Redesigning the travel product for a local audience,
developing new customer acquisition strategies, consolidation and dealing with
Google – those were among the topics discussed Thursday by online travel
leaders during two panel discussions at WebinTravel Travel Zero.0.
Speaking with WebinTravel founder and editor Yeoh Siew Hoon, Expedia Group president of travel partners Cyril Ranque says travel recovery will require governments
to work together to create consistent protocols with speedy COVID-19 testing “so
the 90% [of people] that are not sick get a free pass” that will open up more international
“If we rely only on domestic, we
have an industry that works on only half of its cylinders, maybe less,” Ranque says.
whether they expect to see more consolidation and contraction in the industry,
both Ranque and Agoda CEO John Brown say yes.
says it’s natural that when valuations go down, some larger players will “see
bargains” they want to pick up, but he also believes healthy competition is
here to stay.
“The circle of life and of death unfortunately
in online travel is very much alive and well. That’s obviously the way that it
should be,” Brown says.
we do well when we have more competitors in the industry. We do better by our customers,”
agrees, saying the smaller players are critical ingredients to maintaining “the
richness of the industry.”
we end up with an industry that has half the players as it had before, then we
are in bad shape. The product itself that we offer to customers becomes less interesting,
it lacks diversity, it lacks opportunity,” Ranque says.
Personalized service, localized products
asked how OTAs can offer consumers a better proposition than Google, which is
regularly adding new travel products, Brown says it comes down to customer
“Google does a couple of great
things at scale, but a lot of the personal bespoke service that you need as a customer
and that you also need as a hotel is only something your friendly neighborhood OTA
is going to be able to offer,” he says.
that’s what we are in the market doing day after day. And that’s the one thing that
Google has been unwilling or unable to do.”
an earlier panel discussion, Ixigo co-founder and CEO Aloke Bajpai and
Traveloka chief marketing officer Christian Suwarna both say they are seeing
traction in providing that type of personalized service and products for
Bajpai says in 2019, Ixigo launched its app in eight Indian
languages to be able to serve users across the country, and that strategy is
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“Almost 65% of our users now come from tier two, three and
four towns,” he says.
“What we are seeing is that that part of the market is
actually bouncing back much faster than the tier one towns because there is a
lot of utility travel, a lot of essential travel to keep the economy up and
Suwarna says Traveloka is focusing on its “greatest strength,”
- its inventory of more than one million accommodations of all types, across
cities of all sizes. And the Indonesian OTA, where Suwarna is also CEO of Traveloka Experience, has added very locally focused
experiences with suppliers such as neighborhood restaurants and children’s
And with travel volume down, Suwarna says the company is now
focusing on strengthening its relationship with past customers rather than initiating
costly acquisition campaigns – although it secured $250 million in late July.
“We realize that, now that we are
spending more thriftily and more carefully, we have been acquiring and serving
millions of customers in the past, and I think we could do better at engaging
them,” he says.
“I think in this circumstance like
today we can rely back on our technology to invigorate those relationships with
good CRM and many of our own media assets.”
Bajpai says Ixigo has never had a
big marketing budget, so it has learned to be creative.
In recent years the company has gained
attention for its humorous marketing videos – including one designed like a
Super Mario video game to explain COVID travel policies. Bajpai says that
strategy of creating entertaining but informative video content has helped the
Indian OTA remain relevant in the mind of consumers even if they are not
“Our insight there is that today
you get more reach within 24 hours on social media if you have viral content than
you can buy on TV after spending even $2 million for the day,” Bajpai says.