For, the ICC deal is a great marriage between travel & sport: Santosh Kumar

Kumar, Country Head - Indian subcontinent & Indonesia,, spoke to e4m about the ICC T20 World Cup campaign, India being a priority market, the marketing mix and more

by Javed Farooqui
Published - October 19, 2022
6 minutes To Read
For, the ICC deal is a great marriage between travel & sport: Santosh Kumar

Gearing up to grow its market presence in India, has launched a marketing campaign 'Unforgettable experiences start with a booking' with Suresh Raina. The launch of the campaign coincides with the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia. is a global sponsor of ICC events. It has also become an Associate Sponsor on Disney+ Hotstar for the T20 WC.

In an interaction with exchange4media, Santosh Kumar, Country Head - Indian subcontinent & Indonesia, said the platform would soon launch a Hindi interface to grow its user base in the country. He also stated that the travel tech platform has expanded its offerings from accommodation to flight bookings and car rentals. The idea is to become a one-stop shop for travellers.


How are you leveraging your association with ICC as a global sponsor for the T20 World Cup?
We have launched a campaign titled 'Unforgettable experiences start with a booking' with Suresh Raina as our ambassador for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. Next year's ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 will be closer to home and it will be a big one for us. For us, the ICC deal is a great marriage between travel and sport. We also see a lot of our customers travelling for mega sporting events.

The T20 WC is a great opportunity for us to make the journey of experiencing the event live in Australia a memorable one for our consumers. We have also created a suite at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is kind of a stay experience. Consumers can watch the finals from the suites at the MCG.

We are building something called Connected Trip Vision where we want to remove friction from parts of the travel journey. We are going way beyond accommodations, which is basically what we have been known for all these years. We want to help travellers across their journey whether it is flights, rental cars, accommodations, or attractions. In that sense, the ICC partnership fits very well with what we intend to do.

How has ICC sponsorship worked for you, and is India the biggest focus market when it comes to activating this partnership?
India is definitely one of the biggest focus and priority markets for us because cricket enjoys massive popularity in the country. Apart from India, we are also focussed on some of the other cricket-playing countries. This time, we have three global ambassadors - Jos Buttler (England), Pat Cummins (Australia), and Suresh Raina (India). We want to cover audiences in all those markets but also in a lot of the other cricket-playing countries. has a great brand fit with these ambassadors.

What is's marketing strategy in India?
We do a mix of things depending on the market because we are a global company. In India, we are heavy on digital and that continues to be the case. We invest heavily in digital and performance marketing. Globally, we are the most downloaded travel tech app. We want to continue to engage consumers in digital channels. Having said that, we have done some interesting campaigns. We have started doing billboard ads in the US. We will be expanding that very soon to Europe in a significant way and in parts of Asia including Australia coinciding with the T20 World Cup. As the 50-over World Cup comes closer home next year, you might start to see some things there also.

Will you be upping your marketing spends this year?
India is a priority market for, so we are very invested in what we want to do here. We are very serious about India and we will invest in all areas of the business whether it is from a product or operations perspective.

Will inflation and economic slowdown play spoilsport for the travel industry which has been seeing signs of recovery?
There have been some headwinds like rising prices both in accommodation and flights due to a surge in fuel prices. While prices have increased, the demand has not reduced at all. That said, India has been able to sustain a lot of global headwinds. There was a large period of time during the pandemic when Indians were not able to travel overseas and neither were consumers from outside India able to come here but the domestic demand was very robust and it continues to be robust even after the outbound travel has started again. Q4 and Q1 are high seasons from a travel perspective. The demand is very good and continues to be robust.

When will the travel business reach pre-pandemic levels?
Leisure travel has already reached pre-pandemic levels or has exceeded them. We released our global Q2 numbers some time back and for the same period in 2019, we did 16% additional bookings. That trend continues even in this quarter and the next quarter. From an Indian perspective also, it is looking very good. Business travel has still not come back to the pre-pandemic levels.

What kind of behavioural changes have you seen among travel customers due to the pandemic?
One of the key trends that have emerged is sustainability. Recently, we did an APAC traveller survey and India came out as one of the strong performers in that survey. The highlights were: More than 90% of Indians say they wanted to travel again, so travel confidence among Indians is very high. Also, almost a similar percentage of Indians said they want to make sustainable choices when they travel. The pandemic has also taught us to value experiences, value time with family, and value the planet. We see sustainable travel as a very major travel trend. We have something called the sustainable travel badge that we give to our accommodation partners. Our app allows users to filter by sustainable options. Once you choose the sustainable option you will only find accommodations that have passed a certain series of criteria like water consumption, electricity usage and how self-sustainable they are in terms of fuel usage.

What kind of demand do you see for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia among Indian travellers?

There is demand for the ICC T20 World Cup not just from India but from other countries also. That's the reason why we have appointed ambassadors to these three countries. We expect the demand in these countries to be fairly high compared to other countries. It is also due to population, liking for the sport and the ability to spend.

What are future plans to grow in the country? website and app will support the Hindi language very soon for partners as well as consumers. We want to localise more to grow our user base. We have many more things in the pipeline for 2023. At a broad level, our business goal is to become the platform of choice for travellers. We have lots of work to do in India even though we have done a lot of things in the last few years. We have gained a lot of ground in India but there is so much more that we can do.