The ministry of tourism plans to develop an online portal to compete for hotel and airline bookings with websites such as expedia.com.
In partnership with Eviivo Ltd, a UK-based software company, it plans to develop a website that will be a one-stop shop for tourists to book hotel rooms and purchase airline and rail tickets. The site will pay for itself.
“We are talking about making it a self-sustaining revenue-generating process,” said Leena Nandan, director for the ministry. Private companies will pay a portion of their sales from online bookings as a fee to Eviivo; home owners offering bed-and-breakfast plans will be exempt.
Airlines, hotels, tour operators and state tourism officials will provide information on availability, rates and other details and be able to collect payments online, said Nandan. Eviivo, which had earlier developed e-commerce technology for the ‘Visit Britain’ campaign to encourage tourism to the British Isles, will administer the site. The web firm will receive a transaction fee to cover the cost of building and maintaining the system, said Nandan.
The ministry plans to unveil the site publicly in April, but several travel industry professionals contacted by Mint said they had not yet been informed of the project.
While international travel to India hit a record high last year with 4.4 million visitors, it still lags well behind countries like China and Malaysia.The ministry of tourism has targeted a figure of 10 million foreign tourists by 2010. The ministry has a network of at least 2,415 government-owned hotels and guest houses that it could tap into.
Ranjit Barthakur, an Eviio spokesperson, was not very forthcoming on how the e-commerce technology would function or the financial arrangements with the government. However, he confirmed that the company has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the ministry to develop the software. It is yet to be decided whether the search engine will come under the Incredibleindia.org umbrella or be established as a separate portal.
“I cannot say that any promotion won’t help,” said Geetha Subramanian, who handles marketing for the Clarks Shiraz hotel in Agra. Still, as much as 70% of her “business comes through international travel agencies”, so she sees limited use for the website. Other industry representatives also expressed tentative interest.