Technological innovations and enhanced connectivity coupled with a growing middle class spell the growth of online tourism industry. Expedia Millennial Survey 2017 informs that great deals and customisation are enthralling the millennials. More than 56% register with online travel agencies to enjoy exclusive discounts, personalised packages, and loyalty programmes.
BE’s Ayantika Halder spoke to Subramanya Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer, Cleartrip, about the services and the packages that are being offered by his company and how they are viewing the fast evolving online tourism market in India.
Q. What are the special services given by your company?
A. Cleartrip offers a clean and clutter-free experience and has always been at the forefront of customer-centric innovations. In 2007, Cleartrip launched the Cleartrip Airfare Calendar, a breakthrough in online air search as a pioneering feature compared to others in the space. In the same year, we launched the ‘Cleartrip Forum’, the first fully unedited customer support public forum as a part of continuous efforts to serve the customers better. We were also the pioneers in launching a split screen round trip experience, a first in the industry, which helped customers to compare flights side by side. In 2010, Cleartrip launched the first comprehensive mobile travel website that worked on all phones. During the same time, we launched “Expressway”, India’s first stored card solution as a mobile first solution. In 2014, we became the first OTA to provide cancellation of bookings on mobile apps. In addition, we were the first OTA in providing online flight changes globally. In 2016, we became the first in its league to create the end-to-end travel and leisure experiences app with the introduction of Cleartrip Local. ‘Cleartrip for Business’ is our prominent services that provides travel management tool for corporates. Another noteworthy milestone was an initiative called Price Watch, which offered refunds to passengers when the price of their international bookings dropped from the original fare before departure. Cleartrip also, recently introduced the Smart IVR, where its Priority Queue feature allows users travelling under 24 hours or experiencing payment failure to opt for urgent assistance. This has enabled over 95% of such customers to jump queues and be assisted by a Cleartrip Customer Service Executive in less than 20 seconds!
Q. Which particular segment of your company profits the most and why?
A. Air bookings on Cleartrip contribute to 65% of the company’s revenue and hotel bookings contribute to 35%. Activities is a strategic bet for us, both as a customer acquisition channel as well as a retention channel for our travel customers. Travellers are increasingly taking to unbundling, opting to create their own travel itineraries and hence less likely to book static packages.
Q. How do you compete with other online travel companies?
A. Travel is inherently complex. The founders have focused their energies on removing the complexity in travel and making Cleartrip the simplest product to book travel and experiences. This has had several implications for the approach and the product. You get only what you have come for. The display pricing, for instance, puts ease of use and transparency at the forefront. Cleartrip is the only site to give you an all-inclusive price for your search immediately on the results page. We include the total number of people travelling, taxes and fees and give customers a single all-inclusive price. We keep our focus on the customers and the way the site is designed is a testament to that. There are no spam, no ads. We respect the customer’s privacy and take pains to make sure we stay true to the above. The aim is to focus on what we do best - building great products and solving customer problems day-in and day-out. We believe that if you create something meaningful keeping the needs of customers in mind, the value-inclined customers come and stick by what you offer. This is what matters to us.
Q. Which are the major destinations preferred by the Indian market?
A. While Goa remains an all-time favourite, Pondicherry, Munnar, Jaipur and the North East are coming up as well. For international travel, the US and Europe are among the favourite destinations for Indian travellers.
Q. How safe is it to book everything online?
A. The advantages are simple and upfront - convenience, pricing (offers) and flexibility. Due to our scale, we are also able to work with our suppliers to offer further added benefits like early check-ins, faster refunds.
Cleartrip also plans to ramp up technology constantly to further boost its already robust systems for safety and privacy of consumers. Product-tech talent comprises over 25% of our current employee base in India at present. Increasing the size of this team with around 100 more engineers is a strategic investment that will help us develop cutting-edge tech products in order to serve our users better.