Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are becoming the next big thing for Indians’ various travel related bookings according to an India Online Travel Agent Study conducted by The Nielsen Company. According to Nielsen, OTAs are the most used online method for booking airline tickets, hotels, and holidays, boding well for the future potential of the industry – with over 80 percent of Indians positively disposed towards Online Travel Agents.
The Nielsen study further found that the majority of Indians who haven’t yet made any booking using Online Travel Agents had checked these sites for information and were positively inclined to make bookings in the future. Yatra, MakeMyTrip and Travel Guru are the strongest players in the OTA segment, according to Nielsen.
As per the Nielsen study, one third (34%) of Indians book airline tickets using Online Travel Agents, 17 percent book hotels and holidays using OTAs and 14 percent book train tickets using these sites. OTAs have garnered a significant share of the airline ticket booking, considerably higher than even the company website of the airlines. The main alternatives to Online Travel Agents include traditional travel agents/tour operators, booking offices of hotels, and railway website for train booking.
“Given the growing penetration of the Internet in India, Online Travel Agents are becoming increasingly popularity amongst Indians. Consumers also find it quite convenient to book their tickets using these sites as it saves them time and effort required to make their reservations compared to other forms of bookings,” said Vatsala Pant, Director, Consumer Research, The Nielsen Company.
It is interesting to note that OTA sites are surfed by a majority of people even if they don’t end up booking from the site. More than two thirds (77%) of Internet-connected Indians use OTA sites to search for airline information, 65 percent use the sites to search for train information, 59 percent for hotel and 57 percent for information on holidays.
“This is a sign of increasing popularity and awareness amongst consumers of the online booking mode, and though they don’t make bookings currently it won’t be long before they convert,” said Pant.
According to the Nielsen India Online Travel Agent Study, Brand Awareness is the major driver of brand equity in this segment. Brand Personality is a distant second factor which enhances equity of an Online Travel Agent. In a price sensitive country like India, Price is only third in the list of factors that affect the equity of an OTA brand. Amongst users of OTA sites the image of the brand plays a more important role than the product related offerings like Price and Services of the agent. However, for non-users of OTA Price does command importance.
“Having good awareness is a necessity to succeed in the OTA segment. Playing a price game will not take the image of the brand very far,” continued Pant.
Some image attributes that have high correlation with brand equity are attractive promotional offers and schemes and cheaper air tickets compared to other OTAs’, and tie-up with many airlines.
The key deterrents to using Online Travel Agents by non-users is that the Rates offered are not the cheapest as claimed by the agents (33%). Consumers also stay away from OTAs because they consider Cancellation/Modification procedure very tedious (24%) on these sites. Lack of transparency in dealings is another reason that holds non-users of the category from making bookings through Online Travel Agents.