Consumer sentiment upbeat on domestic travel, but constrained by budgets: PAYBACK-Unomer Travel Study

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Hyderabad, October 28th, 2020: The much-awaited festive season is already showing signs of growth spurts across popular spend categories with the recent online and offline sales marking the start of the festive season. However, with the uncertainties of current times and changing behaviour patterns, it is important to get a pulse of the real consumers to understand emerging trends. Basis insights from a survey conducted on travel loyalists (frequent travellers over the last 2 years), domestic travel is expected to see some revival, especially short or weekend travel. Top choices for travel mode were flights or self-drive while safety and precautions were rated as the top preference as opposed to deals, which used to swing the vote previously.

This was revealed in a recent study conducted jointly by India’s largest multi-brand loyalty program, PAYBACK and its digital research partner, Unomer. The study examined the sentiments, preferences and outlook of around 1000 respondents regarding Travel in the festive season, post Covid. The respondents were chosen basis their travel behavior in the past 2 years, in the age group of 25 to 50 years across 12 cities including all Metros and few Tier 1’s, with varying income thresholds. Some of the key takeaways are listed below:

Short travel breaks rule 2020

Since the first unlock, nearly 40% of the respondents have either gone back to their hometowns or for a weekend getaway. In the festive season, more than 20% respondents are planning a vacation with nearly one third respondents in South & North India planning their trips. Nearly three-fourth of respondents chose domestic holidays, mostly a weekend or short getaways to nearby destinations. Long vacations and international holiday are off the table for the rest of 2020. Female respondents preferred long trips as opposed to male respondents who chose short vacations.

Females fasten the self-drive mode for short holidays

Nearly 50% respondents during the initial phases of unlock chose self-drive as the preferred mode for short holiday travels with young females leading the pack. North, West & South regions lead the preference for self-drive as trains or buses become the least likely choice (15%) even for short trips or getaways. However, in last few weeks, travel by flights is also seeing an uptick, specifically in the East & West regions garnering 50% preference.

Less than one-fourth frequent travelers plan to loosen their purse strings this year

More than 40% consumers will be spending less than last year this festive season, followed by 35% at same level and only 20% planning to spend more this year only in the higher annual income households. Respondents in South cities chose to spend more followed by North India.

Deals take a backseat as safety and ratings become driving factors

Nearly two-third of the respondent are booking their travel itineraries via online booking platforms vs the traditional travel agents.  Close to 60% respondents have either booked or plan to book hotels for vacation stays and among them, nearly three-fourth are looking at safety precautions (higher than any other aspect), sanitization certificates and high star ratings as key booking criteria, as opposed to affordable rates, deals & offers which would swing the vote earlier. Over 60% respondents plan to go on vacation with their family followed by 25% wanting to go with friends. Solo trips still do not find many takers (9%).

Less travel means more for home consumption

Other than holiday travel spend, other discretionary spends are also getting saved or diverted. There is growing preference for large & small appliances (60%) which emerged as an overwhelming choice, along with apparels (59%), followed by mobiles (45%) and home decor/improvement (37%). Respondents in South India have shown preference for large appliances and mobiles, whereas in North, West and East regions have shown preference for small appliances and home improvement.

PAYBACK members have been active on shopping across several spend categories and the platform has been collaborating with top brands to decide the right customer engagement and retention strategies. With a 360-degree understanding of shopping behavior across key categories like travel, groceries, fuel, entertainment, apparel, electronics and more, PAYBACK India is creating opportunities for brands to leverage these insights using their research platform. Giving a perspective on their first ever study, Mr. Ramakant Khandelwal, CMO, PAYBACK India, said, Businesses are most impacted by the change in behavior of their loyal members. Hence it is important to measure the sentiment of the loyalists, to gauge the true impact. PAYBACK has created an integrated digital platform that provides brands with an opportunity to engage with the relevant member-base via meaningful conversations, be it for brand promotion or for consumer research. The current environment, which is replete with uncertainties, requires us to use the right data and levers to navigate the business challenges.  We are launching our first study, and now look forward to partnering with more brands on their consumer engagement strategies.”


Sharing his thoughts on the research aspects of the surveyMr Vinay Bapna, CEO, Unomer, said, “This is a unique partnership between PAYBACK and Unomer, where PAYBACK has a large base of loyal consumers across brands and Unomer brings in technical and research expertise. This survey brings the best of both worlds together – we solicited feedback from consumers who have spent previously on travel and asked them specific questions on their travel plans during this Diwali / New Year and the impact of Covid-19 on the same. Our joint platform enables us to execute such outcomes from data selection to insights within 15 days and can truly help brands plan their go to market or consumer forecasts more efficiently and seamlessly”.