Variety

Holiday m@kers

Nivedita Ganguly | Updated on: Jan 31, 2013
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Indians are holidaying with a new energy and shopping online for the best deal possible.A new breed of travelpreneurs sees this as its ticket to success.

Enough already of the whistle-stop tours. Hop into a luxury boat to reach your dream lake-palace in the deserts of Rajasthan or dive into the underwater wonders of the oceans.

Tourism today is increasingly along the path less taken, characterised by a desire to uncover diverse facets of the world.

The evolved Indian traveller now wants to prepare his/her own itinerary, browse a plethora of travel Web sites to unearth never-before dream destinations and fulfil the craziest of travel desires..

Consider this: In 2001, 4.5 million Indians holidayed overseas; in 2011, the number swelled to 14.2 million. Domestic travel boomed too — from 270 million in 2002, the number of travellers soaking in the splendour of Indian destinations zoomed to 851 million in 2011.

The land of tigers and temples is attracting foreign tourists too, though at an unimpressive rate; from 5.08 million in 2007, the number of inbound tourists grew to 6.3 million in 2011.

According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, by 2020 an estimated 15 million Indians will travel abroad. India is also expected to be among the world’s top five aviation markets by 2020, and the third in terms of domestic travel after the US and China.

Ahoy, travelpreneur

These figures have perked up the travel trade. “People interested in investing in the travel space and starting their own enterprise will look at these statistics. The potential is huge in the Indian travel space,” says Sesh Seshadri, General Manager, Lonely Planet — India.

Currently pegged at $25 billion, the travel industry in India is buzzing with a new energy — online travel portals now command nearly 80 per cent of the e-commerce market. With 20 per cent year-on-year growth, the online travel space is attracting many new players.

Shan Gehlot, a 29-year-old IITian, is one such young entrepreneur who sees online travel as his ticket to success.

Immersion is in

He set up myindianstay.com in 2011, targeting the young, urban traveller eager to soak in the sights and smells of a place — be it a Portuguese house-stay in Goa or a plush villa in Rajasthan. “Travelling in India can be very enriching. My idea was to offer Indian travellers a peek into the lives of locals, see how they live, and enjoy the local cuisine,” says Gehlot. The site also connects property owners with travellers.

A passionate traveller himself, he says few travel sites offer in-depth perspective about the different places. “When I was travelling in Istanbul, I came to know about the oldest shop of the place, which had ancient artefacts, but only through interacting with the locals. No travel book gave me such details. I wanted to bridge this gap when I started my own Web site,” he says.

Luxury on the go

Besides experiential travel, online e-commerce is also witnessing big demand for luxury travel. “With the growing Internet penetration in the country, the online travel industry is booming. A lot of the next-generation travel experts have started to think out of the box,” says Abhishek Dadlani, CEO and Founder of Lushescapes.

The former banker set up the company in 2008, with operations in India and the UAE, targeting high networth individuals globally for its travel offerings in 55 destinations.

“The move for me was a natural career progression. The fact that the elite travel industry was worth $4 billion and growing at 15 per cent year on year, drew me to this sector. Moreover, when I first started considering the start-up route, there were not many specialised travel companies in the luxury space. So I decided to start one,” he says.

Eco-friendly tourist

Lonely Planet ’s Seshadri sees good revenue potential in ‘thematic travel’, including concepts such as Green holidays or trekking holidays.

‘Journeys with a Meaning’, for instance, is a travel group offering specialised tours to foster nuanced perspectives on earth-friendly living, conscious travel and social entrepreneurship. Set up by a bunch of travel enthusiasts, the company organises visits to organic farms around the country or other community-based projects.

The openness to try newer holiday and stay choices has prompted Sid Narang, a 29-year-old investment banker, to set up a travel Web site called RatedApartments.com.

Room for change

“We saw a large number of holiday rental and serviced apartment companies come up in the wake of the real estate crisis. They had excellent products, and there was a captive audience for it,” he says. For instance, families looking for accommodation larger than a hotel room, and business travellers seeking turnkey accommodation (for shorter-duration stay) when relocating to a new city. “However, what was lacking was an efficient marketplace that could bring these two together. This is where we thought a scalable, algorithm-based online marketplace like RatedApartments could play a useful part,” he says, pegging the market at $48 billion.

From a 20th Century Kerala wooden house to a swanky apartment in Manhattan, New York, the Web site offers a range of stay options for travellers eager to steer clear of the stiffness of luxury hotels.

The global slowdown has sent several international serviced apartment operators to the Indian market over the past four years including Oakwood (Pune, Bangalore), Bridgestreet (Bangalore, New Delhi, and Mumbai), House of Modern Living (Gurgaon) and Ascott (New Delhi).

Apart from the passion, travelpreneurs also need to keep an eye on revenue. Any travel start-up requires at least two to three years to break even, says Gehlot of myindianstay.com. “The online travel industry is a big unorganised sector. One should have a lot of commitment for the enterprise to work. You learn every day when you are in the business.”

Published on January 31, 2013
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