The Rise of the "Incredible Indian Consumers"

Tourism in Asia is booming with opportunities and challenges. In anticipation of TravelRave 2014, Asia's premier travel and tourism week, Madhavan Menon, Managing Director of Thomas Cook (India) Ltd. shared on the tourism opportunities that lie ahead with the "Rise in India Domestic Travellers".

According to a recent study by Skyscanner, Indian passenger figures are expected to increase to approximately 107 million for domestic travel by 2016.

What are some of the reasons for the rise in domestic tourism in India, and what are the characteristics of Indian travellers that were identified and shared at the Asian Travel Leaders' Summit (ATLS) 2013?

The key reason behind the increase is the rise of the "Incredible Indian Consumers". To them, travel has become a non-negotiable "must-do" item. While family holidays have been the traditional driving force behind domestic tourism, we now see more business travellers and impromptu travelling by groups of friends.

The 2013 edition of Asia Travel Leaders Summit (ATLS) was a great platform for us to discover more insights into what constitutes the Asian traveller, including the Indian Millennial Traveller (IMT).

Research by ATLS partner Visa, showed that IMTs are second only to the Chinese in terms of spending per trip. Meanwhile, the notion of "value for money" still resonates well with them as they take great pride in being able to find good deals. Therefore, travelling in India is a great option because it offers unique experiences at affordable prices.

With such diverse profiles of Indian travellers, it will be interesting to see how they change the domestic travel market in the future.

In your opinion, what are the next steps that the Indian tourism industry needs to take in order to cater to the rising domestic travellers?

Indian tourism is experiencing a boost, thanks to the pro-tourism support from the government. This includes allocating budgets to execute strategic plans that combine infrastructure and technology effectively. However, businesses should also look at the Indian traveller's needs in order to fully leverage the rise of domestic travel.

The IMTs are unwilling to compromise expenses for a less than "perfect trip". They want more than just the standard cookie-cutter holiday, and would rather choose to travel by the motto, "My India, my way". Hence, customisation is the key to the Indian domestic traveller’s heart that demands self-discovery, thrill and adventure.

How will your business model adapt in order to cater to this rise and what can domestic travellers expect in the future?

The Indian travellers are rapidly evolving and we need to keep up with them by offering the convenience of online travel services combined with the personalised attention and expertise of a professional tour consultant. This is crucial to the industry because IMTs are hesitant to take on the role of planning their trips themselves and rely heavily on travel agents who offer a combination of low prices, fuss-free planning, and a degree of customisation.

At Thomas Cook, we want to capture all Indian travellers, from first time travellers of our second and third-tier markets to the discerning luxury

travellers. This can only work if our products and services are carefully customised to each and every one of them. Therefore, a diverse range of personalised tours is a must these days. We offer guided "Regional Tours" that cater to travellers who prefer local-language-speaking tour guides who can make them feel at home. Our "Personalised Holidays" on the other hand, are for travellers who are looking for a unique and engaging travel experience.

With the government preparing to build a series of new low-cost airports across the country, what role will you play in the development of no-frills airports?

The government's initiative towards low-cost airports is an impactful boost that will allow us to target the emerging second and third-tier markets in the future, we will also see enhanced connectivity across metros, mini metros, and regional trains. This development will allow for easy access to airports, resulting in an increase of new domestic travellers. Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives will continue to ensure a sustained momentum and support entrepreneurship in the tourism industry.

As a key player in the tourism industry and as a participant of this year's TravelRave, we see significant value in exchanging best practice ideas with other participants on matters such as how to work together with governments and other industry bodies on strategic plans like developing products, services, training, or infrastructure.