Storytelling in travel is beyond blogs and videos. It needs a well-planned strategy. Anand Menon, Director, theolta.com, shares the emerging trends.
As someone who has spent so much time on working with some of India’s premier travel brands, what motivated you to start olta.com?
theolta.com is a result of close to two decades of my exposure to the travel and tourism industry in various capacities. But primarily technology and marketing for the industry per-se. What I noticed are two key gaps in terms communication to the market about a product and the use of technology. On-ground expertise and knowledge about a product (destination, experiences, activities etc.) is unparalleled. This knowledge is something that has not been tapped to its fullest potential. This expertise or knowledge is something that travel agents, tour operators, experience delivery partners like adventure companies etc. have. The second gap like I mentioned before is the use of technology in the industry. This has been limited to only the selling of hotels, resorts, air ticketing largely. But tapping this on-ground knowledge that the travel agent, tour operator, an experience delivery partner like a biking company, a photo tour operator or even a guide or a naturalist and bringing this to the world is what we aim to do. Travel and tourism is one of the largest employment generators in this country. And sadly, a very large portion of the supply chain is not represented on the digital space. theolta.com aims to plug that loophole.
How important is communication specially for tourism destinations, and what are your learnings on how right communications is essential to take a ‘travel’ brand to the next level?
Brands today can be built on a well-planned out and a disciplined communication strategy. Digital is the new flavour of the town. But digital is so vast that a careful analysis should be made before engaging in this form of marketing. It needs to fit the purpose for which is has been designed. For instance a digital campaign to promote a destination like Hampi will be different from a digital campaign that has been designed to promote a wildlife destination like Kabini or Kaziranga.
How can Olta help travel agents and tour operators add value to their businesses?
theolta.com does not only help travel agents and tour operators. It caters to the entire supply chain of the industry. Right from the travel agents, tour operators, to on ground support providers like Taxi, bus services, to places where one can have authentic local cuisine, to places where one can shop for souvenirs everything is on theolta.com. The attempt here is to bring every offline player in the industry on to the digital space.
How important is it to create stories as a marketing perspective for destinations and the end consumer?
Stories are the centre of any marketing exercise. A destination is a story. Travel either on business or leisure is a story. Everyone has a story, right from the travel agent, the tour operator, the tour guide, the taxi guy who drives you to your destination. You come across stories in the form of blogs, videos, Vlogs, pictures, podcasts and a lot more.
How do you assess the need for ‘Motivation to travel’ concept?
The concept, basically opens up new directions and would help in more specific communication tools and strategies to address various markets. For instance, speaking to a market of youngsters, in the age group of 25 to 30 about religious sites and religious tourism is not only a waste of money but also absolutely wrong targeting. But on the other hand, talking to the same market about say trekking, surfing, biking will have a better response. Motivations differ with markets, situations, seasons and a lot more variables that are at play in the market. I find a very close parallel between this concept and the seasonality map that is down up for every brand or product category. Both of them are different layers that are essential for a strong communication strategy.
In the post-Covid era, how do you assess lockdown fatigues? Will it be the next opportunity for the industry?
“Lockdown Fatigue” is an emotional truth in todays world. Never before has the world being locked up in their houses for 3-4 months straight. There is a lot of pent up frustration of just wanting to get out to wherever. This has been a very testing time for all of us in the industry. And hopefully, in the months to come we should hopefully see this too passing as a bad memory with a lot of lessons learnt. The Lockdown and its aftermath has brought about 3 key facts: A) Post the lockdown, there is a pent up demand that is going to drive the industry for some time. This is the best thing that has happened to the industry. And hopefully will make do some good for all the hardships that we have been put through. B) The market is literally new, waiting to just get away from their homes. The lines between a weekday and weekend holidays is going to be negligible, as it really does not matter to the guest where he/she is working from. His home or a resort/hotel. So the opportunity here for the industry would be aggressively tap into this new segment aggressively. Travelers are going to choose those options wherein they are confident about theirs and their loved ones health. So, one is going to witness a lot more conversations that are going to take place between the market and the service providers in the supply chain. The beauty here is that these sort of conversations is what travel agents, tour operators, logistic support partners etc. can have to reassure the guests of SOP’s being put in place and what they can do to make that traveller that much more safer. In a nutshell, I am seeing the resurgence of the market with a very promising future in 2021.