13th January 2024 redBus, the world’s largest online bus ticketing platform, unveils an enthralling chronicle of the intercity bus travel landscape, marking the culmination of an eventful 2023. A sequel to the post-Covid economic revival, this year witnessed not only the resurgence but a profound metamorphosis in the intercity bus industry, spotlighting its adaptability and robustness. A staggering 6 crore bus tickets were booked in the first 9 months, and on average more than 50,000 buses were available on the redBus platform per day, in 2023. All calculations are as per data on the redBus platform for the calendar year 2023.
The intercity bus network unfurled its reach, connecting close to 10,000 unique cities, towns, and villages across 4.2 lakh unique routes. In fact, 20,000 new routes were booked on redBus in 2023. Indians traveled 4.1 crore km every day, with an average of 207 km on a single trip. Some of the longest bus journeys undertaken were from Gorakhpur to Goa which stretches over 2000 km & 60 hours & Satara to Lucknow, which covered similar time and distance. This deep penetration showcases the industry’s commitment to reaching every nook and cranny of the nation.
Online bus booking surges in smaller towns
Building on an existing trend, online ticket bookings continued to gain traction in non-metro and smaller towns – accounting for little more than half (53%) of bus bookings. Tier 4 towns accounted for more than a quarter of bus ticket bookings (26%); similarly, Tier 2 & 3 towns together also accounted for more than a quarter of bookings (27%). In 2023, 6 lakh+ travelers from Tier 2 & 3 cities made their maiden online intercity bus bookings through redBus. States like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh Assam & Chhattisgarh witnessed the highest surge in demand for intercity bus travel bookings from Tier 3 towns, reinforcing the convenience of online booking.
Sustainable travel is gaining a foothold
Interest in electric buses as a serious and viable business really took off in 2023. In 2023, a larger fleet of EVs was deployed for the first time, covering 600+ routes across India and there were 400+ services per day. In particular, EVs are doing very well on shorter routes, given that they are better suited for them. For instance, routes such as Delhi – Haridwar – Rishikesh, Bangalore-Tirupati, and Hyderabad – Vijayawada, witnessed high growth in the contribution to ticket sales from EV buses. Delhi – Chandigarh and Delhi – Agra routes witnessed a 150% growth compared to the previous year, on the back of EV bus additions. As consumers become more environmentally conscious & with supportive policies, this trend will continue to grow strong.
Early morning journeys and AC buses dominate
The preference for late-night journeys continues, with 76% of travelers opting for buses between 6pm and midnight. The second most preferred time slot was noon to 5 pm, with 13% of all travel occurring during this time. Additionally, the popularity of AC buses remained high, constituting an impressive 63% of all intercity bus bookings on redBus when compared to last year’s 60%. This marks a continued increase from the 2022 figures, highlighting the sustained demand for a comfortable travel experience.
What were the big travel occasions?
3.6 lakh+ + people traveled on November 10 – the highest number of people to travel by bus on a single day, in 2023. 3.55 lakh + people traveled on December 23 & 3.5 lakh people traveled on December 22, making these the second and third highest number of people traveling in a day. Interestingly however, while both these occasions correspond to festive periods (Diwali & Christmas-Yearend), the 4th highest number of people traveling by bus on a single day was recorded on October 2, possibly corresponding to the long weekend.
Pilgrimage and tourist destinations thrive-
There is a spectacular increase in the number of seats booked to religious destinations. Tirupati and Shirdi take the top positions as the most visited pilgrimage destinations in 2023, followed by Nashik & Ujjain (Mahakaleshwar). Not surprisingly, Goa topped as the leisure destination of choice, with Pondicherry, Manali, and Siliguri following it. The diverse travel preferences showcased the broad appeal of bus travel for both religious and leisure purposes.
Anticipating the Uncharted–
As redBus bids adieu to 2023, the platform stands on the cusp of innovation and anticipates a 2024 defined by unparalleled inclusivity & sustainability. Some of the larger travel trends expected in 2024 are:
· In the fast-approaching landscape of 2024, the intercity bus sector is poised to witness a notable surge in sustainable travel practices. An increasing number of bus operators, both state transport corporations and private entities, are embracing environmentally friendly initiatives. This includes a significant uptick in the onboarding of electric buses, marking a pivotal step towards a greener and more eco-conscious intercity travel experience.
· As travel norms continue to evolve, the bus travel industry will witness a pronounced shift towards seamless and contactless experiences in 2024. Passengers can expect an enhanced focus on technology-driven features, ensuring a frictionless journey from booking to boarding.
· There will be an increase in pilgrimage-focussed travel in 2024, given the initiatives to improve infrastructure for such destinations across the country. While pilgrimage tourism is already on the upswing, it may continue to witness growth across the country through 2024.
· In the unfolding narrative of 2024, the bus travel sector will witness a traveller’s quest for undiscovered destinations. Anticipating this trend, a surge in interest towards offbeat and culturally rich locales is bound to happen. Collaborating with local communities and operators, redBus aims to expand its offerings to include a diverse array of unique destinations, providing passengers with an immersive and enriching travel experience.