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Want cheaper holidays? Read this . . .

Last updated on: June 10, 2011 11:55 IST

Want cheaper holidays? Read this . . .

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Puja Banta in Mumbai


Planning your next vacation? Now get a 30 per cent discount on a 2 nights/3 days' holiday package in Mahabaleshwar, 40 per cent off on an adventure holiday in Bali or stay at a luxury resort in Himachal for 33 per cent less than the actual price -- all thanks to group deals.

Yes, the online collective buying system that has spawned zillions of websites around the world, including India, is also set to make holidays cheaper.

While most of the group deals websites in India are now offering holiday packages either directly or in collaboration with online travel agents (OTAs), Vamoose.in is a group deals site focused solely on travel.

"Travel is a difficult category. It requires domain knowledge and expertise. A travel deal can't be dealt with in the same way as a discount at a restaurant or a spa," says Manoj Gursahani, managing director of Vamoose.

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Image: Manoj Gursahani, managing director of Vamoose.

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Gursahani is relying on his years of experience in the travel industry to make his latest venture a success. And his experience says that people need time to make travel decisions and should not be rushed into it by offering deals that expire the same day.

This is the reason that the travel deals on Vamoose stay valid for a week or more as compared to daily deals on other group deal sites.

"Another difference is that unlike the discounts related to food and wellness, et cetera that are offered on the regular group deals sites, travel is a high value category and the volumes here may be lower compared to a pizza or a movie-tickets deal. So, a travel deal at Vamoose does not need a critical mass or a tipping point to get activated. Once a deal is up on the site, it is valid even for a single user," adds Hari Swaminathan, the CEO of Vamoose.

Swaminathan also believes that because of the large ticket size of a travel deal, customer satisfaction will be the key to success in this business.

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Even logistically, a travel deals site functions differently from others. "Since we are not offering any local services, we have centralised operations and don't need a presence in every city we operate in. Sitting in one place, we can offer deals for travellers from around the world," says Swaminathan.

Vamoose is concentrating largely on holiday packages and designing unique vacation experiences. "We are also looking very seriously at offering medical tourism deals since it is emerging as a lucrative business with a win-win proposition for both the buyer and the seller. Another big segment we are looking at is the NRI (Non-Resident Indian) traveller to India," says Gursahani.

When asked if they'll be offering flight deals, Gursahani answers in the negative, "There aren't enough margins in selling flight tickets and it is already being handled by the large OTAs," he explains.

As far as creating awareness goes, Vamoose is relying on social media much more than the traditional marketing methods.

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"It's a low margin business and therefore it is imperative to keep the cost of customer acquisition low. So we are using social and viral techniques to spread the word," adds Gursahani.

Gursahani is also looking at the syndication model where Vamoose can supply travel deals to other group deals sites."

"There is a lot of interest in travel deals today given the size of the online travel market. If we go by the IAMAI numbers, the Indian online e-commerce market is about $8 billion, of which 67 per cent is contributed by travel. So it is understandable that everyone wants a share of this pie," Gursahani says.

"The generic group deals sites like Snapdeal, SoSaata, etc are also offering some travel-related deals. But we believe that because of our experience, domain expertise and focus, we can handle this vertical much better," he claims.

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While there is no doubt that travel is the most lucrative part of e-commerce in India today, it remains to be seen how the group deals business will pan out in this category.

Travel has traditionally been a business operating on volumes and bulk purchases by agents who then pass on the benefits to the consumer.

The trend of groups of travellers taking chartered tours together has been going on for years. Many large OTAs already use their volume-generating muscle to negotiate with vendors and provide attractive deals on their sites.

So what new benefits will these group deals sites bring to the table? Will some innovative tools and techniques actually change the way we plan our holidays or is it just the cliched old wine being offered in a new bottle?

These questions may get answered once the current frenzy in the group deals space is over and there is clarity about the actual merit of this social shopping phenomenon.



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