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Quick five with HolidayIQ’s Hari Nair

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Quick five with HolidayIQ’s Hari Nair

HolidayIQ is India’s largest holiday information portal, enabling travellers to discover numerous vacation choices, plan holiday trips in detail, and share holiday experiences with millions of other travellers. With more than 10 lakh registered members, around 30,000 hotels listed on the website with 1,500 destinations and 15000 attractions, HolidayIQ is one of the largest travel communities in India. The website gets 30 lakh unique monthly visitors every month.

In conversation with exchange4media, Hari Nair, Founder and CEO, HolidayIQ talks about the travel and tourism industry, the online advantage, and catering to the smart Indian traveller.

Please track the evolution of the travel industry in India. What are the changes you perceive in the ways the Indian traveller has utilised the online space to address his travel needs over the years?
The growth of the domestic tourist: Indian tourism is now about Indians travelling within India or going abroad, not foreigners coming to India.
Tourists are open to exploring: Strong interest in lesser-known destinations and unique / alternative accommodation in India
Rise of online research: Massive increase in online research for vacations and travel in general
Gradual rise of online bookings: Continuing to book offline as well after online research
Emergence of review culture: Big interest in consuming feedback from other travellers.

What are the challenges and the potential of the Indian travel and tourism market over the next five years?
HolidayIQ estimates that India’s tourism markets will double every three-four years. There is an increasing interest in outbound travel. Holiday bookings are growing massively on HolidayIQ; we have seen the transaction value on the website go up from Rs 20 crore in November 2011 to Rs 200 crore in November 2012. Currently, over 50 lakh travellers visit the site every month.

The growth within the last one year:
Number of travellers reading reviews has gone up by 231 per cent
Average time spent reading reviews has gone up by 30 per cent
Number of reviews on HolidayIQ has increased by 24 times
Average budget per person per night has gone up by 34 per cent

What were the reasons and deciding factors that made you pick the two – travel and the online space – to begin your venture in 2004?
I have been fascinated with the world of travel, tourism and hospitality for a very long time. My first career as a Management Consultant and Project Finance professional allowed me to travel quite a bit around India and around the world. It whetted my appetite for more. Having set up HolidayIQ, I am now steeped in the tourism world – and enjoying every minute of it.

Previously, there was very little information about domestic holidays and the average traveller had extremely poor options. Most travel agents in India would typically offer to their customers’ holidays in about 10 to 15 top destinations and stay in less than 1,000 hotels all over the country. These hotels had a captive market and always sold their inventory praising it to the heavens. When the traveller spent his hard earned money and visited a bad hotel expecting it to be good, there would often be frustration at having spent the money badly. This was rampant until HolidayIQ came along. Our website provides feedback from travellers on almost 30,000 hotels, resorts, camps, home-stays and guesthouses, spread across over 1,000 tourism destinations in India. Now people know what to expect, that too from authentic feedback of other similar travellers.  During vacations, whatever time you have is important for recharging yourself and you don't want to waste it looking for different things such as the quality of food and lodging at various hotels. This is the need that HolidayIQ fills in as a travel community site.

In recent years, Indians have begun travelling more. In your opinion, which is the TG that the travel industry should now focus on? What are the medium that they should take advantage of to capture and cater to this audience?
There are on an estimate 800 million domestic trips per year and in the outbound market 14.5 million Indians travelled abroad last year.

The smart Indian traveller is generally below 40 years of age and prefers some activities while on holidays. He/she is likely to be from Mumbai / Delhi / Bangalore; but almost equally likely to be from Tinsukia, Jamshedpur or Pathanamthitta. Spread across India, today’s travellers are looking for a unique experience in a holiday, is short on time, wants to save time in booking, travel and spend it with family.

What are your focus areas for 2013?
We want to massively scale up our audience from the current level of around five million per month to over 10 million in the next 12 months. We are also working on mobile innovations and will work on further spreading the culture of reviews. We want to empower the smart Indian traveller by offering meaningful and relevant information.

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