A couple of people have asked for a quick rundown on the EyeForTravel conference I attended in Delhi about online travel in India. Some (many? most? all?) may not care about this, so skip ahead. If you do care:
a) I’m happy to discuss this at length. Feel free to shoot me an email to discuss; and
b) Here’s an overview of my key takeaways from the event:
There are a whole bunch of companies trying to get into the online travel space in India, as everyone is anticipating a boom in the market there. At this point there are 5-7 online travel agencies in India, 5 or so Meta Search companies (similar to Kayak), 4-5 offlien travel agencies opening online travel sites, plus Expedia & Travelocity coming in the next few months. That is way, way, way too many companies to serve the rather small online population.
Consolidation is inevitable, and we’re now looking at a war of attrition, as companies look to spend the hard-earned VC dollars they’ve raised. But to what end? The bulk of the online travel agency business is centered on selling cheap air tickets, for which they make little-to-no commission. This is unlikely to change for several reasons, not least of which is there is a shortage of hotel rooms (unlike in the US), and an airline industry that is losing so much money that the government is ont permitting any more airlines to start up. Fares will only head up, not down, in the future — not a good sign for selling cheap airfares online.
India also has lots of quirks for running online travel businesses (which I won’t get into here), but needless to say it’s not quite as easy as throwing up a website and hoping everything goes well.
As I said, I’m happy to discuss details with people who care about this — I’d be eager to hear other people’s thoughts.