3 ways to expand your online travel niche in APAC

When you’ve captured your initial niche, tap new markets but do your research and know your customer, says David Chambat, chief executive of Villa-Bali.com

Marketing to a niche, under-the-radar segment is great. It enables you to expand quickly and secure a bigger market share than, perhaps, those operating in more popular circles. But once you’ve captured a good chunk of your chosen niche in a particular market, even become a leader, how do you keep growing? The metamorphosis from being a market challenger to becoming an internationally recognised brand means that you need to look for new and innovative ways to expand your business. Tapping new markets and customers is one way to do it. Here are some of the lessons we have learnt walking the road to expansion.

Tip #1 - Develop new niches but do your research

The perk of operating within the travel industry is the sheer number of opportunities for startups. We started by focusing on becoming a market leader in one destination, and believed that developing a new niche would be as straightforward as diversifying into a different country. By enlarging the scope of operations, not only would we grow our business, thanks to an inflated database of clients, the aim was also to grow our reputation and global physical presence.

Sounds easy, right? Well our lesson was that going international is harder than it looks. Watch out for well-established brands, specific customer behaviour and understand that local regulations and tax systems in the new markets as this might differ from your core market. After our initial success in Bali, for example, we opened in Sri Lanka and Thailand but soon found that there were a lot of variations to operating in these markets.

In Sri Lanka, for example, a relatively new destination for travel, most bookings come from couples rather than families. As they are usually a younger demographic, and don’t mind sharing a ‘boutique’ villa with other couples, we shifted our marketing strategy accordingly.

In Thailand, on the other hand, when we discuss a listing with owners we always ask for discounts. Here, everything is overpriced so you have to ask and bargain for the price to be lowered. It’s not so much behaviour as it is a market practice, and was also something very different from what we saw in Bali, where prices are more or less fixed.

Tip #2 - Find new customers in your niche and deliver what they want

No company, not even the most successful ones, are ever targeting and reaching 100% of their potential customers. But you can still expand your own database of clients. In my view, the key is to curate to the differing needs of people coming from varying countries.

In the travel industry, this might mean opening an overseas office to capture a new feed market, providing expertly translated versions of your website in multiple languages or having prices displayed in multiple currencies. These additions can open a whole new market to your travel business, effectively ensuring a new flow of customers to your products.

Tip #3 – Personalise and innovate to high expectations

Another way to delve deeper into your established niche is to cater to an exclusive clientele. For example, we started Seminyak-Villa.com to meet the needs of a specific subset of our Bali clients, the Bali connoisseurs. These are frequent travellers to the island, who know exactly what they want and where they want it – say, a villa in the hip part of Seminyak area.

These customers are very knowledgeable about Bali and have high expectations of villa standards. So when we launched the site we positioned ourselves as the go-to place for renting villas of unrivalled quality and luxury.

Additionally, since our clients have specific knowledge of the location that goes beyond basic tourism, we developed a map that allowed users to search down to individual street level. Now, our clients can see their villa in relation to the neighborhood and the restaurants they know so well, which allows them to make informed and personalised decisions on which villa to choose.

Also by providing tailor-made insider information on our blog of must see sights in Seminyak, clients are able to arrive at their destination with all the details they need to enjoy a great holiday.

This guest post was penned by David Chambat chief executive of Villa-Bali.com, an Asian villa distribution and reservation website

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