Dan Lynn, Asia-Pacific Head of US travel company Expedia, was on his first trip to India recently to understand the complexities of the online travel market here. The Nasdaq listed company, with revenues of $3 billion in 2009, has a marginal presence in India. BT's Kushan Mitra caught up with Lynn during his whistle-stop tour.
In India, most travel websites still generate most of their revenues through air tickets. We feel that with our experience in hotels, tours and cruises we can offer something different to consumers here. In fact, we have the most comprehensive collection of hotel properties of any travel website in the world (Expedia owns hotels.com) and allow our users to tailor their flight and stay packages. We offer very few pre-packaged tours and give users tremendous flexibility. We also encourage feedback (Expedia also owns tripadvisor.com) which helps us and other users.
In the US, we do have an offline presence, particularly for cruise vacations. I am not saying that in India we will have physical stores, but we will look at other options such as call centres or tie-ups with small travel agencies who can sell packages through our websites for a commission.
As the supply-demand mismatch gets resolved in India with several thousand more rooms coming into the market, room rates will become cheaper. From what we are hearing from the bigger brands, both local chains such as ITC Hotels and international chains such as Accor are expanding. Several lowercost hotels such as the Ibis are coming up in major cities in India. As for small private hotels, we have a very good team of people who get in touch with several of these, which range from basic bed-and-breakfast joints to small local boutique chains.