India has been one of the most important markets for Agoda’s in the APAC region and the brand has gradually grown their focus on the country starting 2021. Specially to shift the perception of the brand as a site where travellers get great value international deals to being the trusted domestic travel partner of choice.
In the last two years, Agoda, through its business and marketing strategies, has targeted Indian travellers with an integrated outreach, via multiple stories based on their search data and booking data, conducted extensive surveys dedicated for the India market, executed extensive KOL campaigns, and even launched their first digital ad in India, featuring Indian film actress Rashmika Mandanna.
In conversation with ETTravelWorld, Omri Morgenshtern – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Booking Holdings-owned company touched upon various aspects of business on his trip to India. He shared Agoda’s investment plans and expectations from various markets while talking about travel recovery and ‘persistent’ travel trends. More here:
ETravelWorld (ETTW): Your expectations from the Indian market?
Omri Morgenshtern (OM): My expectation from the Indian market is that it will outgrow almost all other markets. Why? Because of the temperament of the consumers here. India is a good product fit market and that is why it is booming. I don’t see any reason why India shouldn’t be the fastest market for us in the foreseeable future.
Southeast Asia is a strong market for us and we are going to maintain our stronghold here. The North Asia market is also very lucrative for us. We are also focusing bigtime on the Indian market as it takes lead in the Indian subcontinent. Our focus would remain to try and expand in North Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
India is very mobile-friendly market in comparison with other markets. It’s second only to China.Predictions say that the Indian outbound travel market is going to be USD 40 billion USD in 2026. The Indian market is growing in double digits, which is a remarkable growth. If we can penetrate just a piece of it, it would be amazing for us.
ETTW: Agoda’s investment plans in key markets?
OM: Recently, we opened a big development centre in India, and actually the centre is growing really fast. So, I predict, again, there will be a shift in tech investment towards India in our economics. So, Southeast and North Asia markets are very big for us. There’s been a lot of tech investment in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and China. India and its surrounding countries are another region of big investment for us.
ETTW: How has been the travel recovery post Covid?
OM: Looking at the travel recovery, there’s a been a strong recovery in leisure travel across the globe. Unfortunately, business travel hasn’t recovered as much but it can be very lucrative going forward. We have also performed really well in the leisure business with online travel bookings booming. Business travel will take some more time to recover. Same way, online travel business recovered much faster than the offline business.
It’s interesting that one of the reasons why I think there is huge potential in the Indian market is due to the growth in number of transactions done online. I think, close to 60 per cent transactions are done online. Even in that segment, the majority of the business comes from the OTAs, which makes India a very unique market.
ETTW: Focus areas for Agoda? Emerging travel trends in the industry?
OM: Two trends which are very strong. One of them is more long term and other one is short term. Packaged Tour Bundling or ‘Persistent Trip’ is one and the other being ‘Consumer Fintech’. These are also two top priorities for us in 2023. The use and value of flexibility while booking travel has significantly gone up after the Covid-19 pandemic and this has led us to bring innovation and consumer friendly policies and offerings using fintech. This includes features such as refundable bookings, automatic upgrade and price freeze.
Persistent Trip is about how you bundle the trip together. We say, the more you book with Agoda, the cheaper it becomes. That’s the fact. The bundled trip would be way cheaper than bookings made individually. But what’s the issue here? With the normal bundled package, travellers need to make all the bookings at the same time, and they don’t have an option to book, let’s say flight or hotel later. The idea behind ‘Persistent Trip’ is that travellers will be able to make changes to your package but not at the same day. You can come a month later and add any activity and still unlock the discount that would be available on any other day. All the travel companies are doing it and Agoda is going to be very aggressive on leveraging on these trends.