HolidayIQ in Indonesia

HolidayIQ launched its Indonesia website today, our first real foray outside India. The soft launch is designed to allow domestic Indonesian travellers to add their photos, hotel reviews and the like. What a journey this has been!

A few years ago the only thing one had was this passion for travel and a desire to do something unique around it (read: not become a travel agent). And from an idea sparked off by reading an article about Zagat Survey to a 2-person team in a little room to now 150+ people across three countries, the journey has been a lot of fun and of course an ulcer or two.

Top 10 Travel Websites in India

Comscore has reported its independent list of the Top 10 travel websites in India. And HolidayIQ is one of them. And with that, we have joined the leadership group led by the venerable (and massively visited) Indian Railways booking site.

What is particularly gratifying is that HolidayIQ being a niche tourism site with information only relevant for holidays, unlike most of the other sites which offer broad travel or transport solutions/bookings, managed to make it to this list. What is also good for HolidayIQ is the fact that we are probably the only site in that list (excluding of course Indian Railways) that has practically no advertising used to drive its traffic. On the whole, a good place to be :)

HolidayIQ merges with Wego

Wego.com and HolidayIQ.com Announce Merger;

Close Series B Funding Round

Wego Pte Ltd, operators of the Singapore based travel search engine www.wego.com, and Leisure & Lifestyle Information Services Pvt Ltd, operators of the Indian travel content and community site www.holidayiq.com announce a merger of their operations.

The combined entity has also completed a Series B funding round led by Tiger Global, the New York based growth capital fund.

Delhi’s homestays and B&Bs

Sodhi Lodge New Delhi

A little guest house in New Delhi

The commonwealth games were to be the coming-out party for Delhi’s small hotels, home-stays and B&Bs. But as we all know, things did not quite turn out that way. Not too many tourists in Delhi converts into despairing house owners & desolate premises. Not a good situation. But if the experience of places like Coorg in Karnataka and Kochi in Kerala are anything to go by, there is no reason to despair. The emerging breed of travellers – both domestic and international – seem to like alternate accommodations. The better ones among these little places in Delhi will get filled up in time. They just have to hold on.

Do Indians share useful content?

I get asked this question by all kinds of people, mostly by those who have not yet had a chance to use HolidayIQ.com. Obviously I tell them many wonderful things about the hotel reviews we get on the site and the travel photos and videos and…

Here is excellent thread I found on the HolidayIQ forum which I guess answers this question better than any guff I might dish out :)

tour to Sringar and surroundings from Jammu

Postby Kripa Shankar Mani on Thu May 06, 2010 9:13 am

We my wife son daughter-inlaw and two grandsons aged 5 and 3 years) are planning to have a vacation in Srinagar (Kashmir). 

We are planning to start our Journey from Jammu Tawi on 14th June and from there we would head to Srinager by road.

As this is the 1st time we are going to kashmir we would like to visit all the major places of interest there.

Initially I thougth to go to srinagar by my own self driven car but it seems that the journey would be too long and that we would also waste 2 days one reaching to Jammu and One Coming Back From Jammu.

Do not wish to Catch flight directly to Srinager as we would miss the scenic beauty of the area.

Please help me in finalising my plans :

1. Days in Hand between 8 to 12
2. Budget No as such Budget allocated as yet
3. Hotel Preference : No Hi Fi Hotel, Just nice Bed and Breakfast Type.
4. Travelling – by car which should be on our disposal throught from pick up to dropping at Jammu Railway Station.

Would also like to have an idea from fellow imer’s that what should be my Travel Schedule so that the trip could be a memorable one.

Some further questions are :

1. What budget should I consider for the Trip.

2. Are plenty of Taxis available, is there a relaible type of a car rental provider in Jammu or Srinager who can be contacted. what would be the approximate cost of hiring a Taxi for a day.

3. What should be our Travel plans for Road Trip from Jammu to Srinager, where to stop, where to eat and which Hotel to Stay.

4. Which all destination should we go. and which area are safe in Srinagar.

5. Can someone provide the telephone number of some good hotel in Patni top, Srinager, Jammu, Pahagaon, Gulmarg, Boat House, Driver/ Taxi wala, and ofcourse a guide, to get best of the rip.

Any Suggestions/ Amendment and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Regards
K.S. Mani Tripathi

Kripa Shankar Mani
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Dec 13, 2005 12:00 am

Re: tour to Sringar and surroundings from Jammu

Postby vasudevan on Thu May 06, 2010 10:37 am

dear mani tripathy,let me give some info.
1)budget i wud put aside rs 1500/- per day for food, rs 5000/-for two rooms per night,
2)taxis r plenty available ,it wud be best to hire a SUV from jammu itself for the entire trip.try ur local contacts.
3) yes it wud be foolish to go by air ,the NH1 to srinagar includung the jawahar tunnel is not be missed’
4)i suggest following itenary day 1)drive down to srinagar takes 12 hrs, try reaching b4 8pm.
day2/3/4 ) stay at a boathouse the local people/ houseboat owner will giude u .
day5/6 stay at a nearby lodge in nehru park area visit gulmarg n saffron gardens’
day7) drive down to patni top for a overnight stay unwind with the sheer majestic trees
day8) drive to katra ,walk up to vaishnow devi, evenings r better as day is too hot,TIP-DO NOT LINGER ON TOP TO CATCH UR BREATH,just walk down immedtly and relax in your room’ 

re room bookings try to do it at jktdc cottages etc ,they r ok n easy on d wallet the patni top cottages were simply superb we stayed at at boathouse called ZIGMALAY . and had a lovely time.

throuhout the only jarring note for our 10 day holiday was the abbysymal hygiene at the roadside dhabas. u will need delhi winter clothing during nights

vasudevan
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 12:00 am

Another travel scam?

HolidayIQ got this email recently…

Hello,

How are you doing! I hope you are fine? I’m sorry i didn’t inform you
about my trip to Scotland for a program, I’m presently in Scotland and
got mugged at a gun point by some armed robbers on my way to the hotel
where my money and other valuable things were kept including my
passport. I would like you to assist me with a loan of 1620Pounds to
sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the
matter effectively,I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist
me with,I’ll Refund the money back to you as soon as i return, let me
know if you can be of any help. I don’t have a phone where i can be
reached.

Please let me know immediately.
Regards

DR.THAMMAN

It is entirely personal

Steve_jobs_photo

Steve Jobs of Apple recently came back to work after a long break for a Liver transplant. He received a standing ovation at the annual Apple show. I wasn’t there but I rooted for him too. For he represents what I think are the two most desirable characteristics for a modern businessman – Passion & Creativity.

Jobs wasn’t standing there because that would light up Apple stock and make the bean-counters happy (which of course, it always does). He was standing there to transmit the excitement that he has for his products. And since he makes insanely great products, the excitement does get transmitted.

If you love what you do, two things are likely to happen. First, you are likely to make good stuff, because you want a lot of people to enjoy what you have made (for Hollywood directors, these people constitute an ‘audience’, for most businessmen, ‘customers’). Secondly, you are likely to make a lot of money because that is, for you personally, a vindication of your own creative efforts. Once agan, the parallels to a successful movie director are obvious.

Remember, we are transiting to the Experience Economy . And it was not by accident that Joseph Pine the creator of that phrase titled his book – ‘The Experience Economy : Work is theatre and every business a stage”

Don’t have enormous Passion & Creativity for the business you do? Move on – right away.

Hotel & Resort Chains in India

One of the problems facing travellers in India is the absence of well-known branded Hotel Chains across the country. Even though HolidayIQ has been able to find about 75 odd ‘chains’ (and I must admit, our definition of Chains is quite loose, since any organisation with 2 or more properties under its management is defined as a Chain), all of these between them control a negligible portion of the total number of leisure accommodation options there are.

Take a look at the list here.

I wish the more prominent ones such as Taj Hotels, Fortune Park Hotels, ITC Hotels, Lemon Tree, Club Mahindra etc would rapidly expand and get more Indian hotels and resorts under their wing. It is needed for India’s tourism to go to the next level.

Researching Holidays Online

ASIA

 

Here is why I love the business I am in – because it piggybacks on the biggest thing in Travel since the Wheel (ok – mild exaggeration, but still…)

The Internet has become the most popular medium for Chinese travellers seeking information about their trips, according the latest Nielsen China Outbound Travel Monitor. The Nielsen survey found that travellers will search for conventional destination information ahead of their trips (61 percent of leisure trips taken), and then turn to online travel discussion forums (48 percent) to fine-tune their plans. This suggests that opinions and comments about travel experiences posted to online forums are nearly as likely to influence travellers’ decisions as the destination websites themselves. Conventional travel agents were approached on only two in five travel occasions.

The Nielsen survey also found that travellers were much more likely to recall seeing Internet advertising for travel destinations, compared to seeing travel advertising on other mediums. Close to 70 percent could recall seeing travel advertisements on the Internet, with only four in 10 recalling seeing a travel advertisement in a magazine or newspaper, at a travel agent or on TV and radio.

Read the full article here..

The real internet cometh..

As I sat down for a very late breakfast in an apartment in Gurgaon a few days ago, up came the dhobi. He wanted my help in ‘internetion’, which I eventually interpreted as Internet. A beat-up old sony-ericsson phone was brought out, the internet icon clicked and we were away. Seems his Baba’s sermons are streamed live and he wanted to watch/listen.

Yes, the internet will start to take off soon in India. With the mobile phone all the big barriers to the internet will start to fall. The cost of the access device will be low and you will not need to read and that too in English. You can watch and listen to the internet on the phone. And that I think is what most Indians will do.

Stop Press : Go to Goa NOW!

Goa has had unseasonal rains. It rained loads in August instead of the usual June & July. And so, it looks extraordinarily green & lush now, with a wonderful ‘fresh & clean’ look. I was there for just one day over the weekend and had the good fortune to wander all over the Goan countryside just as dawn was breaking (all of this, after a full night of unique Goan revelry, which of course, is another subject).

The sight of light breaking over the lovely greenscapes of rural Goa, with the light mist slowly lifting in tendrils from the ground and the fresh smell of the damp red earth awakening to another day, is one of the more mystical experiences of life.

Go right away, even for a day to Goa. Once you get there, dont hang about near the sea. Go inland and check out Goa’s rural landscape. Obviously, all this has to be done between 4 and 7 am. You probably have a window of a fortnight to see this.

Legship, Sikkim

The gang at HolidayIQ has been busy discovering little-known tourism destinations across India. Amazingly, we have almost 500 Indian tourism destinations now and most of the small, new ones have been discovered by travellers who have asked us to add these destinations to the site.

Consequently, I have now discovered a new game for myself. Everyday I give myself an unlikely alphabet and find destinations I never knew about. It is a lot of fun actually.

My alphabet for today was ‘L’ and discovered ‘Legship’, which is quite an intriguing name anywhere & in India, is pretty crazy. Evidently, it is a small village near Pelling in Sikkim and you go there for the Kirateshwara Mahadev mandir, Phur Cha Chu sulphur baths & the Rangit Water World.

However, there is no word on how it acquired such a fancy name for itself.

Read more here.

India’s biggest tourism promotion website

Have been wondering which website is doing most for marketing Indian tourism. So, I did a quick check of recent Alexa numbers (see chart above) for Incredible India (the official promotion website of India’s tourism ministry) and the sites of two of India’s premier tourism states, kerala Tourism and Rajasthan Tourism.

Surprisingly, the Kerala Tourism site gets more traffic than the Incredible India site, which is a bit for a shame for the Incredible India guys. Incredible India however did get a huge spike in traffic (a few months before the beginning of period I have taken this chart for) when had a massive ad campaign underway – obviously, they were not able to hold on to the audiences after the campaign got over, which seems a real pity.

And since I couldn’t resist it, I also compared these 3 sites wth HolidayIQ which at the moment also exclusively contains tourism information on India. HolidayIQ beat all these sites by a huge distance. Of course, this is a slightly unfair comparison, since HolidayIQ is not a tourism promotion site but a site for India’s domestic holiday-goers to plan vacations. Which, come of to think of it, is probably not very different from what these sites ought to be doing.

Weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata and 10 other Indian cities

HolidayIQ has just revamped its weekend getaway section. Now one can find weekend getaway destinations as well as weekend getaway resorts/hotels by distance from each of the top 17 Indian cities.

Click here to see the new pages:

Weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata

Weekend getaways from all 17 cities

Yossi Ghinsberg & HolidayIQ

With almost 150,000 travel maniacs as members, HolidayIQ has been bombarded with the question of organising some kind of a get-together for members. So, finally we decided to take a small step and have a cocktails & dinner evening in Mumbai. We also got Yossi Ghinsberg, one of the better known international motivation speakers to be a focal point of the evening. Not as a motivational speaker, but as a traveller and a nomad which is what Yossi’s true passion is.

So, a couple of Fridays ago, about 50 of us trooped into a room at the Leela Kempinski in Mumbai and had a great time.

Yossi spoke of his travels worldwide. About his longstanding love affair with the Bedouins. And how he went to the remotest island in the Pacific. And many more. While each story stuck in my mind, a couple of points he made about travel really resonated with me.

He said he always travels alone, since that is the only way to connect with the place and the people. I find this absolutely true and this is what I do every time I ‘travel’ (ie. when I am not taking a vacation with my family). Incidentally, Paul Theroux mentioned something similar in a recent talk – read related posts here & here.

Yossi also said he uses the Lonely Planet each time he travels – and he uses it in a pretty unique way. He decides on a country to go and then looks up the Lonely Planet and reads it from cover to cover . Then he finds a place on the map of the country that is NOT covered in the Lonely Planet. He goes there. The idea, he said, was to go to places that even backpackers don’t get to. That is when you see the real country.

Yossi lives in Byron Bay in Australia, a place I went to about a year ago. Of course, I didn’t know Yossi then and so didn’t meet him. But I now have an invite from him to visit Byron Bay & since it is one of the more beautiful places I have been to, I just might take him up on it sometime.

HolidayIQ in Yahoo India Glue Page

Yahoo India has started a really interesting service called the ‘Glue page”. When you search for a phrase (on the search bar of Yahoo), this page shows composite results, including contextual visual results pulled from – as yahoo says – “the best sites anywhere on the web”. For Indian destination information, Yahoo India has decided to partner with HolidayIQ, which once again reinforces HolidayIQ’s position as the creator of the best tourism & travel content for Indians. Along with our already launched partnership with Google (hotel reviews in Google local search), this puts HolidayIQ on a platform where we are recognised as among the best in the world for our area of expertise – which is, helping everyone find high quality travel information & advice.

Sorry to get slightly puffed up on this, but is this cool or what?

Click here to see how HolidayIQ content comes up on a Yahoo Glue page >>

Read an article about Yahoo Glue Page on Content Sutra >>

Planning a holiday abroad? Book your hotel online.

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of people asking me various doubts on planning an independent international holiday & particularly about booking hotels abroad. So, till such time as HolidayIQ launches a comprehensive international section (don’t worry, that is coming soon & I promise, it will be a great planning tool), here is a quick primer on how to book hotels & resorts abroad.

I am an online guy, so my first preference is always to book hotels online. With both Travelocity and Expedia launching India sites, the widest international hotel inventory is available to be booked from India and paid in Rupees. So, it sure beats your neighbourhood travel agent hollow. And since both sites have an Indian call centre, one can also talk to a real person in India to double check your bookings, which is often a real comfort.

I stress-tested booking a family room (4 people, 2 adults and 2 kids) at Orlando – in or around Disneyworld – on both the sites. Both Expedia & Travelocity did a good job and threw up a number of options (although Travelocity gave funny error messages & repeatedly failed in my Firefox browser which was a disappointment). However, Expedia’s search methodology was a shade more user-friendly since it allows you to find hotels by naming the Attraction you want to go to and throws up hotels around the attraction. Of course, both Travelocity & Expedia also allow you to narrow the list of hotels in the search results by distance or ease of access to the attraction.

Both excelled in prices. Hotel room prices around Disneyworld started in Expedia at Rs 1386 per night and in Travelocity at Rs 1583 per night. Continue reading

A couple of new tourism websites

Here are 2 new tourism websites that I recently came across. Each interesting in a different way.

Smallwander

As its name somewhat elliptically suggests, this is a site about travelling to small towns. Currently it covers only four states in the US. In many ways, this site reminds me of HolidayIQ, since over 70% of Indian destinations carried on HolidayIQ can be classified as small towns. This aspect makes is refreshingly different from the run-of-the-mill travel info sites, most of which give you more information than you need about New York City while not giving you any about say, Damascus, Virginia. I would have liked to see a user-feedback section on this site to complete the experience, but I guess it is early days for the site.

Fabsearch

Fabsearch aggregates information about hotels, resorts and restaurants mentioned in top travel and lifestyle magazines, probably making it the first aggregator of such content in the world. A search of places to eat in ‘Bombay’ throws up options selected from articles in Elle Decor, Tatler, Daily Candy & Our Friends. Some of the other publications they seem to track are Harpers Bazaar, Elle, FT, New York Social Diary, Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Vogue, W and Wallpaper. Interesting enough as a concept to see whether it gets traction.

HolidayIQ in the online travel firmament in India

Yesterday’s Mint newspaper carried the story of Cleartrip’s next round of funding. The associated graphic showed all the 7 players in online space. The 5 players that have been funded for sometime (Yatra, Cleartrip, Makemytrip, Travelguru & HolidayIQ) and the two start-ups (Ixigo, Atyourprice) who have just received angel funding. What is really interesting for me is the extremely unique position occupied by HolidayIQ in this group (even though I say it myself!). We are the only travel information business (media & publishing) and actually works completely complementary to all the other players in the travel space, be it online players, offline travel agents or travel suppliers. The other aspect I notice is the high efficiency of capital we have had, having spent considerably lesser money than the funded online travel agents.

I find the two new start-ups interesting too. Continue reading

New Delhi International Airport, Taj Palace Hotel, Indian Airlines now called Air India and Fujiya

new-delhi-airport-departure-photo.jpg

(Delhi airport. Photo from : http://www.newdelhiairport.in)

I am just back from a quick business trip to Delhi which coincided with the coldest week in Delhi in 28 years. Not good news – but as luck would have it, the first day there turned out to be very cold but very sunny, which is a lovely combination. So, escaped unhurt.

For old times sake (and because they have a bloody early morning flight from Bangalore), I flew Indian Airlines, which has now been determinedly renamed Air India. Unfortunate. Because in the process, Indian Airlines, which I have always had a soft corner for, is really starting to resemble Air India, which according to me is unquestionably among the the 10 worst airlines in the world. So, here is an emotional requiem to Indian Airlines; RIP.

Among the obscene prices for hotels rooms in Delhi, I was able to wangle a slightly less indecent price (fairly crazy nevertheless) from the The Taj Palace hotel by booking a no-cancellation room, way ahead of time on the Taj Hotels website. It is always nice to stay at the Taj, because somewhere they have perfected the art of clean & efficient luxury service without the ‘looking-you-over’ approach of some Indian luxury chains, not the least of which is the Oberoi. Continue reading