You can’t fault CLEARTRIP for its commitment to service.
The online travel agency (OTA) industry has fast become a commodity business, with all the large portal players now relying on other, high-margin offerings such as hotels, cruises and package holidays to help make up for losses incurred in their core ticket-booking businesses.
However, this expansion will require a good deal of ingenuity. In order to edge out full-service travel agencies from a category that has long been defined by, well, full service (destination expertise, trip customization, travel formality facilitation, etc), the OTAs have to rely on a lean infrastructure which is predicated upon replacing a live customer interface with efficient self-service. Where the OTAs have favoured a hybrid model (staffing up expensive call centers, etc), their profitability and business plans have begun to fall apart.
So, CLEARTRIP and the like are struggling to keep customers hooked, shilling hard to convince them that hotel rooms, holiday packages and the like are just as easily bought online as tickets, and treading very carefully to ensure that they don’t set off a comparison and commodification rush on these high-end products as well.
In the end I believe human nature will lead us to demand human interaction, if even an anonymous one over the phone, settling on a part-virtualization of the travel business.
In the meantime, I feel CLEARTRIP should not try so very hard to make its virtual machine look more efficient, responsive and indeed cost effective. They’re tripping over themselves at this point (see pic)