Trekksoft (an online booking and payment software provider for tour and activity companies) has released its Travel Trends Report 2018. The research team broke down the Indian source market’s approach to travel in 2017. These are the key findings.

Nicole Kow, Trekksoft researcher says: “India is home to 1.32 billion people. There are plenty of opportunities and potential for long-term growth in this market. Even 1% of the market represents a lot of bookings.”

Andrea Schneider, Director of Marketing and Market Manager for India at Tourism Interlaken, says: “Growth in outbound travel is directly linked to economic growth. Indians are creative people, which has fuelled tremendous growth over the last few years.”

An increasing number of Indians can now afford to travel abroad. India’s Ministry of Tourism reported an 11.4% growth in international departures, from 18.3 million in 2014 to 20.4 million in 2015. In 2016, there was a 7.3% growth, where a total of 21.9 million travellers left to explore the world. The UNWTO expects this number to grow to 50 million in the next three years.

Kow adds: “Indians have also become important source markets for many countries, including Singapore and Australia, due to their large spending power. In 2015, Indian travellers spent a total of $15.9 billion on outbound travel and this is predicted to more than double to $40.7 billion by 2025.”

Top travel destinations for Indians include Switzerland, the US, France, the UK, Hong Kong, Australia and Germany.

The data indicates that there are typically four types of Indian travellers:

  1. Group travellers. “These often consist of first-time explorers. Their entire vacation programme is pre-planned and booked ahead of time. For operators hoping to capture this market, it is rather difficult, as they only have two to three hours of free time per destination,” says Kow.
  2. Fully Independent Travellers (FIT). “These are experienced travellers who prefer to create their own itineraries. They tend to research and learn about a destination online, and book offline with a travel agent,” says Kow. Since this behaviour shows no signs of changing any time soon, Schneider advises operators who want to reach these customers to work with local travel agents.
  3. MICE travellers. “In India, multinational companies are working hard to keep their employees satisfied to prevent them from job switching. A trip abroad is a good way to incentivise and reward employees,” says Kow. She says when booking and arranging these trips, companies will work with a trusted travel agent who liaises with a DMO or an operator in their existing network.
  4. Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR). “Argued as the market with the lowest travel budget, these travellers spend the longest time abroad, often up to three or four weeks. They commonly travel to North America, the UK and Australia to visit loved ones,” says Kow.

Booking behaviour

Kow notes that most bookings still happen offline.

  • Long-haul travel purchases are usually made with established travel agents.
  • Other booking channels include OTAs like India’s home-grown Make My Trip (which takes up 45% of India’s OTA share), Yatra, and Expedia.
  • Almost 50% of travellers plan a trip one to three months ahead, and book flights and accommodation a mere 8-30 days in advance, according to the Pacific Travel Association.
  • They’re heavily influenced by their friends and family who currently live in or have previously visited the destination.
  • Social media plays a big role and influences travel purchase decisions before the trip, allows travellers to share moments during the trip, and facilitates discussions and recommendations to peers after the trip.

Kow says Indian travellers want to learn about new cultures and spend quality time with their families.

“The idea of family and community is very strong in the Indian culture,” says Schneider, “but it doesn’t mean that the family dynamic isn’t flexible. While younger travellers like millennials prefer more adventurous and active excursions, the older generations prefer a more relaxed holiday. They’re happy to split up into smaller groups to explore a destination according to their interests.”

Kow suggests that operators looking to tap into this market should build their word of mouth through positive reviews. “This can really drive bookings. Online, remember to ask for a review after a trip and send an email reminder to customers with links to all your review sites. Offline, incentivise customers to talk about your brand by giving them discount codes to share with friends and family.”