eIndiatourism: Moving with the times
Founded in September 2001 by Vinayak Sinha, www.eIndiatourism.com is one of the largest and most comprehensive domestic travel-information related directory on the net with more than 4,500 pages of information. The web site claims it gets more than three million hits and an average page views of 25,000 per day.

For the record, Sinha and his team have developed and designed more than 250 travel-related web sites for its customer base of about 110 companies so far. For the customer base of eIndiatourism – namely, the tour operators and travel companies who target inbound tourism – a winning strategy for driving online traffic to their sites is critical for staying one step ahead of competition.

The sure-fire strategy: Optimisation of search engines

The one undisputed and sure-fire rule for driving traffic online is optimisation of search engines. More often than not, net surfers tend to browse through the first two pages of their search results. Moreover, net users tend to stick to the same search engine for subsequent searches as well – much like being addicted to a particular brand of tea for one’s morning cuppa (or newspaper for that matter)! Like in many others cases, the Internet is a key source of information for a large section of travelers, who turn to it while finalising their destinations and preparing for hotel bookings.

“Hence regardless of what a company spends, search engine optimisation is the beginning of getting a fair return on investment on your site,” says Sinha. Since its inception in 2001, eIndiatourism.com has evolved into a site that specialises in developing and marketing travel sites online for heightened presence on key search engines (Google and Yahoo!), newsgroups, mailing lists and webrings. The high rate of success of eIndiatourism in its ability to deliver high search engine optimisation for its clients is visible at a glance on its online section on testimonials.

Strategies for search engine optimisation

The strategies adopted to achieve high search engine optimisation are varied. Some golden rules followed by eIndiatourism are indeed commonly acknowledged: user-friendly sites, easy to browse, fast to download, ensuring colour preference and content structure is relevant to the site objective, keyword rich content, customised title tags and so on.

Does it work? It would seem so. Till date its has represented 110 companies and it keeps growing. Sales worth Rs 56 lakh have been achieved since inception versus Rs 11 lakhs of sales in the first six months of inception. Profits too are now rolling in: Rs 4.5 lakh as far.

In addition to getting the most out of net searches, Sinha has looked at other routes to reach his target audience. A lot of his strategies emerged from experimentation, while the bulk of it emanated from his initial learnings – courtesy the four-year plus stint at Indiamart.com. One of the major efforts of the site has been to look at generating repeat business and referrals for the site. For instance, of the 250 sites set up for 110 companies so far by eIndiatourism, about 125 are for a customer base of just a dozen companies.

Sharing customer experience

Delhi-based tour operator Holidays2treasure, for example, set up its first web site providing information and services on its prime offering of Palaceonwheels heritage train tour in Rajasthan in October 2001 through eIndiatourism. In December 2001, it launched a site on its services for hotels and resorts in Goa. By December 2002, the company had set up 26 websites through eIndiatourism each targeting a common and a specialised market at the same time.

How does it help the tour operator? “It helps us to maximise our reach to the largest possible spread of audience on the web on each of our services and special offers by driving traffic through search engines,” contends Sudhir Sachdeva of Holidays2treasure.

According to Holidays2treasure, the cost of setting up each subsequent website is far less than the cost of one single overseas trip for one single market.

Adds Sinha, “The net is the ideal medium for tourism-related – specially inbound, infotech and software-related – and online shopping-related services.” For a tour operator who sets up a website, has a good product to offer, and is able to optimise search to drive online traffic to the site, the return on investment is immediate at times.

For instance, for Holidays2treasure, the cost of each subsequent website that is set up and marketed is one-fifth of the cost of physical travel overseas for marketing efforts. “Even if through all the 26 websites the net contributes just 5 per cent of the total revenues, it is a worthy return on investment for us,” says Sachdeva. More importantly for Sachdeva the online presence provides him the chance of building a brand for his company. “In three years, the company will benefit hugely from online branding initiatives,” he says. Second, holidays2treasure has acquired customers from markets that traditionally would not have been targeted through offline marketing efforts such as overseas offices or associates in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The flip side

Is the picture all rosy? Or is there a flip side as well? “When you do not have a customer face to face to deal with across the table, a lot of time is wasted on unwanted leads. Second, big chunks of the business still do not come through the web – you need offline marketing initiatives to make that happen. However, the bottomline is, given the search engine optimisation skills of eIndiatourism, our sites have provided us with a high web presence and leads into newer markets. Plus we have recovered our investment,” indicates Sachdeva.

What next?

The site is on an expansion drive now. Its immediate plans include moving to a larger office space; expansion of its lean-team of 15 people; continuing its focus on customer-loyalty through its marketing efforts; sustain and nurture its quicker turnaround time on projects to customers versus competitors; and last but not the least, setting up a trade portal on India in the coming months.








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