300 billion in Outbound Tourism spend, she informed.

Talking about the Indian consumer's behaviour, Gupta stated, "It is a myth that Indian consumers are slow to adapt to changes. The fact is that Indian consumers are ready for change. Consumers are becoming multimode and are using multiple devices. Indian consumers are open to exploring new destinations; however, there is a dearth of new destinations and lack of knowledge in promoting them."

Sharing the same view, Menon said, "The first-time travellers in India have outranked repeat travellers. As a service provider, we need to balance online products with retail. Technology is the primary driver. Citing an example from my company, we have started selling foreign exchange online and in a month we get 500 transactions."

Highlighting the online consumer pattern, Crighton informed, "Thirty per cent of consumers do their travel search on mobile phones, of which 60 per cent use apps (applications). People want real-time information." Wagle said, "FITs are growing at a faster rate than group travel. Travellers wants to start their travel search online and then complete it offline. We will not be competing with OTAs. Consumers cannot source the entire destination knowledge on their own and that's where our expertise comes in the picture."
 
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