Online travel platform Booking.com has said India has emerged as one among its top 20 fastest growing markets for alternative accommodations, which excludes hotels, resorts, etc. The Amsterdam-based company has more than 880,000 listings in India, of which about 140,000 are in ‘alternative accommodation’ – including homestays, apartments, villas, bed-and-breakfast, cabins, boats, and treehouses, etc. – among its 23 categories. Travel hubs such as Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa have the highest number of properties in this sector.
Booking.com claims to have 5.8 million listings in homes, apartments and other unique places of stay globally. About 20 percent of its revenue comes from alternative accommodations, and 40 percent of Booking.com’s active customer base has booked an alternative accommodation property in the past 12 months.
“Our investments in this space have resulted in an alternative accommodation business with meaningful size and scale that recorded $2.8 billion in revenue in 2018, representing approximately 20% of the company’s (Booking Holdings) overall revenue for the year. It also reached the important milestone of over $1 billion in revenues in Q3 2018 alone,” said Pepijn Rijvers, Senior Vice-President and Head of Accommodation at Booking.com.
While speaking to Indian media delegates in Amsterdam, Rijvers said that 2017-18 saw a 68 percent increase in supply from India. According to him, the rise of disposable income among the Indian middle class is changing the attitude towards travel itself. He also revealed details about Booking.com’s India experience over the last one year, which writes testimony to his observation. (The 20-year-old company has more than 80 employees in India across four offices.)
According to Booking.com’s findings, the most-visited cities by Indian travellers going abroad are Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, London, and Kuala Lumpur. But 58 percent of Indian travellers prefer staycations (domestic travel/holiday experience with limited transit time), whereas globally it is 46 percent.
The top Indian cities visited by travellers in 2018 include New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad, the data showed. As per Booking.com’s statistics, the highest number of travellers to India are from the UK, France, the US, Germany, and the UAE. It says New Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai, and Bengaluru are the most popular cities in India among global travellers.
Also, globally, 33 percent of travellers choose eco-friendly accommodation, while 75 percent of Indian travellers prefer the same, according to Booking.com’s research data. The digital travel platform adds that 43 percent Indian travellers consider listing their homes on a travel site, whereas the global figure stands at 21 percent (among its customers).
(If a host lists two rooms in his/her house on the website, it is counted as two listings. Home owners can list themselves on multiple platforms, including Airbnb.)
Booking.com’s research data in 2018 suggests that two thirds of Indian travellers surveyed plan to stay at least once in a type of accommodation that they have not stayed in before. (The global trend among travellers to branch out is at 40 percent.)
Behind the scenes
Rijvers said Booking.com uses data science extensively to prevent fake listings and ensure quality (including location, reliability of the pictures d by the host, etc.) On the other hand, it also provides certain tools to the hosts to help improve their rating by giving better customer experience.
For instance, its ‘Content Score’ (on extranet) shows a host how attractive his/her content is to bookers. Similarly, ‘BookingSuite’ develops easy-to-use tools that help accommodation providers market and manage their properties more efficiently. It includes websites that accept direct online bookings and a rate shopping tool that tells accommodation providers the local demand and pricing information to help them set competitive rates.
“With more than 1.5 million room/nights booked on average per day, we have enough data to predict what guests will search for. Matching your property with relevant guests helps you manage their expectations,” said Rijvers.
Apart from this, Booking.com also provides reports to help the host understand where visitors are coming from, and how they are interacting with his/her website. This helps them track revenue and see how different sources – including search engines and other websites – are adding to their bottom line.
Its ‘dynamic ranking system’ uses data from its daily bookings to tailor search results from each guest, so that the right accommodation provider will show up higher when a guest is looking for a property like theirs. The accommodation providers can also check high-demand dates in the availability optimisation tool in the extranet. In short, your extranet’s ranking dashboard shows your performance in search results, page views, and bookings – and how you compare with competitors.
Booking.com, in 2018, had 33 percent repeat users and 25 percent active reviewers. Although the company did not reveal the revenue from India, it stated that India is one of its most important markets at present. It has partnered with other online travel platforms like MakeMyTrip, Yaatra, Ixigo, and Trainman, by helping them build global supply on a revenue sharing model.
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