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.

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.

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

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.

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.

What is your HolidayIQ? – sneak preview of the travel game on Orkut

HolidayIQ has developed a Travel game called “Your HolidayIQ” which is now live on Orkut. It is designed to help you test how smart a holiday-goer you are. It can be accessed using the link below.

 http://www.orkut.co.in/Application.aspx?appId=574005842398

This is a game where the application gives out a tourism destination name and the player tries to point it on the India map within 10 seconds and gets reward points based on your accuracy. The better your tourism geography knowledge, the more points you get.

Since this is a first-cut beta version and is still work-in-progress, there will be some bugs. If you come across any errors, do let me know – I have already found a few places mapped wrong, which we are setting right. But do let me know if you notice any.

Incidentally, just in case any of you have escaped having an Orkut log-in till now, you can use your gmail id to log in. Happy playing.

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.

Best Summer Holiday Destinations in India

Here is a list of top (popular) destinations that Indian tourists are going to inside India during Summer 2008. This is from a tourism trends document recently released by HolidayIQ, part of a series called Holiday Intelligence.

Western region – Goa, Mahabaleshwar, Ganapatipule, Matheran, Alibaug

Southern region – Coorg, Bangalore rural, Kodaikanal, Nagarhole, Ooty

Northern region – Srinagar, Manali, Mussoorie, Jaipur, Binsar

Eastern region – Puri, Digha, Kolkata, Raichak, Shantiniketan

North-east – Gangtok, Shillong, Pelling, Guwahati

I had a lot of fun working on this along with the team – some cool insights there about Indian tourists. Incidentally, here is a link to a recent article in the Economic Times which quoted extracts from Holiday Intelligence.

If you’d like a copy of the document, send a mail to holidayintelligence@holidayiq.com.

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

A year on with The Long Hol..

It was exactly a year ago, on the 15th of Jan 2007 that I started this blog. It been fun. Much travel has got documented. Even more of my thoughts around travel have been recorded. I have hopefully moved closer to creating a personal style for my writing. It has certainly improved my understanding of that holy grail of the internet – Search Engine Optimisation. All in all, a nice journey so far. Except, it is starting to take up a fair bit of my early morning everyday.

Very surprisingly for me, this blog is starting to get some serious momentum. Its 3 month Alexa ranking stands at close to 300,000 and the rank for the last one week is 230,000; so it is clearly on a growth path. Alexa also ranks it as India’s 5667th most visited website, which is way cool for a blog started on a whim. I think all the stats seem to suggest that my little blog is probably India’s most visited travel blog. So, someone is reading this stuff I write – actually, more than someone, quite a lot of people. Crazy, isn’t it? Continue reading

Another year for HolidayIQ

holidayiq-vacationer-photo-picture.jpg 

2007 has been a very good year for HolidayIQ. We were able to move the whole initiative several notches higher. We also crossed an extraordinary milestone – visit by 5 million visitors to the site. As I said in an open letter to HolidayIQ members and audiences, “2007 has been wonderful year for HolidayIQ, a year in which we demonstrated relentless innovation, extraordinary user relevance and of course sheer leadership in our ambition of providing world-class tourism information and advice to Indian travellers”.

Read the full message here.

Read all my posts on HolidayIQ.

Agatti Island beach Resort in lakshadweep

View of the beach – Agatti Island beach Resort in Lakshadweep

agatti-beach-resort-lakshadweep-view1.jpg

Kayaking in the Agatti lagoon – Agatti Island Beach Resort

kayak-agatti-lagoon-lakshadweep1.jpg

The Lakshadweep Islands (the closest sensible firang translation for Lakshadweep is ‘million islands’) is about an hour’s flight into the Indian Ocean from the Kerala coast. Lakshadweep is part of a long chain of islands; the northern part of this chain is known as Lakshadweep and is part of Indian territory. The southern part of this chain is called Maldives and is an independent country.

Agatti island has the only airport for Lakshadweep. Flying into Agatti airport is an experience that I would unhesitatingly recommend for everyone. Imagine dropping down from the blue sky to a little bar of white sand surrounded by the turquoise of a lagoon, this being set off against the deep blue of the mighty Indian ocean. Good for the soul.

Agatti island is a long strip of land; you can see both sides of the island and the sea beyond from practically every point on the island. I wonder what your world view will be if you are born & brought up in a a place like this.

Agatti Beach Resort is the only real option to stay in Lakshadweep. Here is a very good review on this resort given by ‘Sald‘, a member on HolidayIQ. For many more reviews on HolidayIQ for this resort, click here.

Hotel Review of Agatti Island Beach Resort

When booking a room at the reosrt, we did it more out of a lack of options. Agatti is the only affordable resort in Lakshadweep – the other at Bangarm is way too expensive. Even at

Read more..

Comments: When booking a room at the reosrt, we did it more out of a lack of options. Agatti is the only affordable resort in Lakshadweep – the other at Bangarm is way too expensive. Even at Agatti, the rooms are not the best I’ve seen for the kind of tariff they have. The rooms are clean. Bathrooms are decent, but they could do with better fittings. Given the island’s remote location, we can forgive the lack of A/Cs., geysers or running fresh water in the bathrooms (yes, you need to brush your teeth with salt water too). But all this is really secondary. Located just ON THE BEACH, you need to hardly spend time in the room. We even had our afternoon siestas in the hammocks tied under the shade of the palm trees. Bilss!!

What makes this resort click is the awesome location. Continue reading

Tarkarli beach on the Konkan coast

Sindhudurg is the southernmost district of Maharashtra, just north of Goa. Sindhudurg is supposed to have some of the best beaches in India and Tarkarli beach in particular is mentioned by many as a particularly lovely beach to go to. Tarkarli’s reputation is one of clear waters that allow one to snorkel and scuba dive, which is interesting because to the best of my knowledge there is no other mainland beach in India that is good for watching the world underwater.

Goa does offer Scuba, but even the operators themselves agree that Goa’s murky waters are not the place for it. The best snorkelling & diving in India is in Lakshadweep, where Mitali & Prahlad Kakkar run Lacadives (the other option is to dive with Goa diving in Agatti Island; I have come across some vague rumours of safety here, so do check well before you go) . After that is the Andaman Islands, particularly Havelock Island. I haven’t been there and so do not have first hand experience – but many members of HolidayIQ swear by Havelock which is very reassuring.

Anyway, to come back to Tarkarli beach. I do know that a few years ago, a couple of well known boutique cruise operators (Seabourn, I am almost certain was one of them) had an interesting halt offshore at Tarkarli beach from where they brought guests by boat to the beach and then took them on a cycle tour of the local Konkan region. My impression is that this is not done anymore – certainly not at Tarkarli beach. Not sure why.

MTDC has a resort at Tarkarli beach, which has been reviewed and rated by many members of HolidayIQ. Everyone is unanimous in their opinion of Tarkarli beach. Tarkarli is an awesome beach and Continue reading

HolidayIQ & Google

We finally went public with our deal with Google – Times of India broke the story nationally today.

For those of you who are interested, here are the top level details. Google Local Search is a service where google provides business listings as part of its search results. These listings are procured from a carefully selected group of content partners. The general idea is to have only very high-quality content aggregators and content creators as its content partners.

Over the last 2 to 3 months, Google did a fair bit of evaluation of our India accommodation content and came to the conclusion that it is high quality. They even did independent verification of telephone numbers etc! Anyway, finally, they agreed that our user review & photos content for an unmatched variety of hotels, resorts, home-stay and guest house accommodation in India was exactly what they were looking for. The service goes live sometime in Jan 2008.

Interestingly, most hotel reviews for India hotels is now being provided to Google by Tripadvisor, the world’s leader in travel user-content. The first Indian source for google will be HolidayIQ. It is a nice feeling to be now equated with Tripadvisor.

We might not make much noise and have screaming ads. But we certainly have very good content. Which is what matters, ultimately. A happy development.