New air and bus routes, stay options and more location tagging: Anything could happen in 2019 in travel. Travel is a complex entity. There are a multitude of factors that impact a trip: transport, accommodation, language, food, weather, money, visa, etc. etc. Now, the market is moving towards travelers being super conscious about having a good experience on their trip. They are travelling passionately, not as a family obligation. Interestingly, they are prepared to do the homework to decide when to go and where to go. From checking AccuWeather to understand the weather in the destination city to asking their banks for best foreign currency conversion, they are ready to go the whole hog to have a good value-for-money trip. As a result, they are spending hours researching on Google and social media platforms trying to discover that one unique thing that will give them the brag factor on Instagram.
Also, the new age traveler doesn’t want to pay the whole price of a package in one go. They like to book things in parts. Typically travelers book their flights three months before their trip, hotels two months before and things to do much closer to the trip or on trip. This is partially because they want to take their time to decide what to book and partially to hunt for a better deal. Sometimes it’s just procrastination or lack of funds as people save up to travel. Hyderabad Express talks to Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka, a chat-based travel planning platform backed by Thomas Cook which has created a community of influencers who help people plan their travel to the destinations of their choice, about new age trends in travel.
What travel trends do you foresee for this year in general, and this summer in particular? Are there any Hyderabad-specific trends in travel that Ithaka has seen in the course of bookings.
Outbound travel from India is seeing a tectonic shift. Over the next 10 years, the face of travel will change completely. Group tour packages which promise value for money and peace of mind are only being considered by 40+ crowd, usually the older generation going on trips.
The 25-35 generation is split into those who want to build and book a customised holiday itinerary and those who are embracing travel as a Do-It-Yourself adventure. The sub-25 age group is almost exclusively looking for a backpacking experience, traveling solo, staying in hostels and figuring out things on the fly. The overall market size is growing so fast that there is room for many companies to co-exist and thrive, and we are seeing an upturn in funding with four companies (including us) getting funded in the last six months. These are exciting times for the travel industry. We don’t have this tracking available right now, but from anecdotal experience, we have seen Hyderabad travelers much more inclined towards DIY bookings instead of buying packages.
Why do you think is travel transitioning from family/group packages towards solo travel?
Millennial travelers are pushing the change in the travel industry. Group packages are seen as impersonal and aren’t appealing enough to millennials. First is the attitude shift to wanting a better travel experience. Travelers are driven by having unique experiences: things that will enrich them, not just a bucket list of must-do attractions. They want to do that one destination or experience that no one in their friend circle would have gone to. Second, information access is super easy, thanks to the internet, the tech-savvy generation is doing more Google searches than ever before, trying to find specific information and recommendations through blogs and other websites. Instagram is a huge inspiration point where Travel Influencers are showing them a new way of traveling. Third, travel bookings have been simplified by online platforms. One other factor going in favour of DIY travel is that it’s no longer hard or worrisome to book accommodation and transport. Pioneers of travel like MakeMyTrip, etc. have made it super easy to hunt and book options. It’s now a problem of too many options that is being solved.
Are most folks preferring an itinerary or travel without one?
In 2017, we used to get more than 50 percent of our audience who were seeking to create an itinerary with us, but now we only see around 25-30% itinerary seekers. We are getting a lot of travelers asking for specific experiences, help with figuring out trip budget, hotel recommendations, etc. This is a key indicator for us that the trend is shifting more and more to researching millennials who are planning out their trip themselves
What can we expect by 2020?
We will see more travel companies going for the millennial travel segment as it explodes with more younger travelers than ever before. We could also start seeing companies go for the Gen Z audience who are just entering the age of independent travel.