January 09, 2018
 

In the gamut of technology in the travel and tourism industry, applications or apps have radically transformed the travel and hotel booking experience.

Travel apps are poised to be the next big thing to radically change the face of the travel industry with the proliferation of smart phone; a phenomenon that has transformed travel planning and booking. With algorithms and search patterns driving the features and product listings on apps, a travel app has become easy to manage our preferences and make our travel payments online, be it booking a hotel or flight tickets or attending any travel shows.

Travel apps are widely used across all age groups in an increasing rate for updates on their trip and are also convenient for users to check on the weather conditions, search for hotels, restaurants and nearby attractions, and transportation.

Observing the spread of apps in the industry, Anil Goel, Chief Technology Officer, OYO Rooms, explains, “Travel apps have great scope for development given the pace at which the market for mobile apps is expanding and the various possibilities that they can offer users. The ease and expediency that travel apps have brought to travellers has led to a burgeoning growth of the industry, which in turn, can be supported and enhanced through even more technology driven innovations.” “Given the array of advantages offered by mobile applications, their usage is growing by leaps and bounds, and expected to continue further with gross annual revenue from this market projected to exceed USD 189 billion by 2020,” he added.

Sharing a similar opinion as Anil, Sanjay Mohan, Group CTO MakeMyTrip (MMT), believes that technology has been instrumental in transforming the way the travel industry operates. “From searching through travel-books to visiting local travel agents, today everything is available at your finger-tips,” Sanjay states.

Popular travel apps used in India

Some of the widely used apps used in India include the IRCTC Connect for rail bookings, RedBus for bus bookings, OYO for hotels, Tripadvisor for on-trip recommendations and Booking.com and Cleartrip for travel-related services. Right from solo travellers to first-time tourists, more and more people are adopting mobile apps to search for solutions while on a trip given the convenience and speed of access. Anil says, “With the vast geographic and cultural diversity of India, travel apps are a boon for travellers for solo trips, family vacations or corporate outings. The primary idea behind creating any mobile service is to provide accessibility to the customer. By incorporating the same into travel, we can provide a seamless experience which encourages more users to adopt the technology.” Impact of travel apps on growth in travel industry Sanjay notes that the exponential growth in smartphone usage has resulted in consumers preferring to use mobile apps over desktop platforms. As such, the trend has led to a much higher traffic and bookings through MakeMyTrip app. The main idea of launching the app was to provide customers with a better user interface and personalised options. He observes that with over 101 million cumulative app downloads and 15 million monthly active mobile users, the number of people using MMT’s apps to book their various travel needs has grown phenomenally, from teens researching in-app and helping parents decide their holiday plans to older people planning their pilgrimage. “It is not only the consumers but also the suppliers who are preferring to use apps to monitor and track business growth on the move with the apps. By helping consumers research, plan, book and share their travel in-app, and focusing big on user experience we have seen close to 80% of our hotel bookings and 45% of flight bookings take place through mobile,” he adds.

Anil states, “Travel apps offer customers customized solutions at every step of their journey, from finding their preferred services to getting the best deals with the convenience of making payments online. Apps allow customers to remain updated at each stage of the trip, enabling a stress-free travel experience. In addition to these apparent benefits, mobile apps also help create a personalized channel of communication between service providers and customers. It is fair to say that mobile apps act as a key element in improving the overall experience of the user.

OYO app is one of India’s most popular hotel-booking apps, with over 10 million downloads. More than 90% of OYO bookings are driven by our own platforms - website, mobile, call-centre and the app is a majority contributor to this. The app enables hotel-booking across 230 cities in India, Malaysia and Nepal in just three taps, in less than five seconds. Its simplified user interface makes the experience seamless.” Age group of travellers using the app While the usage of MMT app has been across all age groups at a very fast pace, the OYO app has been used by a cross-section of travellers to book hotels across the country.

However, OYO app has also seen a higher propensity among millennial travellers. The reason for this, Anil informs, is its offering of hassle free affordable hotels on-demand ties in with the impulsive-planning behaviour of millennial customers. “We operate in the value economy segment and young customers looking for affordable holidays are among our biggest patrons. Other significant guest cohorts for OYO include first-jobbers in a different city, students travelling for exams and internships, and corporate travellers.”

Benefits to the industry

Citing the relevance of apps for business and leisure travellers for their travel planning, booking and hotel reservations, Sanjay says the convenience of apps is required in today’s times. “Travel apps are helping the growth of the industry by offering ease and convenience to travellers in making their travel booking with just a few taps on the app. Travel mobile apps not only offers users the ease of hotel and flight bookings but also offer end to end solutions for all the travel requirements.” “Travel apps go beyond acting as mere e-travel agents. They allow users to check weather conditions, navigate, search for hotels, restaurants and nearby attractions and seek transportation, in addition to booking travel services.

With respect to travel companies, mobile apps allow them the best possible avenue to assimilate data for their Customer Management System (CMS). This apart, these apps afford one of the best marketing platforms when it comes to reaching the target audience effectively. User adoption is a clear indicator of the success of mobile apps in this sector. Studies indicate that close to 70% of travellers use at least two mobile apps when taking a vacation or short trip, with frequent travellers using an even greater number of travel apps, clearly demonstrating their value. OYO, for instance, offers guests the OYO hotel booking app that allows them to secure a room of their choice in just three clicks,” said Anil.

Marketing Plans

Anyone using the OYO app for the first time is entitled to a 25% discount. OYO’s recently launched ‘Tue Good Tuesdays’ promotion offers a mix of OYO Money and cash backs. It is also running a year-end holiday sale offering 50% off on select hotels.

Trends

Sanjay states, “Today’s travellers prefer apps that provide personalised offerings and deliver relevant and localized recommendations. I feel that apps will continue to play pivotal role in the future of the travel industry as customers are increasingly looking for a more personalised service and local experience.” Travel is more popular than ever before and everyone who travels has his/her own reasons, preferences and styles.

Anil opines that the common belief that leisure and business reside at the epicentre of travel plans has gone out of vogue. “Emergence of tech-powered solutions has enabled last-minute easy booking fueling a new trend of impulse planning and same-city bookings, i.e., booking a hotel in the city of residence. Customers are choosing to make and execute plans on a real-time basis. We see many guests now booking an OYO for reasons such as late nights at work, to spend quality time with their loved ones and friends or just to avoid a long and stressful commute in case of heavy traffic jams." "This year, we have witnessed a growth in the share of same-city bookings. 58% bookings at OYO are made within 24 hours prior to Check In, in fact, 16% bookings are what we call ‘last-minute’ bookings, i.e., made just one hour prior to Check In. For our corporate users, the OYO app doubles as the platform for their corporate bookings. All they have to do is shift between a toggle. Thus, we offer a seamless end-to-end experience to our customers with OYO app being the one-stop solution for all their travel needs.” In today's time and age, the mobile is here to stay and so are apps. Constant use of apps for travel bookings will eventually lead to an increase in brand engagement and customer loyalty.

With the high surge in travel apps, there will be more competitive features aimed at providing the user an effective experience. In the days to come in a technologically young market like India, the travel industry will stand to gain with sustainable and user friendly apps that can be understood and easily used by the smartphone users across the key metro cities as well as the Tier 2 and 3 cities and of course, the millennials.

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