Online travel business is growing in more ways than mere ticket sales. The fact that information relating to travel is critical while making travel plans, is bringing together a large community of travel enthusiasts from across India to IndiaResortsSurvey.com (IReS), a division of Bangalore-based Leisure & Lifestyle Information Services.
Having registered over 40,000 members in its first 18 months with its ‘structured approach to w-o-m (word of mouth)’ in the travel space, IReS is looking to touch the 15 lakh-member mark in the next 24 months.
Speaking to exchange4media, Hari Nair, Co-Founder and CEO, IreS, said, “Over the last year, the idea has really taken off and a lot of new members have come in. There is a huge geometric progression aspect to this growth. From nil to 2,500 was the most difficult part. The count has gone up from 30,000 to 40,000 in just two and a half months. The target is aggressive and achievable.”
The site offers information on 1,506 leisure resorts (as of today) across the country. This includes address, telephone numbers, indicative room tariffs, and website URLs wherever available. The website’s USP is ratings on resorts by members themselves, and the number of travel buffs looking to share experiences at resorts is increasing by the day. 779 of the resorts have at least one review on them.
A lot of effort had gone into conceiving and perfecting the model, shared Nair, adding that advertising for the brand had been done almost entirely online. “Over the last year, we have gained a pretty good idea of what avenues work,” he said.
The site is now getting into cross promotions, a recent example of which was during the launch of Kingfisher Airlines. The airline offered a 10 per cent discount to all members of IReS, and the CEO claimed that 20-25 per cent of the base actually picked up the tickets and gave Kingfisher a try.
On advertisers’ response, Nair said, “Given that holiday travel is going to be a huge part of the Indian economy, we are in a good position today. There is an expanding target group with an active interest in leisure. They are the community every marketer is interested in addressing, and we have very quickly become a very relevant online advertising medium.”
A demographic break-up of this online community reveals that there are 32,190 males and 8,676 female travel enthusiasts on IReS. Of the total, 15,799 are in the age bracket of 28 to 35 years, and another 11,038 are between 22 and 27 years. Professionally, the ‘Executive – Middle’ level accounts for 11,749 members, 7,308 are ‘Executive – Senior’, while the third largest is ‘Self Employed’, of whom there are 4,587 members on IReS.
The growing member base is increasing its pressure on IReS to offer bookings on the site too. “There is intense pressure from members asking us to book on the site. Over the last 18 months, there is a huge level of trust that has been built. One of these days we might want to look at that,” added Nair.
The company surprised itself registering a profit in its first year, and is attributing part of the financial success to the timing – coming in when online advertising was taking off. While the revenue model relies heavily on advertising, there is also the books division. Offline events and promotions have been another route explored successfully in its home base of Bangalore. Such event properties are seen as complementary to its online mode of communication with members.
“There is a lot of interest in doing that. We did run an event series with restaurants in Bangalore, but we’re taking it slowly, one step at a time. There’s a fit with our base for many brands, and this helps. We’ll take event ideas to other cities in the next few months, and over a period of time, events will contribute to revenues,” shared Nair.
80 full-time employees are engaged in keeping the vibrant travel-enthusiast community occupied, and tracking every possible holiday property across the country. Owners of this big idea are in ‘advanced state of discussions’ with online travel service providers for tie-ups. A maximum of four booking agents would be frozen on, according to Nair. And though there are all kinds of requests at this point, the company is admittedly ‘a little calibrated in its approach’.
“We are clearly the leader, and we see that online and offline offerings will complement each other. We have the intent to straddle the entire gamut of travel services comprehensively, but that isn’t the focus today,” Nair said, adding, “We have fairly strong investment plans for the future.”