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Online travel market fast catching up

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Online travel market provides the customer sophisticated retail and shopping experience.

The Indian online travel market has crossed the $2 billion-mark in 2008, attracting a number of national and international visitors. It is also providing the customer a sophisticated online retail and shopping experience.

With the advent of Internet, consumers are able to find the most suitable package, including the best hotel to stay, at best price through the online. While the online travel industry is dominated by online travel agencies (OTA) such as MakeMyTrip, Travelocity and Yatra, and airline companies like Kingfisher, Jet, IndiGo and Sprice Jet, there is a new type of travel site emerging — travel “meta-search” engine.

A “travel meta-search engine” is a search engine that sends user requests to multiple search engines and/or travel suppliers and aggregates the results into a single list or displays them according to their source or ticket price. The term meta-search is used to describe the paradigm of searching multiple data sources in real-time.

Here is one such search engine, Sprice.com. Interacting with The Hindu, Vikas Gulati, Vice-President (Marketing), Asia Pacific Region, Sprice.com, said that with the strong growth of Internet penetration and rising income levels of middle class, the demand for such meta-search engines was growing.

He said it was clear that the brick and mortar model of travel agencies would not vanish. These agencies catered to a separate target audience who would continue to demand human touch and advice for travel deals and services, he added. As a result, both offline and online would co-exist. The travel market would get expanded in both online and offline areas. Value proposition, convenience, younger mind and other factors would lead the online travel market to grow, he added.

Revenue model

Mr. Gulati said online travel contributed 70 per cent of all e-commerce activities globally. The total travel market was $25 billion and India accounted for only $2 billion. Globally, it was expected to grow 25-30 per cent year-on-year.

On the revenue model, he said when a customer searches for hotel deals on Sprice.com, he/she would be directed to a list of results. Once any of the offer links were selected and clicked on, the user would be directed to the respective OTA’s website for booking. The revenue was generated through advertisement.

“Every time a click for information leads to any OTA’s website, revenue would be generated from that particular OTA. However, there was a separate pricing for each product that was sought for by a customer”.

Mr. Gulati said the meta-search engine market in the U.S. and Europe was quite matured as compared to the Asian market.

Meta-search engines contributed a large percentage of its revenue to the total travel industry. The revenue from the U.S. market through the meta-search engine was 15 per cent to the total and that from Europe 10 per cent. The search engine was quite popular in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe.

About his company (Sprice.com), he said it was launched to operate in the travel meta-search engine segment by introducing a real-time deep search technology and offered travellers up-to-date information from different travel suppliers on air fares and hotel rates.

Sprice.com was a leader in Europe and had launched a dedicated travel search engine for India.

Unlike online travel agencies (OTAs), Sprice.com was not an online booking engine. It displayed not only fare information but also taxes, surcharges, and all-inclusive prices, all on a single screen. After finding the most suitable travel offer, holiday-goers can access the relevant vendor website with a single click to make a booking.

Hotel application

Mr. Gulati said Sprice.com offered three factors such as real-time search engine, user generated content and simple-to-use design. The company has recently launched hotel application in India, which allows the user to search for hotels for stay. He said, so far, the company had 150 clients globally and about 80 in the Asia Pacific region. As far as page views were concerned, it was close to four million in the Asia Pacific region and 1.5 million in India.

The global revenue was $3 million during 2008 and in the current year, it was expected to be 30-40 per cent more than last year, he added.

Sprice.com revenue comes from two different businesses. First, from consumers who directly log on to Sprice.com search engine and the second through indirect login into various other portals such as orange and sify.com. The company was also planning to tie-up with various mobile companies for marketing Sprice.com


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