Travel and tourism is considered the largest service industry in India. US-based travel portal Expedia, which has been operating in India for two years now, is set to launch a campaign in February 2011, joining the ranks of local leaders like Cleartrip and MakeMyTrip.
Expedia had been running a .co.in site for two years now, mostly gathering information and understanding the ground situation in India, said Dan Lynn, VP and MD, Asia Pacific at Expedia. “We are finally ready to go for the real launch. We have a very strong network of ties both globally and now domestically, which is why we can offer our customers better rates and better service than any of the other players.”
The company will spend Rs 25 crore on a branding campaign, which will kick off on February 12, 2011, and this is just the first stage of their plans for India. The company will be advertising on a number of websites, such as Yahoo, MSN India, In.com, and also on a number of print publications, including the Economic Times and Lonely Planet India. Besides this, they will be doing a lot of outdoor promotion, billboards, radio taxis, and trolleys at airports in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
In this way, the company plans to ensure that the maximum number of people are aware of them, and then, through user experience, build a deeper relationship.
Lynn further said, “The majority of travel in India is in the domestic sector and that is something we are taking very seriously. We have tied up with over 2,500 hotels and have formed links with all the carriers as well, so that we can compete on price with the local players. But more than that, we bring in a lot of service that others don’t.”
He explained, “The online customer is a little less conservative than the offline buyer, less likely to visit the same place twice in a row, or buy a pre-packaged tour. But packages are where the real savings come to customers. So, we enable them to go deal hunting, to put together packages themselves, and get the most out of the experience.”
More than that though, the company needs to innovate to be able to stand out in a cluttered category. Lynn said, “As an overall industry, e-commerce is growing healthily, and as infrastructure improves and 3G rolls out, this will only improve. So, through gradual iterative improvements, there is still scope for growth. The real growth for us, or any other company, will come through innovation. We are looking at mobile and social platforms, and while we haven’t got any concrete plans yet, we are still working on them and will be making more announcements about them in a few months.”
When asked about MakeMyTrip’s Blackberry application, Lynn said, “Yes, that’s a good step, that’s the kind of stuff we’re thinking of. But we haven’t done that yet, because we want to take things a little further. We want to actively connect with the users, and give them access to service beyond just bookings. We want to be able to give the user options which place the online service as a lot better than a telephonic, or brick and mortar set-up. The technology offers so much more scope for improved service, and we want to be the ones to deliver on that.”