In an exclusive interview, Ankit Rastogi, Co-founder of the very popular travel site indiahotelreview.com shares some best practices, how hotel managers and owners can maximize this channel and the benefits.
Editor | Thank you for taking the time to interview with us at www.hospemag.com. Before anything, tell us about the venture IHR, how it all started and the story so far.
Ankit | We never really imagined we would get this big. We always wanted to as starters, but we never realized back then that it would become this big. We started IHR back in November 2006 under Vriti.com as a holiday discussion blog and only provided information about different hotels.
As an avid traveller myself, I tried to focus and spread awareness about lesser known places around the country. We would cover different places like Matralaya in Andhra Pradesh and Munnar in Kerela which although otherwise unknown, are very beautiful places. Arunachal is like the untapped Kashmir but has not been highlighted as much.
These "smaller" and relatively untouched spots are the biggest market providers for IHR today which today boasts of a large and satisfied audience.
All other travel sites cater to the usual places and the usual travelling class....however we provide travelling expiriences for the known as well as the unknown and must-visit places for all types of people. We have a variety of packages that are always flexible in all respects so that our customers never have any qualms.
Editor | How important should this channel or source of business be for hotel General Managers / Director Sales?
Ankit | IHR is most prominent player for the more than 60 budget destinations and close to 3000 hotels across India. While all other OTA's are focused on popular destinations and traditional tourism hubs and premium hotels in India IHR from day one has operated and exposed smaller geographies, interior but of high local importance places clubbed with economy range hotels and tour packages online . This has resulted in creating its own niche over the last four years where IHR provides end to end solutions for its audience at the same time operates a community for such market .
As most of the suppliers are offline being situated in small Tier-III and Tier-IV towns - IHR has been the first and foremost resource right from lead generation, branding and sales on Internet for such properties. This has not only increased their sales via IHR but directly impacted thier business position in that geography bringing in valuable online consumers in their contact.
Editor | Any best practices you could share with us. What do the the most successful hotels do online to get bookings?
Ankit | Over last 3 years we have experimented and learned a lot from the burgeoning budget segment market with changing dynamics on domestic and inbound front.Few best practices IHR has struck to as an OTA/OTC are -
1. Stick to WYSWYG - "What yo see is what you get" policy.
Unbiased reviews and City QnA on IHR help immensely in this direction.
2. Get the customers - suppliers will come automatically with best rates inturn helping to get more customers.
3. Customer care needsto be one of the most active and responsible departments on any sales Floor.
4. Destination awareness campaigns coupled with continuous product knowledge sessions are must even for the best travel professionals and well experienced staff you recruit.
5. Innovative is the key in the competitive world . IHR has been striving to provide its customers with best travel planning tools, immense no of holiday options - be it hotel or tour packages with fresh products few innovation being - Bollywood Tours, Health vacations , Hotels near Hospitals, Visual Tourist Circuits , City Wars - Popular destination comparison, Ten Best Series etc.
6. Most successful hotels have to understand the OTA/OTC are not here to compete but to compliment and Internet and mobile will be strongest medium to reach the audience.
The more and earlier hotels open up in terms of property description, details, videos and photos on Internet better it will be.
Editor | How do you see this channel evolving?
Ankit | More and more offline business will go online. Be it FIT/GIT/MICE/Groups everything is being broken down into small units with growing OTC/OTA being tested with such small units.
Consumer has maximum benefit as prices will be under control with the competition line up and margins will be under pressure for all kind of agents.
The Internet medium has unraveled and information revolution ultimately making the whole process of tour finalization and property search extremely easy and reliable for the end user.
Right now it is more on a fact finding note but eventually it will evolve as full travel assistant changing as per the behavioral pattern of consumer with matching trends and patterns.
Booking Engine will not be just about destination and dates they will transform into a auto suggest mode advising as per the preferences of the consumer scanning through volumes of data.
Editor | What can General Managers do immediately to improve or increase their online bookings?
Ankit | Immediately List on IHR :)
We have stopped doing free additions from past few months instead there are 2 options -
1. Paid - One time nominal amount.
2.Listing in lieu of limited Free room nights in the property to be listed.
General managers should start throwing un-utilized inventory at a faster pace with more innovative deals and packaging as a complete product . This may include attractive addons.
Editor | How does one list on www.indiahotelreview.com?
Ankit | All listing inquiries can be mailed to email@example.com with subject line as "Addhotel"