The Anchor: 5 trends to watch out for in the online travel portal space

10 Oct,2012

By Arun Athiappan

 

#1 Socialisation of travel portals

Travel portals will start integrating their offerings with social media sites like Facebook and offer users ability to discuss their travel plans, options and choices with their social media buddies. Leveraging social media as a customer engagement and grievance redressal forum will give online portals immense access to next generation customers.

 

#2 Ubiquitous travel shopping

Travel shopping will become ubiquitous, available anywhere and everywhere. Shopping for travel tickets has moved from offline agents to online web based portals. The next move is to mobile devices. Most of the next generation internet users will experience the internet through mobile devices long before they do it through fixed computing devices. Such users will prefer the mobile over other devices for all their shopping needs including travel. For those who are only comfortable booking offline, there will be an explosion of options as any commercial establishment having access to the internet has the ability to become a travel boutique.

 

#3 User experience as a differentiator

Price as a driving factor for sales has reached saturation point and portals today find it hard to survive by competing on price. Most portals today offer a similar user experience, but a few have started to break the mould and differentiate themselves by providing a better user experience. Better organization of information presented, user ratings, speeding up the transaction cycles, more information on travels, destinations, weather etc. are a few options to better the user experience. Sites like Hipmunk are betting on user experience to be their only differentiator.

 

#4 Rise of bus ticket booking portals

The travel portal space has long been dominated by airline ticketing portals and the lone train ticket portal. The last couple of years have seen the raise of bus ticketing portals in the south and west of India. The bus travel industry accounts for most of the travel and only around 5 to 6 percent of it is online today. We can see rapid growth in this segment as more operators come online. The bus industry itself is seeing multi-fold growth and is poised to treble in the next five years.

 

#5 Info, info and more info!!!

Travel sites can be classified into travel inspiration sites and travel shopping sites. Travel inspiration sites are sites that do not do the actual booking, but provide all information required that inspire the traveller to make the right shopping decision. Such decisions may be based on price comparison, consumer ratings, amenities provided, services offered etc.. Customers can look forward to many such sites that will provide them comprehensive info to make their shopping decision.

 

Arun Athiappan is Co-Founder and CEO, TicketGoose.com

 

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