Scott Blume, CEO, Zuji, and president, Travelocity, Asia-Pacific, has seen the travel industry through a range of phases. His prior posts included direct responsibility and broad strategic involvement for businesses in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, America and Europe. His scope of knowledge includes corporate travel, MICE and traditional brick-and-mortar chains. Madhumita Mookerji caught up with him on his India visit. Excerpts:
What is the impact of the global meltdown on travel industry?
We are feeling the impact of the slowdown in the Asia Pacific region. We have talked to some carriers and hoteliers who feel the same way. There is a sense of cautious optimism. However, where the online travel agency (OTA) space is concerned, we have not seen a slowdown.
This segment is growing at a healthy pace. In India, at Travelocity, for instance, we have had a record month in September, while October was good. This is because of our business mix — domestic and international ticketing, hotels and dynamic packages enabled by our technology platform. This is a natural hedge.
There were rumours that Travelocity was not doing well in India and that it could exit...
I can’t comment on rumours. But, as president of the Asia Pacific region at Travelocity, I can say that we are on track where India is concerned.
We are seeing double-digit growth and are here for the long haul. But we’ll remain a pure OTA firm and won’t look at manual bookings or set up travel agencies in high traffic areas etc. There are lots of opportunities in India, given the growth in population and internet usage. In 2007, the online travel space was worth $1.75 billion. By 2011 the figure is estimated to touch $6 billion. And this growth won’t be supplier-led but will be fuelled by consumers.
Where do most opportunities in India lie?
We will continue to build the Travelocity brand in India in the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) areas. High-end business travel is not our core target segment.
A recent survey has shown that we are getting a lot of traction in the small- and medium-scale business travel space. We don’t want to go for a hybrid model — that is, look at other revenue streams through offline presence. Ours is pure play online. But we can’t concentrate on one productline. We will look at ticketing, hotels, dynamic packages — all of them.
What new products could you bring to India in the future?
We could look at the cruise path. Several major cruise lines are calling at Mumbai. But this may happen only after 2009. We may look at all the global cruise majors.
How about acquisitions?
We’re concentrating on building the business organically. If there are acquisition
opportunities, we will look at them, but we are not actively pursuing acquisition plans.
The online travel industry is extremely competitive. So what edge does Travelocity seek?
Our aim is to provide a comprehensive range of products. We also ensure that we support the customer till the end, even if things go wrong. People should feel comfortable when booking with us. We will also go in for a new marketing initiative from the first quarter of 2009.
Is the Indian market, used to the touch and feel factors, now mature enough for the OTA?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Compared with the US, where 60% of the travel business is done online, in India, it’s a mere 2%. But it’s a $1.75 billion market and, at Travelocity we expect to grow at a double-digit rate. At present, in the Asia Pacific region, India is the fourth largest OTA market. If things look upbeat, by 2010, it could well become the second-largest country if not first, given its high internet, credit/debit card adoption.
7 months ago