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Posted in Tourism Currents | By Priyaanka Berry

Jet Airways, after having brought all its brands under one umbrella couple of years ago, has made ‘guest first’ philosophy its core driving principle. Belson Coutinho speaks to TourismFirst to share the airline’s future course of action and current engagements.

Belson Coutinho

BELSON COUTINHO VP-MARKETING, E-COMMERCE & INNOVATION, JET AIRWAYS

How are you marketing the brand domestically and how is the outreach happening?

If you step back some years, you probably will get a good feel of how the brand was positioned and what sort of communication with which were able to engage with customers. If you see, it was predominantly focusing on the business traveller. Over the last one and a half years, more specifically, a lot of our focus has gone into defining the way we position our brand and the way we are engaging with the consumer. It came out of a lot of research. The whole consumer segmentation within the Indian travel ecosystem has changed a lot. A lot of that is being driven by the fact that digital and social media is playing a very extensive role for any brand outreach, and also for the consumer to engage with the brand. That is when our thought process came in that while the business traveller and the corporate segment remains important and we continue to engage with, going forward, new segments that are growing – new-age traveller and millennials, SME travellers – need to be engaged with.

So, we have started consciously focusing equally, if not more, on these two larger segments as well.

From the marketing perspective, the conscious focus has been to drive engagement. What I mean by that is instead of pure play-direct marketing messages, the intention is to make the brand more relevant for these consumer segments.

In the last 9-12 months, our focus has been on generation of a lot of video content. What we realise is that consumer is literally consuming content on the fly. The takeaway for us was that brands need to tell a story. Brands need to be relevant to the consumer for them to relate to what we are trying to say. We started storytelling in the form of a video, leveraging the wide network that we have. If you see, all of it ties back to our brand philosophy which is ‘guest first’, meaning how do you relate to the consumer with anything and everything you do.

You mentioned SME and millennial travellers as two distinct segments that the brand has focussed on. We in the industry have been hearing about the leisure segment and how it is on the move. So, do you see that translating into commercial gains as far as the airline is concerned?

Absolutely. It is a very valid point. The focus on one side continues to be the corporate traveller which has been our strength and continue to be our strength, the bubble is getting bigger, equally, on the other side. What I meant by when I said focus on newer segments which are millennials and SME, there is a tremendous amount of leisure, not just for VFR, but also short-duration travel, weekend travel etc.

That is what we are also trying to leverage, backing it with a lot of investment in the holiday side of business – JetEscapes. Charter and niche sort of holidays which again dives into mind about how do you create experiences, rather than just a point A to B holiday and come back. It is also a great opportunity to leverage what India is to offer. That is what the younger generation or the new-age consumer is looking forward to. What better than we as an airline who have an extensive connectivity across, helping the consumer to explore the experiential side of India. And that is where we started leading towards different events if I may say. So, during the Diwali time, typically, one would showcase it as the festival of lights and fireworks. We explored a side that is not really known very well. Every state celebrates Diwali in its unique way, but the spirit of Diwali remains the same. So, we showcased how Diwali happens in different regions.

Leisure is a growing segment and our engagement is really showing good results. 

The airline’s attempt to create a niche position will also aid in the whole push towards marketing the ‘Brand India’ in the international marketspace. Can you take through that bit? How are you marketing Brand India and bringing in more tourists into the country?

We have such a great opportunity to sell India in the overseas market and, fortunately, we have the luxury of being present in so many countries. We fly to 20 destinations overseas and every country has an opportunity for us to talk to the audience. As much as there are Indians who travel, there is opportunity to talk to locals about India and what it can offer them in terms of experiences.

This is an interesting question which brings me to the point that in December 2014 we moved from having multiple brands inti a single brand. That was the start of a very interesting and successful phase for us from a brand perspective. With it the whole ‘guest first’ concept came in, though, primarily, as a brand we were always about service and hospitality.

We decided to get everything together. Right from enhancing the training level of our ground staff, to enhancing product experience – right from product design, to website, to check-in procedures. A whole lot of effort and investment went into creating a single brand, focusing on one strategy i.e. guest first. 

There is a tremendous amount of positive feedback that has come in through. TripAdvisor has rated us the best airline. It is great, all the more, because it is not solicited research.

Going back to overseas market and how we position it, we started Amsterdam flight just about a year ago. We finished one year in March. That gave us an opportunity to position our brand and there is no better way to position it as an Indian brand, bringing the Indian hospitality to Amsterdam. We did a massive campaigning in that market. Right from trams, in fact it was such a sight and I had so many of our guests finding a tram in and around Amsterdam completely branded. We continue to focus on that. The hospitality part and experiencing India.

So, there were two key segments that we focussed on. One was the local populace which needed to experience Indian hospitality and the other one is, of course, Indians who have settled there. We started communication which was very targeted. Think home, think Jet Airways. 

A number of international carriers have been very keen on injecting a sense of Indianness to their offerings. So, the whole thrust is in that direct. Jet Airways is doing it in more wider sense, I believe. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

If you look back at where we started, it has always been Indian hospitality. I think we never got away from that. So, what we are doing today is only a reinforcement of what we have always tried to do. As an Indian carrier, it is, by default, our right to own it. It is about amplifying it and it has always been our core essence, right from service design to service delivery. So, it is only an extension.

Give us a sense of how is the online marketing happening. Have you seen a spike in online booking post demonetization? What percentage of the online booking is driven by your own channel and how much by OTAs?

From a digital marketing point of view, we are significant in terms of our focus on digital marketing. The good part is that in the space of digital and social media we are the early adopters of channels. We started digital and social even when it was at an initial stage and the great part of that was that we had the leverage to work and partner with the channel partners at a very early stage. It is part of an always on digital media and communication. If you are online you will see us doing this as an always on campaign that is largely focussing on generating conversions and leads back to our website. Obviously, we want more and more to convert directly but at the same time we balance that with a good amount of brand engagement and brand visibility as well. 

The other piece which is significant for us is the social media engagement. We have a very structured social media strategy and it is about ‘listen, engage and respond’. We have a twenty-four seven social media listening team, that listens to any and everything that is talked about the brand. They respond twenty-four seven to any queries or questions. More importantly we try to pro-actively share information and updates not just about our operations and flights but also on things about travel, aviation and things that a consumer may find really interesting. So, the consumer today does not really want to get much of tactical updates via social media but they do want to talk to you with stories and interesting insights about travel and aviation facts. I think that is one of our most successful pillars that we are driving today. For example, we started a program for plane spotters. You will be surprised by the amount of plane spotters that exist in this country and once we started engaging with them, the amount of content we generate from them is amazing. Some of the most aircraft shots while taking off or landing come from these plane spotters who are now part of our community. Outsourced content is what we are collaborating on and sharing. We are very active on all the social media platforms and in fact these are the biggest communities for airlines in India. We really do not benchmark it in terms of the fans and followers but it is the largest in terms of the numbers and engagement. 

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