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Tuesday, 08 May, 2018, 12 : 28 PM [IST]

‘Seller empowerment through analytics support is a big theme for us’

In the past few years there has been a gradual focus being accorded to hotel bookings by online travel agents and Cleartrip is no different. Ankit Rastogi, Vice President – Hotels, Cleartrip in an interaction with talks about penetration of online hotel booking space, customer engagement, dynamic pricing, rate parity and the mobile platform.
QWhat is your strategy to drive this vertical considering all the online players are now increasingly looking at hotel bookings as an attractive choice at a time when revenues from ticketing have dwindled drastically compared to the early years of their inception?
We take pride in being the choicest OTA for value-inclined customers. These consumers are quality- seekers who are using our clean UI (User Interface)/UX (User Experience Design) to find properties that meet their evolved tastes and sensibilities, and have a much higher propensity to spend at the property. All of this plays a part in driving long-term consumer loyalty and maximising business opportunities for both Cleartrip and its partner hotels. Also, the accommodation space is still evolving and the penetration of online is still below 20%. At the same time tourism is growing leaps and bounds in India. All these together provide a wide play field for Cleartrip. Seller empowerment through heightened analytics support on consumer preferences and behaviour is a big theme at Cleartrip.

QElaborate on your customer acquisition and retention policy.
Our approach has been to go aggressive and focus on value proposition - this has led to introducing innovative products like Instant Search, Shortlists and Tagging.
We believe that you offer value, and value-inclined customers will come to you and stick by you. We intend to work on the basic concerns that travellers have. Also, customers today have evolved beyond the stage of looking at travel from the perspective of commute and accommodation alone. Today’s evolved customer wants to experience the best in a place rather than a vanilla touristy visit. This is why we launched Cleartrip Local. Local curates the best activities that a destination has to offer to ensure that travellers get a real experience of the place they are in and make the most of their time.

QThere has been a tussle between hotels and OTAs on the rate parity front. In the process, hotels seem to be at the receiving end because of dilution of the customer profile. Your comments.
At Cleartrip we understand that competitive pricing is a given in any market, but indiscriminate discounting creates temporary distortion in the market dynamics. We don’t get distracted by this chaos and focus on creating customer differentiation that will succeed in the long term. In fact, we have repeatedly learnt from our hotel partners on various public forums that Cleartrip customers offer not just higher purchasing potential, but also show higher repeat behaviour.

QWhat percentage of bookings do you generate for independent hotels?
The booking percentage of independent hotels is roughly 65% on our platform, and the rest are mainly chains, including budget chains and hotels in the three-star category.

QPlease comment on competition from metasearch sites?
Meta search sites are a part of the accommodation ecosystem and send consumers who have already done a thorough research about the accommodation infrastructure to our website to book. These customers believe in research, are quality conscious and valueinclined and precisely the ones that Cleartrip targets. Consumer experience is important for us, and requires complete transparency
of information, which necessitates us to invest in providing information with clarity about the properties with us.

QWhat kind of traction do you generate from the mobile platform? Going forward, how are you looking at developing this further?
With a wide smartphone and internet network, we observe close to 55 % bookings for hotels are on mobile. Long weekend travel is a major theme that has evolved in the last few years. This travel is often impulsive and less planned than the annual summer/winter vacation. This means that travellers are planning and booking on-thego. This leads to the percentage of mobile bookings going further up when it comes to 1-2 days before the stay date. We are investing in making discovery simpler and quicker, and content deeper and wider.
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