Home / Industry / Infotech /  Travel sector riding the app wave

Mumbai: The Indian travel sector, the clear leader in e-commerce, is also taking advantage of rapidly growing mobile penetration and allowing both smartphone and non-smartphone, or feature phone, users to book tickets with the help of apps and even the humble SMS—be they on trains, planes, buses or taxis.
On 28 June, for instance, state-run Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corp. Ltd (IRCTC) launched an SMS-based ticketing system to cater to those who do not have access to the Internet or smartphones. Mallikarjun Kharge, the minister of railways, attributed the move “to the rapid increase in mobile penetration in India with more than 80% people having mobile phones".
Users wishing to avail these services have to get a mobile money account opened from their respective banks or mobile money providing agencies that have been approved by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Users can get ticket details on SMS instantly. The SMS can be used for travel along with a valid identification card. The user doesn’t need a printout.

Radhika Balaji, 27, is a Mumbai-based executive with an insurance settlement firm and a frequent traveller to Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kerala. She no longer uses travel agents for flight or train tickets. “Nowadays, I book tickets using my smartphone. I also have the option to book a ticket by simply sending an SMS," said Balaji.

The concept is being extended to buses too with leading online travel agency (OTA) company, MakeMyTrip Ltd, launching an SMS-based bus-ticket booking service.

Not left behind, taxi operators such as Olacabs, run by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, have developed applications for the iPhone and Android where customers can book the nearest Olacab and track its movement.

A missed call will generate an SMS that tells the customer how far away the cab is and how long will it take to reach. The service is free for all customers.

India’s travel market is projected to grow 18% in 2013 to reach $23.2 billion, faster than last year’s 11%, helped by increased train fares, airline fleet expansion and the fresh supply of hotel rooms, according to travel research firm PhocusWright Inc. That includes the online travel market, which is forecast to see a 27% increase in revenue to $8.8 billion in 2013, PhocusWright said in a report released on 27 June.

Gross travel bookings are forecast at $28.8 billion in 2015 compared with the current $19.6 billion, and online gross bookings are estimated to touch $12.5 billion, up 80% over 2012, according to the report.

Meanwhile, apps are the new rage in the travel sector.

Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the country’s second largest airline by passengers carried, has launched its first mobile application for Windows Phone in association with Nokia. The app allows passengers to book tickets, check the flight status, flight updates, manage their frequent flyers accounts, and even “pin" the booked ticket onto the home screen for easy access, according to Sudheer Raghavan, chief commercial officer at Jet Airways.

Yatra Online Pvt. Ltd, another online travel agency company, has also launched a similar Windows Phone app in addition to the one it has for the iPhone.

A senior travel consultant, requesting anonymity, said smartphones are becoming the new tools for travel companies. “For instance, some of the smart applications of Cleartrip Pvt. Ltd are getting more attractive for travel while desktop applications by MakeMyTrip are becoming favourites for travellers. MakeMyTrip is also now catching on (to) mobile phones. More Indian airlines are coming out with more smart phone applications," he added.

In May, Mint reported that Cleartrip has introduced an application where fliers can book and reschedule flights for multiple cities with one transaction as opposed to separate bookings earlier, cutting down on transaction time.

And to make searches easy on these multiple devices, travel review site, TripAdvisor LLC, has launched an all-in-one hotel price comparison search. Steve Kaufer, co-founder and chief executive officer of TripAdvisor, said, “We want to help travellers plan and have the perfect trip, not drive them crazy with endless annoying pop-ups before they’ve booked it."

Catch all the Industry News, Banking News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Recommended For You
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout