‘Agoda enabling hoteliers to capitalise on marketing optimisation technology’

Krishna Rathi, Country Director - India, Sri Lanka, Nepal & Maldives, Agoda, discusses importance of India as a market, the platform’s expansion plans in the country and initiatives for hoteliers

Travel and tourism industry is picking up and dusting itself off. With restrictions being lower than ever in the past two-and-a-half years, travel booking platforms are hoping to make full recovery now that the domestic and international travel have become seamless again. One such platform is Singapore-based online travel agency, Agoda. The platform helps users look for accommodation as well as flights for their vacation while also offering deals on bookings. 

To understand the importance of India as a market, the platform’s expansion plans in the country and initiatives for hoteliers, BW Hotelier spoke to Krishna Rathi.

Why is India an important market for the platform?

Indians love to travel - at home and abroad. For a long time, Agoda has helped Indians travelling internationally and domestically get deals on their stays. We have also helped international travellers who come to enjoy the diversity of India. In fact, India is consistently ranked in the global top 10 destinations for Agoda users. We are witnessing continued growth in the number of properties in the country listed on our platform, currently in excess of 97,000. As travel starts to bounce back, we are witnessing strong growth in outbound bookings since the beginning of the year and domestic numbers exceeding 2019 levels. We want to be ready with the widest choice of properties at the right price throughout India so that more people try to use our platform.

Elaborate on Agoda’s expansion plans in India.

We are expanding our technology base to further improve marketing optimisation capabilities and product innovation, having opened a new site in Gurgaon earlier this year. This is part of our commitment and investment in India which includes enhancing partner support in the market, localising services and products to suit the Indian marketplace. Moreover, we are heavily investing in building our brand in the country. For the first time, we are kicking off a major digital advertising campaign in August to help raise brand awareness among travellers and hotel partners alike. This is building upon the brand marketing investments we initiated in 2021, with a series of influencer campaigns (Hello City and #Indiagenous) which aimed at encouraging people to travel domestically and (re)discover India while showcasing the variety of accommodation types Agoda offers and destinations people can visit using the platform. 

List for us the initiatives taken by Agoda for hoteliers who are potentially looking at being listed on the platform.

In the last couple of years when international travel took a hit, we used our technology to pivot quickly and support domestic travel. Hoteliers who would usually cater to international travellers found themselves in need of ways to appeal to and reach a domestic audience. With innovative products like Go Local or Agoda Special Offers, we leveraged its marketing optimisation to allow partner hotels to capitalise on any latent domestic travel desire that was in the market selling inventory that would otherwise not be utilised. Now, as international travel picks up again, we are offering innovative products like Welcome Back which enables hoteliers to capitalise on the borders reopening and target travellers with intent using deals. Partners can opt in and leverage the marketing optimisation tech to raise their hotel’s profile among these travellers in different markets and grow their business.

Any new products or services you plan to introduce in the Indian market?

We like to innovate with products and initiatives that customers and partners want and need. That includes rate channel products that allow our partners to manage their own marketing plans, with shared insights from Agoda’s data. We offer accommodation as well as flights and in India, the product is taking off. Moreover, we are passionate about making travel easier for everyone and that means building out our product offering to cater to all travel needs. To that end, we also offer packages and activities, covering attractions, experiences and transfers. In the spirit of constant innovation, we are building an e-commerce type shopping basket product that allows travellers to seamlessly book multiple itineraries in one transaction.

Apart from this, in order to enhance partner and customers’ experience with Agoda, we recently partnered with WWF-Singapore to create a sustainability initiative as part of our Eco Deals programme. Essentially, Eco Deals allows participating hotel partners in select markets in SE Asia to offer discounted stays to travellers and Agoda will donate $1 for each booking to help preserve coral and marine life in the Coral Triangle between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysian coastline. We hope to bring more of these types of programmes to India in the near future.   

What is Agoda’s take on technological upgrades to enhance customer experience?

We have invested heavily in advanced AI/ML to allow us to offer personalisation, meaning travellers search and find what they are looking for quicker. We offer UPI payments besides the usual credit card and pay at hotel options and keep looking into latest interests around Crypto payments and how that might change things for travel. We see investments in technology as the way to help make travel easier and more accessible for everyone.

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