Can the tourism industry continue its boom into 2018?
Last year India reaped $27 billion in revenue from the tourism trade and growth in the startup travel industry looks set to continue into 2018.
Union Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam told the Economic Times he was pleased with the 15.2% growth, stating, “I think our sector is doing very well. But am I happy with the numbers? No. I want these numbers to increase dramatically because India is an incredible place and we have everything for everybody. So we are trying to bring in lot more people.”
The news comes in the week following Minister for Information Technology, Biotechnology and Tourism, Priyank Kharge, articulated his commitment to the startup industry and his plans to launch a fund for tech startups. Kharge told Inc 42, “We want to take our startup policy to the national level this year. We will support startups from across the country provided they pay taxes here.”
Mid-last year the trend was already looking very promising, as questions turned to how startups were spending their investment money, and how best to build a brand and attract custom in an industry operating on the paradoxical boundary of being driven by discounts, but the where comes at a premium. This is the issue which newer players in the market, beyond the staple Stayzilla and Travel Triangle, are contending with – of which Thrillophilia has been one of the leading lights.
But the startup market is starting to look crowded, saturated, perhaps. With so many new players having burst on to the scene and driving last year’s growth, the lists of companies, movers and shakers in the industry are starting to appear very similar, as blurred versions of one another. Each fighting for market dominance in a steady but predictable way. As Mumbai-based angel investor Sanjay Mehta told The Indian Express, “These so-called ‘tourist angels’ are no longer investing due to the high touch investment model.”
So, that said, new entrants to the market are looking to offer something new. Former Facebook employee Vandana Vijay has set up Offbeat Tracks which provides a platform for sustainable tourism, focused on the millennial traveler market. Having identified that backpackers are looking for authentic immersive experiences, the business model is based around building local partnerships which can offer home-stay accommodation where guests experience true local culture and cuisine.
India remains one of the top travel destinations, but for the tourism industry to maintain its boom the focus might now shift away from sites which merely amalgamate travel services and offer a price, towards companies which locate their business model in targeting the needs of customers.