An India Online Travel Agent Study conducted by The Nielsen Company has found online travel portals Yatra, MakeMyTrip, and Travel Guru to have the highest brand equity. The study also highlights that online travel agents (OTAs) are becoming the next big thing for Indians for various travel-related bookings.
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 per cent of Indians positively disposed towards online travel agents. The Nielsen study further found that 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 the Nielsen study.
As per the Nielsen study, one-third (34 per cent) of Indians book airline tickets using online travel agents, 17 per cent book hotels and holidays using OTAs, while 14 per cent 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 the Railways website for train booking.
Vatsala Pant, Director, Consumer Research, The Nielsen Company, said, “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.”
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 per cent) of Internet-connected Indians use OTA sites to search for airline information, 65 per cent use the sites to search for train information, 59 per cent for hotel and 57 per cent 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.
The Nielsen India Online Travel Agent Study shows brand awareness as the major driver of brand equity in this segment, while brand personality is a distant second factor that enhances equity of an online travel agent. 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,” added Pant.
Barriers to OTA usage amongst non-users
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 per cent). Consumers also stay away from OTAs because they consider cancellation/ modification procedure very tedious (24 per cent) 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.
The Nielsen India Online Travel Agent Study gauges the perception of users and non-users of the category regarding OTAs and their disposition towards using the sites for making bookings in the future. The survey was carried out in four metros (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore) and three mini-metros (Lucknow, Vadodara, Coimbatore). Respondents were in the 20-55 age group and included those who had traveled by air in the past 12 months, were decision makers for air travel in the past 12 months, and who used the Internet to surf for travel related information. Sample size was 842.