Hari Nair, Founder and CEO, HolidayIQ, speaks with T3 about the growing trend of online travel reviews and the next step for the company
HolidayIQ.com is doubling in size every six to nine months. Holiday booking enquiries grew massively on HolidayIQ in 2012, and we have seen the transaction value of booking enquiries and hotel searches on the website increase from Rs 20 crores in December 2011 to Rs 250 crores in December 2012. Currently, over 50 lakh travellers visit the site every month. The number of travellers reading reviews have gone up by 231 per cent while the average time spent reading reviews has gone up by 30 per cent. Furthermore, the number of reviews on HolidayIQ has increased 24 times and the average budget per person per night has gone up by 34 per cent.
We have just launched a hotel advertising product. Typically, hotels spend a lot of money on advertising and still do not reach the target audience. We have come up with a solution for them to advertise better at a lower cost. The ad will be delivered only to those who are going to a tourist destination where any particular property is situated. This way, they can reach their target audience without overspending on advertising.
Two months ago, we launched an innovative transportation product that provides information regarding various modes of transportation to Indian travellers. India is a very large country so it is hard to find a suitable mode of transportation to certain remote tourist destinations. Our new product suggests the best mode of transportation in these regions. The content is generated from our users. We are also working on mobile innovations and will work on further spreading the culture of reviews. We want to empower the smart Indian traveller by offering meaningful and relevant information.
The new Indian traveller is cash–rich, time poor and looking for a unique holiday experience. They are also ready to spend more on their holiday and expect value for the money spent. Few trends observed include a rise of online research for vacations and travel in general; a gradual rise of online bookings and continual offline booking as well following online research; an increased interest in consuming feedback from other travellers and a strong interest in lesser-known destinations and unique/alternative accommodation in India.
We get around five million visits per month and we reached this scale with minimal marketing initiatives as majority of the site traffic came through direct marketing, word of mouth, referrals, etc. However, over the next 24 months, we will look at marketing our products aggressively to become stronger players in the industry, leveraging mainly the online marketing platform. We recently launched our hiq!PAD programme aimed at encouraging and increasing Indian travellers to post hotel reviews. The hiq!PAD is a tablet device provided to hotels wherein the guests can post their reviews which will immediately reach us. The cost of installation of the device per hotel is between Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000. We are already running a pilot with 100 hotels in Go and are targeting 5000 hotels pan-India by April 2015.