In an interview with ET, TripAdvisor’s country manager, shared some insights about the Online Travel business in India.
According to Nikhil Ganju, Online Travel Agents (OTA) are losing their business to airlines. How? People are going directly to the websites of the popular airlines & buying tickets as they are comparatively cheaper than buying through agents.
Ganju feels the only way to combat this crisis is to add benefits for the customer. Customers today want entire management of travel planning at a single place. If the travel portals can offer them the advantage of a single-window approach, maybe they won’t head towards the airlines’ website. A while ago Cleartrip added booking of local transportation after booking for flights. Such benefits are vital to hold on to a customer.
Social media is also influencing the way travelers are planning their trips. Hence the site has bet big via the social networking sites which the Indians are crazy about. Spreading the brand message via fans can garner business. Carefully understanding the needs of the modern travelers & offering personalized travel plans will help TripAdvisor grow, feels Ganju.
How should other OTAs tackle the problem of losing customers to airlines’ websites? Airlines only offer cheaper fares. TripAdvisor has partnered with Jet Airways & Kingfisher airlines to give additional frequent flier miles to its customers thereby avoiding the price-war. Additionally, airlines cannot offer added benefits like Hotel bookings, local deals & transportation. If travel companies can collaborate with daily deal sites, which anyways are losing customers, they can carve a niche for themselves. Customers will then surely prefer a website that caters to their needs & not just advertise heavily.
TripAdvisor entered India over 4 years ago & had set an agenda to garner quality content & reviews for its visitors. Having tie-ups with over 18,000 hotels, TripAdvisor can easily offer trustworthy feedback about them.
Having an overall grip on the requirements of the customers & help them decide with accurate details will boost chances of travel companies survive this threat too.