Travel Experience- The Deal Breaker

The first part of the Hospitality and Travel Industry: Resilience Unlocked, Technology: An Enabler for Travel Industry focused on the role of technology in the travel industry. Panellists talked about their technology, their advice to new startups, and the market. Read about it here.

What fun is travelling when you stay in your comfort zone?

At this August’s Startup Saturday, Headstart Hyderabad explored the joy of Experiential Travel. From adventure sports to local culture, read further about what a life-changing journey feels like.

The second part of the tripartite panel discussion on Hospitality and Travel Industry: Resilience Unlocked featured Arjun Majumdar, Founder & CEO, Indiahikes; Shalini Jain, Travel Curator, Click2travel; and Tejaswini Gopalaswamy, Co-Founder, Unventured Expeditions and was moderated by Srikanth Soni.

Mr. Majumdar began Indiahikes as a response to the existing problems in the world of trekking. He focused on a single niche: Hiking. Ms. Jain employs a no cookie-cutter itinerary approach- she values meeting new people, experiencing their culture, and reinventing from there. Ms. Gopalaswamy focuses primarily on providing a perspective-changing experience to her clients.

Type of experience offered to customers

With his contribution to the trekking industry being applaudable, Mr. Majumdar has been an instrumental figure in the growth of adventure sports. As a pioneer, he explores new treks himself and applies his experience and judgement to curate better customer experience. This provides added guidance and a personal touch to his clients’ trekking journeys.

Ms. Jain, an avid believer of customising individual experiences for her clients, insists on focusing on her clients’ preferences to provide them with a trip they would genuinely enjoy. This means appreciating the differences in each of the client’s activity of interest and keeping in mind the events that they would like to do together.

Contrarily, Ms. Gopalaswamy believes that outdoor activities are suitable for all because they push the traveller out of their comfort zone, thus, enabling them to have a fantastic experience. Her approach values understanding personal interests, but does not give a plethora of choices for her clients to choose from. Choice is a privilege that confines one to his/her comfort zone. Therefore, she also emphasises of having a no cookie-cutter experience but provides three things: ‘must-dos,’ ‘cultural introduction,’ and ‘adventure,’ in the voice of a local to authenticate the experience. She believes that scalability reduces with excess personalisation.

Qualities required in a founder to start up a travel business

Ms. Jain responded that one should get first-hand experiences themselves before they guide someone else on their travel journey. Apart from experience and expertise, a key element is to have confidence in one’s voice when assuring the client.

Ms. Gopalaswamy says that “you should love it for 250 days” to be able to continue working in the field. Having a good network and getting mentored by people in the industry are also beneficial. As a final indicator, a customer decides whether one can continue the business or not.

Potential for scalability in the experiential travel industry

Mr. Majumdar affirmed that there is more potential to explore new treks. Ms. Jain emphasised on taking up a niche: guiding the customer in need of the right travel advice. This guidance can relate to even the smallest of concerns the clients may face.

Ms. Gopalaswamy shed light on the need for an entrepreneur to promote a market when the customers are not proactive. She puts forward that India is a Sunrise market where the audience has to be informed. This requires educating the market, building an audience, and promoting word of mouth—scalability results when all of the client’s expected experiences are catered to.

Key factors that should be considered while curating an itinerary and matching the client’s expectations.

Ms. Gopalaswamy emphasises on the need for dealing with the different expectations of the client. This requires setting the least expectations and then delivering a great experience. Ultimately, it is about the customer’s journey and where there is a potential to map the gap- prioritise on changing the mindset of the client.

The scope of the experiential travel industry after the new normal is back to normal.

Mr. Majumdar views the lockdown as an opportunity to work on the back end. The time calls for an increase in customer engagement through social media, the addition of necessary safety precautions, and the need to support team members during such tough times.

Ms. Jain elaborated on the idea of customers renting out villas and going on staycations. She also asserted that times like this call for mandatory rainy-day savings and established that resilience is a must for entrepreneurship. She reiterated that the lockdown could be utilised to identify new locations for travels suitable after the pandemic.

Sharing similar views, Ms. Gopalaswamy added that a start-up must build to adapt, not build to last. Introduce webinars with destinations to trigger memories of travel in the viewer’s mind and encourage them to start travelling. It is crucial to adapt to the situation. For example, travel locally.

Key Takeaways:

  • Experience the business firsthand before consulting the client.
  • Customise client experience based on client preferences.
  • Turn even the toughest situations into something productive, Adapt.

The next time you travel somewhere, make sure you hike in the hills spending some quality time with nature, eat at a local’s house immersing yourself in the local flavour, and learn a language spoken by the locals. If you need help finding what experience is suited for you, you can always consult one of our panellists!

Our last panel included the illustrious Shobha Mohan, Founder & Partner, RARE India; Anubhav Kumar, Founder, NotOnMap; and Pallavi Agarwal, Co-Founder, GoStop. Here they were part of a panel discussion titled, ‘Hospitality- The Buck Stops Here’- read about that session here!

Contributed by:
V. Aishwarya Singh
Headstart Hyderabad