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Marketing and building meaningful brands in the hospitality sector

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A vast and diverse country like India, always has something unique to offer; and our rich cultural heritage and mélange of traditions have paved way for an ever increasing and thriving tourism industry. Today, India’s tourism sector is one of the largest service industries in the country, both in terms of revenue as well as employment.  According to the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) released by the World Economic Forum, India ranked 40 amongst the 136 economies across the world.

To effectively tap into this booming industry, it becomes essential for businesses – both emerging and established – to build a focused marketing strategy that centers around the uniqueness of the proposition that the brand has to offer and a strong local connect. In a market environment which has a lot of brand clutter, a breakthrough strategy that speaks to the local market is important. It is equally important that the strategy resonates with the brand’s philosophy, plays an impactful role in building its identity, adds to its overall recall and helps in attracting new customers while maintaining loyalty.

In India, travel and hospitality are both very fluid and dynamic sectors that are ever evolving with changing consumer preferences. This poses a challenge for marketers because there is then a need to constantly rethink and revise the brand’s strategy by imbibing innovative and out of the box mediums.

Thus, it has become more important to hold the attention of the consumer than ever before, with a variety of options available for them to choose from. Travel service providers and aggregators now need to acknowledge this need, and diversify their marketing plans accordingly.

Whether it is growing focus on digital engagement, offering unique travel propositions, value for money deals, or influencer engagement to build resonance – today, it has become important to explore all available avenues to build mindshare for your brand. Additionally, it is also wiser to take a personalized approach and streamline your approach based on the customer’s attitude, profile, interests and other key factors instead of targeting an established category. A recent BCG Google study also highlighted that advocacy plays a large role in this domain. People tend to get inspiration for their travel from family and friends and hence driving advocacy on digital media is critical to influence user communities.  This is bound to make your strategy more beneficial. The idea of targeting and tailoring your strategy and its various forms so it directly speaks to or engages ‘one’ individual adds a personalized and emotional connect. This in turn humanizes the brand’s presence in the customer’s life, boosting engagement and elevating loyalty.

At Airbnb for example, our focus has been to establish a local connect with the modern Indian traveler to make travel magical for him/her. By showcasing the idea that travel can be more than its current commoditized version and offering people unique experiences instead of standard itineraries, we have been able to make the Indian traveller believe that they can belong anywhere in the world even if it is just for a night. With almost a million Indians having travelled using Airbnb, our growing user base itself is a testament to the value the brand adds to travelers lives and the relevance of having a focused and locally entrenched marketing plan.

In conclusion, as the market grows, the Indian customer is also constantly evolving. This creates a huge opportunity that many travel and hospitality brands can leverage to innovate and change the game by curating newer, more focused and locally entrenched techniques to capture and retain the interest of their customers.

Amanpreet Bajaj, Country Head, Airbnb- India

Published in the June 2018 issue of Pitch



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Amanpreet Bajaj

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