In India's Online Travel Market, More Eyes Turn to Rail

Published May 2011 Analyst: Carroll Rheem


In India's Online Travel Market, More Eyes Turn to Rail

Most online travel markets are obsessed with flights, hotels and online travel agencies, but in India, rail towers above all else. Online traffic to rail websites exceeds that to all other travel categories, according to a recent Phocuswright report (see Figure below). In fact, as the online rail market matures, the product may also be providing a boost to India's local online travel agencies.

Phocuswright's Indian Online Travel Traffic Report, created in partnership with global digital intelligence provider comScore, tracks the growth of India's online travel population. More than half of all unique visitors to India's online travel category visited a ground transportation website in 4Q10, making it the largest online travel traffic category. Eight of the 10 most-trafficked ground transportation websites are focused on rail.

The website of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), part of the government-owned Indian Railways, ranks as the largest travel website in Asia Pacific in terms of transactions. Yet, as the only transactional rail website in India (all other rail websites refer back to IRCTC for booking), the site has struggled with stability issues. While IRCTC reports that some 25% of transactions still fail at the payment gateway, site performance is improving, and the release of IRCTC's rail shopping and booking API has empowered online intermediaries to offer a superior rail shopping experience.

Traffic gains among India's top three OTAs, all of which are local players, may be due in part to their growing popularity among rail bookers. MakeMyTrip, Yatra and Cleartrip all added rail to their product mix by mid-2009 via the IRCTC API. While rail may not contribute significantly to intermediary revenue, it plays an important strategic role: the significant volume of rail shoppers may return subsequently to book other, more lucrative travel products.

Phocuswright's Indian Online Travel Traffic Report analyzes traffic volume, growth, cross-visitation and source/loss patterns across key travel subcategories, including online travel agencies, rail, airlines, hotels and more. The report examines the dynamics between supplier and intermediary channels as well as the dominance of local versus global travel companies for individual travel segments. The online travel traffic patterns highlighted in this report illuminate sector-specific dynamics and track the emergence of social media and metasearch within the Indian travel market.

Key topics include:

  • Traffic to key travel website categories for the 15-month period from 4Q09-4Q10 including:
    • Online travel agencies (OTAs)
    • Airlines
    • Rail and ground transportation
    • Hotels
    • Metasearch
    • Traveler reviews
  • Travel website rankings within each travel category, including traffic and unique visitor growth
  • Segment-specific comparison of traffic to supplier websites versus OTAs
  • In-depth analysis of key online players, including cross-visitation, source and loss traffic
  • Online traveler segmentation based on online activity, and insight into which travel websites are attracting the most likely bookers

The report is included in the newly launched Phocuswright Research Subscription: Asia Pacific Edition, an annual, subscription-based syndicated research service providing actionable data and nuanced analysis to help travel, tourism and hospitality companies thrive in each of APAC's unique markets. Designed to serve the needs of APAC-based companies and those focused on the region, The Asia Pacific Edition delivers a 360-degree view of the APAC travel market, including market sizing and forecasts, segment data, consumer research, travel technology trends and online traffic sizing.

As more of India's population accesses the Internet, the share of Indians capable of shopping for and booking travel online will continue to grow. Phocuswright's Indian Online Travel Traffic Report illuminates the unique growth dynamics shaping the Indian online travel market. The report is also part of the Global Edition and is available for individual sale (US$695) on the Phocuswright Store.