Interview with Shailendra Gupta
Jan - Feb 2016
Managing Director, Ontime Travels
Thriving with Customer-Centric Approach
Beginning its journey with destinations like the UK and France, Ontime Travels accredits 40 pc of its total business to outbound market. With a customer-centric approach, Ontime expects a growth of 15-20 pc this year, says Shailendra Gupta.
How exactly has travel business been this holiday season for outbound travel and how much does it form a part of your total revenue?
As the trend of outbound travel from India has been set at the fact that it has been rising rapidly year after year, this year it has witnessed a growth from the last year. For Ontime travels, the outbound travel forms a total of approximately 40 pc.
What kind of growth do you anticipate in the travel and hospitality industry? What have been the growth rates so far?
We expect the travel industry to expand rapidly but in a staggered manner, which means the positive indicators are strong enough to outweigh any negatives. The growth rates according to my knowledge have been around 15 to 20 pc, which are very encouraging.
How is Ontime different from the existing travel-related portals?
Since consumers or end users are becoming more aware of the trips that they want to take and plan much ahead of time; we assist the customers in doing enough research on the destinations; any special happenings and events are informed to the customer well ahead of time for them to make an informed decision. As a conventional tour operator, we offer personalised services to a customer and to his special needs if any.
What is the kind of competition that you are facing from the online travel and tourism segment?
Online portals give instant information, availabilities and estimated prices on the web. This service is mostly available 24×7 to the customer. Ontime travels maintains informative templates of the past and present itineraries for outbound travels that have been liked by our customers along with their comments.
What is your core business at present?
Our core business includes outbound travel packaging and ticketing besides inbound travel.
What is your role in the online travel business at present and what innovative measures one can expect to see in this space in the times to come?
We have an information based website to inform the customers of the various attractive and upcoming destinations. Though the site is under upgradation to keep up with the market, it will be ready for the customers to visit very soon.
It is a typical buyers market with disposable incomes, awareness, flexible working hours and with an exploding social media, it has become very important to innovate one’s travel product and services. Hence, the offerings have to be value based and every travel rupee to be well spent.
By staying connected with the client on a 24×7 basis, it is easier for the customer and the agent to easily supply any information that needs attention. In addition to this, blogs are gaining a lot of popularity that helps the customers to know the experiences of other travellers.
For how long has Ontime been promoting outbound tourism, particularly Europe?
We have been promoting outbound tourism for over 25 years now, including the European market.
What kind of volumes you do currently?
In 2015, we successfully completed trips for over 1,500 customers out of which most belonged to the niche segments of the market.
Which were the initial destinations and circuits that you launched?
We initially launched the UK and France with London and Paris as the main hubs.
How have these evolved?
These countries now have started organising seminars and familiarisation trips to make travel agents more aware about the destination and better understand the place to sell it better to the customers.
What is the difference between the earlier Indian tourists and those of today?
Earlier customers were not very educated about the destinations because of lack of awareness, information as well as options. As a result they were reliant on their travel agents. Even the travel agents did not have much experience or information about the unexplored destinations that were otherwise worth experiencing. Today, the customer is very well educated and aware because of the aggressive use of internet and online information in abundance. Customer now is much more demanding because awareness and numerous available options.
There is also a lot of competition in this field, resulting in competitive prices and benefit for the customers. If not the cheaper price, the customer wants the best in terms of the services available for which they do not mind spending.
What are the principal factors behind this evolution from your experience?
With increasing mediums of awareness, and due to competition people now have multiple options to choose from be it flights, hotels, tours, etc.
How proactive is the organisation in promoting novelties in the itineraries?
Every two-three months people from our organisation travel to different destinations across the globe to understand and sell them. Also, we send our staff to various seminars and road shows to directly interact with the tour operators of the destination so that we can get better deals for our clients.
Which destinations/players are most dynamic and proactive and which can pick up?
We think lower parts of Austria, some parts in France like Carcassonne and parts of Italy like Trento and medieval Italy are picking up.
How do you see the expansion and evolution of Ontime in the outbound tourism in the next five years?
All set to record a 50 million plus tourists, travelling out-bound from India by 2020. This is a known number, but the way I see the travel, increasing, I am sure this number would be easily achievable and it may be surpassed, also easily. Airlines are also assisting this growth by starting or increasing frequencies; offering flexible fares; as per the suitability of the needs of tour operators and the travellers.