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Innovation is in our DNA: Jaal Shah, Group MD, Travel Designer Group

RezLive.com offers 250,000+ hotel and apartment rooms, 45,000+ sightseeing attractions and transfers in over 900 cities through its Point of Sales (POS) website, mobile app and API. Jaal Shah, Group Managing Director, Travel Designer Group shares his perspective on the current scenario of OTA business as well as his company's growth strategy. Excerpts from interview:

With the current scenario, how do you see prospect of online travel agency?

COVID-19 has dramatically altered, and the travel & tourism sector is one of the most exposed. As we consider the impact of the crises, we realize it could fundamentally alter the future of the online travel agency (OTA) business.

The challenges for online travel agency have been many, including the initial effort to address cancellations, refunds and rebooking, in many instances for little or no compensation, all of which further impacted by an amplified crisis that extends well beyond the travel industry.

While we all navigate the multiple crises that have defined 2020, what we know for certain is that the power of human connection has never been more vital. There is a positive long-term prospect of the OTA business, with emphasis on the travel agents who know their clients and provide expert consultation, making travel easier, enjoyable and more accessible. Travellers faced with uncertainty, seeks further support to navigate the changing landscape, and the role of the Travel agency becomes even more valuable and important to assist the traveller in making informed decisions.

With online travel space getting crowded every day, what is your strategy to stay ahead in the game?

Our response to these challenges depends on the strength of business fundamentals on which an organisation is found. Staying focused on these fundamentals, optimizing, and maximizing the available resources and setting up a high-performance, customer centric work culture is essential to mitigate such challenges.

Engage with customers to stay on the top of their mind: While many travel companies are slashing their budgets to minimize their expenses, they might forget that marketing is now the most important thing than ever. Travel companies should show their presence and also participate in COVID responsible behaviour.

Communication is Key: The businesses aim to assure travellers that they have taken all possible steps to ensure high quality of service and safety. To ensure this, communication, particularly marketing and positioning will be critical. Given travellers renewed interest in safety and hygiene, there will be a need to provide travellers with easily accessible, accurate and timely information and facts.

These will be some of our strategies that we will be looking into for staying ahead and continue being the preferred reservation partner.

How would you explain the present scale of your business? What is your market share in India?

RezLive.com is an international B2B online reservation system that delivers global travel content – hotel, sightseeing & activities and, transfers to travel partners.

Launched in 2007 in India, RezLive.com is the flagship product of Travel Designer Group and is one of the largest and fastest-growing online B2B travel portals in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. From a humble beginning from Ahmedabad, India, RezLive.com, today, employs more than 250 employees in 32 offices in 18 countries worldwide.

RezLive.com offers 250,000+ hotel and apartment rooms, 45,000+ sightseeing attractions and private & shared transfers in over 900 cities through its Point of Sales (POS) website, mobile app and API out, exclusively to professionals within the tourism sector.

We are focused on driving business for our partners while enriching their booking experience. We are well known for innovations, global reach, immaculate post-sales support and advanced booking interface.

India is a key strategic market for us and we have been serving our travel partners since our inception in India way back from 1999. India, which is one of the growing outbound / inbound market, plays a very important role and because of the support of our travel partners, has helped us to cement our place as one of the most preferred global travel wholesaler, wherein our sales figures are touching new milestones each passing year and we look forward to keep the same momentum in the years to come and serve our travel partners.

What are the new products which you are set to unveil in 2022? How do these help in improve the productivity and quality?

We have always gone ahead by the line “Innovation is in our DNA”. We have always set high benchmark as far as product innovation and service quality is concerned that the travel trade always looks for something new from us every year.

Our team agreed that flexibility will become the new normal and we must source inventories that are as flexible as possible. This led to a series of negotiation with our suppliers and hotel partners. Today, 90% of inventories beyond a 7-day travel window is flexible to cancel within 72 hours. 10% of inventories in similar travel window is flexible to cancel within 24 hours.

Likewise, we have studied and understood the requirements of our travel partners and are developing few updates as well as new products which will ease the process of booking. The projects are under pipeline and are getting moulded before it could be released for our partners keeping in mind how the market scenario further unfolds. We will also be looking in making the inventory even bigger than ever so that we put the whole world at the fingertips for our travel partners. 

How has been the response for your in-house e-wallet RezVAULT?

We were among the firsts to come up with our in-house e-wallet. It is a hit among our partners. The product acts as one stop solution for convenience, cashback & seamless refund with no hidden charges. Our Travel Partners are happy with the product mainly because of the ease with which the booking could be made and also the quick refund.

The best part about the travel fraternity is that they welcome new updates and products with open hands and give honest feedback which helps us to keep learning and modifying as per the needs of our partners.

What is your current network of travel agents? What is your strategy to further increase this numbers?

Our Travel Agents are one of the biggest assets we have. We aim to always be customer centric wherein our partners are happy and satisfied. Speaking about the network, we have penetrated all the metro cities in the country and also tier 1 and tier 2 cities across India. Our focus will continue growing our presence on pan India basis. Reaching out to regional market and working closely with our travel partners will remain on top of our agenda and our expansion.

Our account managers, who are the source of bringing new agents on-board, visit untapped, yet potential markets which will be of mutual benefit for both our company and for our partners. Moving forward, we believe that people will be all set for travelling and hence new travel agents will start coming up looking into the prospective market scenario. Considering this, we look forward to increasing the numbers as we believe providing service is our ultimate goal.

Reaching out to large scale of agents, across different regions will be on top of the list. Constant innovation and investing along with upgrading technologies is helping us to achieve the numbers.

Any new distribution agreements in line for 2022? Currently what is the inventory size?

We are known for having one of the largest B2B contracted inventories. To keep this going, we have a dedicated contracting team who looks into signing new distribution agreements on regular basis to offer competitive rates for the leading hotel chains across the globe.

Currently, we have 15,000+ directly contracted Hotels and we are working to penetrate more territories. Apart from direct contracts we are directly connected with leading channel managers which will even further enhances our sourcing and offering.

We have set standards in offering large availability pool to our travel partners, right from the same day of service to make reservation up to one year in advance. The state – of – the – art technology offers our partner large availability of inventory, which helps them in giving more options to their customers, resulting in higher yield and global selling. Apart from this, we also distribute our inventory over XML/APLI connectivity, which facilitates individual travel websites as well as corporate booking tools to market our products with their branding and increase their profits.

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