Airlines need to put more effort in differentiating themselves: TNS

MUMBAI: With the current boom in the aviation sector, which has seen a number of new entrants in the last couple of years; airlines will need to put in much more effort to differentiate themselves from the rest.

According to the findings, Indian and Jet Airways are neck-to-neck for the top slot as far as consumers' airlines preference is concerned. Air Sahara is the third preferred airlines.

This was revealed in the findings of the TNS Indian Travel Dossier 2005, which tracks the impact of the unprecedented surge in travel demands in recent years.

This, the first of an annual series that aims to provide the travel and hospitality industry with an objective and comprehensive bird's eye view of the trends in this upcoming sector.



This report provides insights for mainstream travel and hospitality industries such as airlines, hotels, tourism boards, travel agents, tour operators and the travelers, themselves.



Some of the highlights of the report are as follows:

North India leads the way, with a significantly higher travel incidence. While domestic business and leisure travel accounted for 11 per cent each of the travel incidence, overseas travel was 3 per cent each for business and domestic travel. While the overall overseas travel incidence may seem low, this figure represents 25 per cent of all travel and is hence a significant figure. Most travel was undertaken by people in the age group of 26-40, however the average age was somewhat lower in the case of salaried employees.

The average age is marginally lower in the case of the corporate segment and also among travelers from the metros. A significant proportion of such travelers come from the IT and financial sectors. With implications for reaching out to such travelers, while cell-phones are a near universal phenomenon, ownership/ usage of the internet and credit cards, is much higher in metros compared to other cities, though the share of travel from such cities is significant.

In business related overseas travel, a substantial proportion of the SME (small and medium enterprise) segment is young.

Overseas business travelers also represent a very wide spectrum of industries and sectors compared to the domestic business travel segment.

Domestic leisure travel has more respondents belonging to the SME and SEP (self employed professionals) segments. On the other hand, overseas leisure travel is more prevalent among people who are in full-time salaried employment. The representation for SEC B in domestic leisure travel is much higher than in the other three travel categories.

Meetings and conferences are significant amongst corporates and to some extent among the SEP segments. The average trip duration is three-four days. While trains still dominate in mode of travel, air travel now accounts for 27 per cent of all local business travel.

20 per cent of all air travel is now in business class, and the use of discount fare options is largely restricted to the corporate segment. This represents a business opportunity in the other segments. Second AC is predominant choice in rail travel, however the SEP segment uses first AC to a significant extent.

Use of travel agents is minimal in all but the corporate segment. Choice of travel agent in the corporate segment is mainly by the company concerned. Among those who have used travel agents of their own choice, the key parameters seem to be the rates offered; quality of service and superiority of information and knowledge. Use of travel agents is still limited mainly to travel (air and rail) bookings.

South-East Asia, especially Singapore is now an important business destination, followed by the USA, Middle East and Europe. Only 32 per cent of such travelers are travelling abroad for the first time. Thus, most business travelers overseas are an experienced lot.

Meetings and conferences is an important reason for travel overseas. Unlike those from the corporate segment, travelers from SME and SEP invest a substantial amount of effort in information search on the destination. The Internet is an important method in searching for such information; sources such as tourism boards etc accounts for relatively low on use.

Travel agents play an important role here, and are used for a wide spectrum of services. Key factors in choice of travel agent here are quality of service, "contacts" and knowledge of rates for both travel and accommodation options. "Contacts" in this context are to do with ability to facilitate passport, visa and other procedures.

Destinations are varied for the domestic leisure travelers While the Himalayan belt is popular with all leisure travelers, most travel is within the region. Surprisingly, Kerala is not yet a destination for the domestic leisure traveller!

Main travel times are extended weekends, school vacations and festival times. While sightseeing and pilgrimage continue to be main drivers, trekking, adventure sports and rejuvenation are emerging trends.

As in business travel, South East Asia is by far the most travelled destination for overseas leisure travelers, followed by the UK and the USA. There is a relatively higher proportion of first-time travelers Most trips are planned and package tours account for about a third of all such trips, are booked via some preferred agents only. The average duration is 10 to14 days. Given the high incidence of packaged tours, use of credit cards for meeting expenses is significantly lower than for business travel.

TNS India director Ganapathy Subramanian said, "TNS has decided to track this sector closely over the coming years. With age profiles getting younger and travel intensity on the rise, all service providers to this boom sector, be they airlines, hotels or travel agents will need to focus a lot on building and differentiating their brands."

The study was conducted amongst 6,433 males from SEC A and B households up to the age of 55 years, working full-time. The study also looked at involvement and commitment levels of customer to various airline and hotel brands using the conversion model (TNS business solution).

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