Travel Tech

Online travel agents go beyond discounts to net loyal customers

MUMBAI: After luring travellers with discounted air fares, online travel agents (OTA) such as MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip are now shifting gears by rolling out new schemes to win their loyalty.

While price-conscious travellers – those who are ready to buy tickets on any platform that offers discounts – drive up volumes for online travel players, the ones that stick to a particular site bring better margins, reports Hindu Business Line.

“The aviation market in India is growing dramatically and we want to offer an experience that will make customers come back again and again. We’ve realised that just offering discounts cannot be our primary mode for customer acquisition,” said Subramanya Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer, Cleartrip.

Cleartrip has, therefore, rolled out a programme called Cleartrip Local, where a customer gets to book experiences such as concerts, eating out, local trips and guided tours.

“If a customer uses this channel to pay for a local activity or experience, she is more likely to come back to the website when she wants to book a flight. And even when she’s not travelling but wants to do something fun in her home city, she is still engaged with our website,” says Sharma.

In August, MakeMyTrip – the largest domestic OTA by market share –introduced a loyalty programme directly linked to how much a customer spends through the website. You could use a wallet balance not just to book travel, but also get vouchers for cab rides or movies. The premium subscription programme gives travellers a full refund on flight and hotel cancellations, even if the airline had made the ticket non-refundable.

For frequent travellers who fly, say 25-30 times a year, a spokesperson for MakeMyTrip said “fully refunding 10 cancellations in a year makes for a good offer. The core idea in launching this programme is customer retention”.

While none of the OTAs that BusinessLine spoke to disclosed numbers on the popularity of their schemes, whether the efforts will make customers stick remains to be seen.

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