Tourism sector logs onto travel-guide sites


NEW DELHI: The $2-billion online travel industry is getting crowded. After various travel portals trying to woo holiday makers to book on their website, it’s user review websites such as HolidayIQ and Trippundit that are mushrooming. These sites don’t sell holiday packages or tickets but tell you more about holiday destinations—what to see, what to do, where to stay et al.

Global majors are eyeing this travel information space too. TripAdvisor, a sister concern of Expedia, the $20-billion travel company will soon foray in the Asia Pacific region, with it’s India website. Sharat Dhall, MD of Expedia’s booking portal, which launched it’s India operations in March this year, will now be heading TripAdvisor. Meanwhile Expedia is looking at shifting it’s India operations to Singapore or Hong Kong.

So, if last few years witnessed travel portals such as Makemytrip, Yatra, Cleartrip, Travelguru, Indiatimes Travel, Sabeer Bhatia promoted Arzoo and others closing up to the travelling netizens, it’s the travel communities and travel information websites which are targeting them now. One of the reasons for mushrooming of these websites is the fact that while India’s travel market is burgeoning, not many travellers book online, but do use the internet for their research.

User content websites which have hotel reviews and destination information generate revenues from advertisements and tour operators to whose websites they are directed for bookings. HolidayIQ founder and CEO Hari Nair explains the rationale for this model, “Though revenues are higher for travel booking portals, margins are thin. Whereas in the case of websites generating user content, revenues are low but margins higher.” HolidayIQ has 150,000 registered users and around four lakh visitors per month.

Adds an Indiatimes official, “Though some websites like ours are making money, for many smaller travel portals it’s difficult to make money, therefore new entrants are positioning as travel information websites rather than a booking site,” And to keep in sync with the trend, Indiatimes is also looking at introducing published and user generated content on the website.

Another community-based website which recently launched in India is Trippundit, targeting inbound tourists. The website also features various deals from travel agents. Says co-founder of Tripundit Sanjay Sharma, “The market is competitive with many other well funded websites with a similar model eyeing the India market.” But business heads are ready to test waters in the market which they feel holds great potential. TripAdvisor being a good example which is optimistic about it’s India foray.