Bali, Jaipur, New York, Paris or Cairo, no exotic destination remains out of reach for the Indian traveller. Traveling for leisure has become a norm, and where there is money to be spent, there is money to be made. Travel agents and holiday providers in India have for some time been tapping into the new found curiousity of the Indian traveller. Every type of package from spa holidays and destinations for the family to budget travel, have takers in India, where increasing incomes has led to the middle class turning explorers. And those in the industry are prepared to take care of every need of the Indian traveller. This article takes a look at the trends that are currently making waves in the travel sector and strategies by travel companies to cash in on this trend.
Quick getaways: A travel trend that is very evident over recent times is shorter holidays at different destinations through the year. Changing lifestyle is an important reason for this shift from long annual breaks. “Increase in disposable income, improved accessibility to destinations, introduction of flights and finally, the feeling that it is important to take breaks to rejuvenate,” are some of the reasons says Karan Anand, head – relationship and supplier management at Cox and Kings, holiday service provider. Their weekend getaways are popular. For instance, you could cool off at Munnar for as little as Rs. 3,000 per person (without airfare) or cross the seas for a six day break in Malaysia and Singapore for Rs. 50,000. Packages make for convenient no fuss holidays, where everything is taken care of and all you need to do is show up.
Media exposure: The Indian traveller’s curiosity also seems to be piqued by media exposure. “Nowadays, more Indians want to travel and it can be attributed to various reasons like the emergence of television channels like Discovery Travel & Living and magazines such the Lonely Planet,” says Yogi Shah, co – founder, The BackPacker Co. Anthony Bourdain’s gastronomic adventures on Discovery Travel and Living and the budget concept on No Big Deal, NDTV Good Times, make inexperienced travellers crave for the ultimate travel adventure.
Vacation ownership: Companies that specialise in vacation ownership provide travellers resort-like amenities at several locations around the country and now the world. This concept usually attracts those with a family, whose holiday breaks are predetermined. Ramesh Ramanathan, managing director, Mahindra Holidays & Resort India (Mahindra Holidays), further indicates, “With an understanding of holidaying habits, Mahindra Holidays is set to launch new products in the coming quarters. These products are designed to cater different age and income segments.”
Competing forces, multiple options
Limitless destinations, budget options and over 500 million Indian travellers every year, can spell just one thing for holiday providers – fierce competition. The crux of selling a holiday is first and foremost, the delivery of good customer service. Anand emphasizes on Cox and Kings’ policy of transparency, “When a customer walks through our door we do not sell him the most expensive package. Our travel counsellors first understand his requirements and suggest destinations and itineraries depending on their interests and also the budget.” Mahindra Holidays prides itself on a standard of quality and experience at their resorts, while the Backpacker Co.’s unique selling proposition is ‘experience-based travel’, travel that is less structured and something that appeals to the younger generation.
Needless to say, marketing strategies adopted are aimed at maintaining their share in the market and exploring the unexplored . For instance, a typical traveller is always on the look out for a great deal but at the same time does not desire unexplored destinations like South Africa, Ireland, Finland and Cyprus. Cox and Kings tapped into this paradox by giving away a multitude of free holidays to these destinations. But, perhaps their most interesting strategy has been their money back offers. Offers such as their 200 per cent cash back offer where the winners got 100 per cent of their money back and a free holiday the year after, stirred market interest in these as well as other destinations.
Vacation ownership companies have another type of challenge entirely. Their aim is to sell not only a vacation, but, an investment opportunity as well. Mahindra Holidays is a leading player in this sector and while they employ traditional marketing and advertising strategies to sell memberships, they also indulge in ‘permission marketing’. As Ramanathan puts it, “We conduct sales presentations at homes of the prospective customer through direct and franchisee sales teams. In addition, we make presentations at direct and franchisee retail centres called Club Mahindra Holiday World located at shopping malls and at our resort locations.”
On the other hand, The Backpacker Co. is all about uninhibited travel and they employ a gen-next marketing strategy to entice travellers. “We use social media tools like Facebook and have formed a ‘thebackpackerco’ group where single travellers can meet up with other like minded travellers and plan their trips,” explains Shah. In addition, emphasis on exotic trails, meeting like minded travel buddies and safety have given this organisation a distinct edge.
Delivery, the key
While marketing a holiday is a challenge in itself, delivering on that holiday is even more important. It not only ensures more business from the same source, but, new customers as well. For Mahindra Holidays customer satisfaction is a big challenge with everyone wanting their money’s worth. And to give their customers a more than satisfying experience, the company has invested in various facilities such as spas, gourmet dining and clubs for children at their resorts, to ensure that there is something for every member of the family.
It is also equally important to identify one’s unique selling proposition for their target market. For instance, Backpacker’s USP is that it provides a service that essentially fills a void that existed in the Indian travel market. Shah shares, “We are focused on the Indian outbound backpacker and a lot of people who have either sent in their enquiries or traveled with us are of the opinion that there was a gap in the market for services such as ours.”
The challenge of selling a holiday to an enthusiastic tourist lies more in fighting off competition than in actually convincing a potential customer. And perhaps the best way to ensure that business stays healthy is to build up an army of loyal customers. As the old adage goes, the proof is in the pudding, and with a holiday, simple and utter satisfaction is the only real way to ensure that a customer seeks you out again.