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Expedia earmarks Rs 50 crores for marketing in India

Vikram Malhi, GM, South and Southeast Asia for Expedia, talks about the OTA market in India and Expedia’s products offerings

How has the overall performance been for your company in terms of bookings? What do you expect from the remaining months of 2013?

We have seen huge potential in the country with triple digit growth since our entry. Last year, we launched the first integrated brand campaign ‘Expedia. One word for travel’, that helped us increase our brand awareness and also doubled site shoppers. This year we have earmarked a budget of Rs 50 crores for our marketing campaign ‘Be the neighbour who travels’ that highlighted the fact that, with Expedia, you can be the neighbour who travels with availability of 18,000 live deals at any given time.  It’s been three months since we have launched the campaign and have received a very good response for bookings. We are expecting the momentum to continue the same way and achieve triple digit growth in 2013.

What technological innovations did you bring to the industry in the last couple of years? What new technologies/products are you going to unveil in 2013?

Expedia has always been the technology leader in the OTA space and we have always aimed at customising our solutions and innovations as per the demands of our consumers. Also, Indians are very good deal hunters. Keeping all these factors in mind, we have developed specialised products for the Indian market which have now become an industry standard. Some of them include Build Your Trip, which enables evolved travellers to customise and design their own trip; the 72 Hr Sale, which features  Best-in-class deals and discounts of up to 50 per cent on hotel reservations; Deal Hunter, which gives travellers a chance to receive upto 70 per cent discounts on hotel tariffs; Last Minute Deals which provide travelers with 20 to 50 per cent off, or free nights, at top quality hotels; and Expedia Travel App, an app to help customers find hotels closest to you, shows their prices, and allows you book a room.

What are the top trends in travel technology this year?

Mobile bookings - A survey of mobile internet users by Vizisense, the online audience and ad measurement platform, threw up insights on what consumers do online which found that of all the things travel consist of 18% of regular activities done on internet.

Social Media - Social Media these days is playing an Important Role In travel Decisions globally. As per a study conducted by Text 100 revealed ; Of people surveyed under the age of 34, 87 per cent use Facebook for travel inspiration and more than half More than half also use Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms for inspiration.

Customising the trip – Consumers today have a lot to choose from when it comes to customized options, with options like flights plus hotels and last minute deals, consumers have the option to use technology as the medium to save money and get the best possible deals available.

What trends do you see shaping the next generation of travel?

Domestic travel for festivals; Travelling to newer lesser known destinations; Taking up jobs that help you travel for free ; and big movie destination travel such as movie inspired travelling are the key trends.

Going forward, how do you think the evolution of mobile and social media will continue to change the travel industry landscape?

As travel distribution migrates, mobile represents the next wave of customer connection and booking. Worldwide, India is only second to China in number of mobile subscribers – 864.72 million as of December 2012, suggesting an extremely promising future in m- commerce.

As far as online shopping and social media influence on it is concerned, in the year 2011- 2012, consumer interest in online shopping in India grew 128 percent compared to only 40 percent previous year. According to a research by SteelHouse- 55 per cent of consumers share their purchases socially on facebook, Twitter, Pinterset and other social sites. Also, a survey by Text 100 revealed that more than 70 per cent of travelers have used social media to inspire their holidays and base their eventual choices on friends’ recommendations (52 per cent) and convenience (42 per cent); the figures clearly represent the wide scope social media has to offer.

A traveller today has so many options to book online. Which is the booking method that is gaining most traction?

In the metro cities, where everybody is heading towards the wired way of living, online booking is witnessing a great response and bookings have been rising substantially over the last few years. However, in tier ii & tier iii cities, people still find booking through travel agents an easier more reliable and thus in order to tap that segment, OTAs tie up with such travel agents who book online to meet the need of their consumers. In the beginning of this year, Expedia strengthened its TAAP (Travel Agents Affiliate program) by tying up with Track India so as distribute our global inventory to travel agents / tour operators and that in turn helps us reach out to end consumers in those cities.

What is your vision about the Indian travel and tourism industry? How do you perceive the next couple of years?

Travel for Indians is no longer a luxury but a need. The Indian traveller is now becoming more aware and is ready to explore new destinations and trends. As per industry reports, Indian outbound tourist departure is expected to reach 20.5 Million by 2015. Also, with its vast cultural diversity and visual beauty, India as a destination has a great potential to top the charts for top International destinations in the coming years. International tourist arrival in India is expected to grow with a CAGR of 7.9 per cent for the period Spanning 2010-2015.

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