FOR someone who travels to countries like they are just a bus ride away, accommodation is a priority.
It is no wonder why virtual hotel-booking company Nida Rooms Cofounder and CEO Kaneswaran Avili chose to live the hotel-hunting life, giving customers quality rooms in budget-friendly rates.
Avili is not a newbie to the travel industry, having been a senior executive for one of India’s largest airlines Spice Jet and working as part of the start-up tream of AirAsia under Tony Fernandes.
Adding to his resume in the tourism industry, Avili was entrusted to set up TuneHotels and TuneMoney, and then working in a senior management position for airlines in Macau and Indonesia. Afterward, he lent his hand in reviving the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.
Avili can be credited for bringing low-cost carriers to the collective consciousness of travelers in the Asian region.
“Airline business is always a very sexy business. And starting a low-cost airline is something very new and very tough back then. There was no low-cost airline in Southeast Asia. People were asking how come the airfare is so cheap? Is the pilot trained? We had to break all the barriers in gaining people’s trust. In terms of cost it was challenging,” Avili said.
A room for everyone
Now, the Malaysian travel executive is focusing on providing travelers with convenient accommodations anywhere in the world. His company Nida Rooms allows online- and app-based bookings that fits everyone’s needs.
“With the uber-ization, smartphones widely used in Southeast Asia, along with a lot of hotels with average occupancy rate of only 65 percent to 70 percent, that is when I thought the timing was perfect. For the consumers, what we are providing them is a solution for them to choose a hotel at the right location at the right price at the right quality,” Avili said.
Since its start in September 2015, Nida Rooms has established operations in four countries, including Thailand, Malasia, Indonesia and the Philippines. With more than 4,000 partner hotels in their network and over 7 million rooms inventory per year, Avili boasts of Nida Rooms’s hyper-growth over the last eight months.
Confessing to having traveled one time to four countries in a span of 24 hours, Avili said there is no going back in the current boom in travel culture among Asian countries.
Their basic principle is that travelers need to invest more on their experiences rather than focus on hotel amenities.
“Most Asian consumers use their hotel room for 12 hours maximum. They check in and leave their rooms for their meetings, entertainment, shopping and dinner. They go back at night, go have a good shower, spend two or three hours on Wi-Fi, watch TV and sleep. So people in Asia typically spend more money outside than in the hotel,” Avili said.
He added: “For middle-income customers, we are giving them good-quality hotel rooms at a cheaper price so they can travel more often and stay at any location.”
Avili argued that customers should not pay huge amount to the hotel for the services that are never used, including cost of their swimming pool, the lobby and other facilities.
“You hardly use them,” he quipped.
The growth in travel
Alongside eyeing emerging markets, like the Philippines, Avili said growth in travel will be common to all countries worldwide due to the increase use of technology and the growing ease of travel.
“In the next five to 10 years, Asia will start getting new aircraft, people will start flying more and more, and travel will become more common. Everybody will start traveling 10 times a week so people need a place to stay. The demand is there,” he said.
While the booming travel scene is good news for all levels of tourism players, Avili said his company will be catering to those looking for low-cost hotels. He added that there is a lot of them out there that do not have the budget for marketing and promotion.
“We provide good one-, two- and three-star hotels in much better locations than what global online travel agencies offer. Most of the low-cost hotels do not have the technology, that is why we have people on the ground manually checking the quality of these hotels. The big players never bothered with these kinds of hotels, but often they have the better location,” Avili said.
He added: “We provide technology in one single view at what price and what kind of quality. For many of these hotels, their brand is not recognized. They only have maximum one or two properties per country, and they do not have much marketing money. Most of them do not even have a web site. What we do is we bring their hotel to a global stage under Nida Rooms.”
Currently, Nida Rooms has 250 partner hotels in the Philippines, including those in the National Capital Region, Davao, Cebu, Boracay and Pampanga.
Avili said plans for Nida Rooms include raising $10 million for marketing and property development, as well as targeting 7,500 hotel partners and 1 million customers by the end of the year.
Avili added that, with over 180,000 mobile-application downloads and 1 million page views per month, the company’s growth is in line with the “sexy” travel and airlines industry scene.
He said his heart is for helping good-quality low-cost players in the tourism industry get recognition and assist them go global.
According to Avili, he is happy to build something new and in helping small entrepreneurs get their groove in the industry.
“We are working with hotels which are individually owned by entrepreneurs. They are not sophisticated. They do not use technology. They are very, very basic. So we go down there, explaining to them the value of the brand. We do not want their rooms unoccupied,” Avili said.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano