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 Ask the expert: (from left) IXiGO’s Dharmendra Yashovardhan, Travelocity’s Himanshu Singh and TripAdvisor’s Sharat Dhall.

Ask the expert: (from left) IXiGO’s Dharmendra Yashovardhan, Travelocity’s Himanshu Singh and TripAdvisor’s Sharat Dhall.

Where will you go?

Where will you go?

New Delhi: Few people know the inner workings of the traveller’s mind like some of the top travel search engines and booking websites. With plenty of information on search trends, booking data and destination popularity, they know where people like to go most, when they book their tickets and whether Bali is bigger than Berlin. We spoke to people at booking site, travel review aggregator and travel search engine to give us glimpses into their experiences with user behaviour and asked them to make recommendations.

Dharmendra Yashovardhan

Chief operating officer, iXiGO

More people are feeling the need for divine intervention. On the most popular searches on Goa, Jaipur and Shimla were the top three destinations domestically and London, Singapore and Bangkok globally. Delhi-Mumbai continues to be the most searched for air route.

Ask the expert: (from left) IXiGO’s Dharmendra Yashovardhan, Travelocity’s Himanshu Singh and TripAdvisor’s Sharat Dhall.

On a recent spike in user behaviour possibly due to the downturn: Mumbai-Shirdi is one of the largest searched sectors in the last four months; apparently more and more people are feeling the need for divine intervention in recent times.

On more and more users planning trips in advance: The number of people making flight bookings eight or more days in advance has doubled from 7.7% in December to 13.6% in March.

On users hunting more than ever for bargains: Even though travel normally drops in February and March before picking up again in April, we’ve not seen a drop in website activity.

This could be because even though there is a dip in the total number of people travelling, people have become more value-conscious and are, therefore, searching more. Overall search traffic has gone up and people are spending twice as much time on our site searching.

On two recommended travel destinations: Coorg and Leh are high on my list and they are good value, too.

Travel tip: With airlines introducing advanced purchase fares, earlier is better. At current levels, it is unlikely that fares would go down much further, especially on the more frequented routes.

Himanshu Singh

Managing director, Travelocity India

Indians are still travelling through the downturn.

On how travellers booked package holidays, hotels and flights: They booked complete holidays with much longer lead times than they did for stand-alone air or stand-alone hotel bookings. Almost half (47%) of stand-alone hotel reservations in 2008 were booked online during the same week as check-in. Flight booking trends showed more lead time: 29% of flight bookings were made at least a month ahead of travel.

On whether traveller behaviour has been affected by the downturn: Hotel bookings grew significantly in the second half of 2008. Also, Indians are the only Asia-Pacific-based travellers booking European destinations through the downturn. London and Paris are still among the Top 10 hotel destinations.

On the most popular destinations through 2008: Bangkok and Singapore remain the Top 2 destinations for Asia-Pacific travel throughout 2008. In India, Mumbai was the top destination for bookings followed by Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

On the recent popularity of West Asian and Asian destinations: Bahrain, Muscat and Sharjah entered the Top 20 most popular destinations during the second half of 2008.

Travel tip: We have recently launched a travel tool called ExploreKaro which offers a traveller a host of exciting travel ideas with the flexibility to plan trips to suit convenience and budget. It then offers instant online bookings.

Sharat Dhall

Managing director, TripAdvisor India

Sardinia is the top destination for this year.

On the most searched domestic and international destinations: Goa and Maldives topped the searches for India and international destinations for summer this year. Mumbai and Phuket (Thailand) followed in second place.

On TripAdvisor’s recommended destinations for 2009: TripAdvisor engineers have developed a proprietary algorithm that looks at several criteria, including changes in search activity and postings throughout TripAdvisor globally, and developed the TripAdvisor TravelCast. It is a barometer of what’s hot in travel destinations. The Top 10 TravelCast destinations for this year are:

1. Budoni, Sardinia

2. Agia Galini, Crete

3. Petra, Jordan

4. Ardmore, Ireland

5. Peschiera del Garda, Italy

6. Protaras, Cyprus

7. Torre del Mar, Spain

8. Hanioti, Greece

9. Wadduwa, Sri Lanka

10. Goslar, Germany

Travel tip: While searching for hotels on the TripAdvisor website, look for the TripAdvisor Popularity Index. This tells you how highly users rate that particular hotel among all the options in that city. Also, watch out for the Top Values Index which highlights hotels offering great deals.

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