While the internet users have been growing every passing month, a lot of enterprise and public sites have also seen a huge surge. From online banking and mobile wallet to booking hotels and tickets for buses and flights, we all have seen how the industry has blossomed over the course of a few years.
One of the areas which have been accounted for and has delivered a convenient tool to travelers across the world is online flight and hotel booking sites. Cleartrip, which has been a major player in the area with over 2 million users on mobile spoke to us about its new features, viz it's Alexa skill, and surely, the company seems to be convinced in being in par with the momentum of technology-advancement taking place around the world.
After launching Cleartrip skill for the Amazon Echo platform, the company is targetting to double its scale in the international market. In the same context, taking Alexa skill also into the account, here is what the company's Director of Product Suman De told GizBot.
What was the reason behind launching the new feature and how it is going to help you and users?
The Cleartrip skill for Alexa allows users to search for one-way flights between any origin and destination in the world. The skill then informs the user about the cheapest available flight for that sector along with price, airline, departure time, duration and number of stops. We also send the three cheapest options to the companion Alexa app.
The skill is meant to allow users to quickly research their vacation options by quickly searching for different origin-destination combinations for different dates. This is a much faster way for users to research their vacation plans than using the web or a mobile app.
The idea wasn't to drive bookings necessarily since closing the loop from voice to app/web is still a problem given the current 2FA requirements for payments.
We are more interested in learning and being prepared for this new medium that we believe will be an important interaction paradigm for users in the future. That is why we are keen on investing here.
What kind of response have you received so far any surge in bookings?
We have seen quite some usage and very positive feedback on the Alexa Skill Store.
As I mentioned earlier we are not focused on bookings and currently, that is not something we track. Also, the usage is directly linked to the general availability and comfort of using voice-based assistants on standalone devices. We are still some way to go here.
Brief us on the tourism industry in India, especially the domestic travel that has been picking up. What new trends or changing activities are you witnessing?
The Indian tourism and hospitality industry has emerged as one of the key drivers of growth among the services sector in India.
Tourism in India accounted for 9.6 percent of the GDP in 2017 (up from 7.5 percent in 2015) and is the 3rd largest foreign exchange earner for the country according to industry reports.
Some of the trends we are seeing in the market are:
Staycations - With no stress associated with travel, such as jet lag, packing, long drives, or waits at airports the trend for sporting nearby weekend getaways popularly known as staycations, is witnessing a sharp increase.
Solo women travelers - the travel space that was once dominated by Middle-aged, Metro Men is seeing an emergence of a new traveler segment.
In one of our recent trend study, we observed that 75 percent of the total travel bookings made by women were for solo travel in the last couple of years.
What kind of growth do you anticipate in the travel and hospitality industry? What have been the growth rates so far?
The industry is expected to grow at 16.1 percent CAGR to reach Rs. 2,796.9 thousand crores in 2022.
We firmly believe that the next frontier of travel is the Experiences space.
Globally, spends by travelers on tours, activities, attractions, and events, reached $ 135 billion in 2016, accounting for 10 percent of all global travel revenues.
By 2020 the size of the activities and experiences market is estimated to be $ 185 billion.
A third of that would be the Asia market which is roughly between $ 60-65 billion. While the market for experiences being at a nascent stage in India at present with online penetration in mid-single digits, Cleartrip's Experiences segment continues to grow at 60 percent year-on-year, presenting a massive growth opportunity for the company.
India's outbound tourism market will account for nearly 50 million travelers by 2020 and Cleartrip will be able to capitalize on this opportunity to engage with a much wider set of audience across all touch points in their booking journey.
How is Cleartrip different from the other travel-related portals?
Product and customer experience differentiation is always a focus for us.
We are actively working on replacing any form of customer anxiety with reassurance, and build trust that every consumer reaching out will be taken care of.
Product - In a country like India, where a large section of the population still does not have access to high-speed internet connectivity - performance has also been identified as a key differentiator.
For example, at Cleartrip, we have optimized our app to load images faster, even on 2G networks, by foregoing the traditional approach of progressive image loading.
Technology is also being leveraged to provide information more proactively to travelers. One such feature is Cleartrip tagging, which informs about the amenities and facilities available on a particular flight or hotel. Is the hotel pet-friendly? Is there WiFi on this flight? How much baggage can one passenger carry? When does the last intercity train depart?
What are your marketing plans? How much have you set aside for the same?
The majority of our marketing spends is on performance marketing.
Something that is going to continue for some time. We believe that over time we have perfected the art and have driven tremendous cost efficiency and built scale.
What else can we expect from Cleartrip in 2018?
We are really excited about are our international markets and our Local Experiences product. We are doubling our scale in international markets, building upon our leadership position.
We are looking at growing our footprint our presence in Europe and Southeast Asia to offer end-to-end integrated travel experiences in over 66 countries in the world through strategic partnerships.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have triggered a large-scale tech evolution which continues till date. We are keeping a close tab on the potential this space holds in the evolution of travel.
How many ticket bookings you have received in the last Quarter?
We saw the ticket bookings for summers increase by 56 percent YoY for international and 38 percent YoY for domestic.
Bookings made via Mobile platform?
A considerable and ever-growing set of customers use mobile while planning and booking travel on Cleartrip. Today Cleartrip's user base accounts for over 2 million users on mobile.