In India, an estimated 11% of total travel bookings take place online. The figure is expected to rise to 25% by 2010, indicating a huge opportunity for online marketing.
Travel portals and hotel chains, till date, have been providing 360 degree virtual tours, audio tours and photographs, apart from text reviews. Such reviews, however, often do not fully capture the look, feel and vibes of a place or a hotel.
Sensing this lacuna, they are now going a step further — marketing the concept through videos, video reviews and video blogs — either put up by themselves or travellers on the travel agency portal or any other social media video platform like YouTube and AOL Video.
All big global chains routinely upload videos of their interiors, etc., on their websites. Indian travel portals and hotel chains too are beginning to follow in the footsteps, but only a handful of them have a video section. A case in point is that of Cleartrip.com which introduced ‘Cleartrip Videos' this May.
The section features short videos created by amateur filmmakers who participated in the Short Flicks festival organised by Cleartrip in France. The videos showcase favourite restaurants, places and quaint facts.
Vikas Jawa, director, Zoomtra.com, an India-based travel search engine,concurs: "Hotel videos or videos of tourist attractions are popular choices of viewing. Global studies suggest that pictorial/video representations are rated as high as the second- most important factor in making a hotel decision only after the written description of the hotel (barring price and location)."
Two-thirds of online adult leisure travellers in the US consume online video and audio clips, notes a recent research by The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.
Experts from the travel industry note that the largest category posting or viewing video content is between 18 and 29 years old, meaning leisure travellers are most likely to buy value products, unlike business travellers.
Nikhil Rungta, marketing chief, Yatra.com, says: "As people are becoming comfortable with online booking, marketing through videos will gain momentum. Videos might not generate the compulsive feeling to buy a product, but definitely help the buyer in making a choice between various options on his mind."
Yatra has a separate review site Raahi.com on which it has put hotel and travel videos and will enable uploading and downloading for users in a few months time.
Galileo, a US-based global travel and technology distribution company too — following the success of its Galileo PodCast programme launched in a move to reach to its target audience in India this June — plans to launch a Video PodCast by the year-end.
Travellers who post their video reviews on these sites and travel portals too benefit. For instance, www.tripr.tv (a global video portal) allows travel enthusiasts to publish video reviews of hotels and when a video results in a booking, the traveller receives a commission fee.
"The travel industry is also using social media monitoring solutions, which reviews blog sites, video-sharing sites, and opinion forums. As such solutions gain traction, this may be one of the more effective ways to approach social search marketing for travel industry in general," explains Jaideep Ghosh, director, KPMG Advisory Services.
He notes, though, that trends in India are slightly different. Travel portals here are establishing physical retail outlets to complement their online presence.
For instance, Yatra.com has complemented its online reach to larger user base through its own yatra-lounges and tie ups with telecom retail and cybercafes such as Reliance Communications outlets, Sify i-way and Hughes NetFusion and even through mobile phone applications.
This, he notes, is to capture a larger portion of potential user groups, as well as to achieve higher conversion rate. He points out that even internationally, browsing of travel portals versus actual sales is roughly in the ratio 2:1.