What downturn? Footloose Indians fuel online travel business, as airlines open new regional routes.

Travel-related queries from Indians on Google grew 59 percent in the 12 months ending ended July 2011, compared with the same period last year – and users are increasingly using mobile phones to do their searching, a report shows. “Travel is the second largest segment in the online space in terms of queries after entertainment,”  the Indian business daily Mint quotes Kiran Mani, head of vertical sales at Google’s India unit in a report last week. “India is a very inquisitive market, though the penetration is low.”

The report said travel queries using mobile phones had grown over 250% in the same period.

India presents a peculiar paradox when it comes to online versus offline travel business. The Mint report says on one hand India-based airlines and hospitality firms are encouraging customers to buy tickets online by offering discounts up to 10%. On the other hand online travel agents such as MakeMyTrip (India) , Cleartrip and Yatra are also selling tickets through offline stores. Ezeego One, has started sending representatives to customer doorsteps to collect cash and deliver tickets and other holiday products.

Makemytrip opened retail stores four years ago in the top 20 cities to connect with local, traditional travellers in these markets. Yatra, has travel agents act as distribution points where the firm does not have a presence.

The top Indian brands in the travel segment are Cleartrip, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, Makemytrip, IndiGo and Yatra, while the top activities are online booking, searching for cheap flights and fares, and checking seat availability. Link to full Mint story by R. R. Sanjai. http://www.livemint.com/2011/08/28195520/Travel-search-on-the-rise-desp.html?atype=tp  

Meanwhile the Bangalore-based B2B travel company Flightraja Travels, which runs ticketing portal Via.com and a network of 50,000 offline and online travel partners in India is morphing into a B2C site looking beyond travel and tourism.Via has entered the daily deals segment with Deals More across 10 cities – Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Jaipur and Chandigarh -- and a travel deals sub-site called Travel More. “Deals More is the first move; Travel More is the next. Via will become an e-commerce site on retail, selling everything from tickets to books to apparel,” said Ayush Aggarwal, Digital Product Manager for Via.com, speaking to Techcircle.in. http://techcircle.vccircle.com/500/via-turns-to-full-fledged-e-commerce/  

The sudden growth in outbound travel from India ( and China) is sufficiently remarkable for the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) to hold a half-day forum on the opportunity next week.

The event, “Get the Insights – Build the Business”, is being held on September 6, in New Delhi, to focus on the present and future behavioural characteristics, expectations and consumption patterns of the 12.07 million Indians and 57.39 million Chinese travellers who travelled abroad last year. Indians are known to spend US$11 billion each year when they travel internationally.

Speakers include Surekha Poddar, Executive Director of Consumer Research Nielsen India, who will share the latest findings from Nielsen’s on-going India and China outbound surveys.

The London-based Eye For Travel's Travel Distribution Summit returns to Mumbai India in October (Oct 12-13 2011) ... possibly the best place to get a total industry overview of the India-centred online travel and tourism business http://events.eyefortravel.com/tdindia/index.asp  

To further encourage Indians to holiday abroad this year, at least two Indian airlines have announced compelling fares in the Asia- Gulf region.

Budget carrier IndiGo will launch its foreign foray with daily and direct flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Dubai from September 2011. Inaugural fares from Delhi or Mumbai are Rs 9999 return. http://book.goindigo.in/skylights/cgi-bin/skylights.cgi?module=C3&page=LANDPAGE1  

Kingfisher has just announce daily flights starting October1, from Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirapalli and from September 30, 2011 from Kochi in addition to their existing flights from Chennai to Colombo. Fares from Kochi or Trivandrum are around Rs 8500 return. 

Sep 1 2011