The Serai Group

Serai Group checks into Simplotel, leverages tech to record 5X jump in e-bookings

On Track To Hit Record Revenue Targets For The Fiscal

“The only advice I have for young entrepreneurs who want to enter the travel industry is DON’T!” says Samit Sawhny, MD, Barefoot Resorts and Leisure India. Sawhny also oversees the sales and marketing function for the Serai Group of luxury resorts — the hospitality arm of Coffee Day Enterprises, which also owns the well-known Cafe Coffee Day retail chain across the country. The Serai has a minority interest in Barefoot Resorts.

As the Centre imposed a nation-wide lockdown in March 2020, the hotel industry was one of the many that suffered a severe body blow. “We were able to use Simplotel’s platform to create vouchers bookable online for future undated stays, which helped us generate cash flow,” says Sawhny. The luxury group of resorts created a voucher system to enable customers to book future holidays and top up their cash, a top-up of Rs. 5,000 when you pay Rs. 20,000, which would be valid for up to three years. These vouchers were then displayed on the booking engine.

As lockdown restrictions eased, the Serai Group anticipated the need to ensure high safety protocols and quality. The leadership deliberated over how to effectively communicate the same message to customers, without compromising their holiday experience. “Our primary objective was to get people in immediately as the lockdown ended. And this was done by providing attractive value-added packages, tailor-made to the times. Simplotel’s technology allowed complicated packages to be coded and made bookable online. The information about these packages was then sent through mailers. With a single-click link, customers were redirected to the booking engine, thereby making our campaigns successful. Following this, we were then benefitted by a lot of referral business coming our way.”

Simplotel took the Serai Group website live just within six months of onboarding, which involved arduous work — customizing the website design, content, providing a seamless user interface, booking engine, and optimizing the reservation desk. Within two quarters, the luxury resort group witnessed a 60% increase in online bookings through its website.

“The reason we decided to use Simplotel is because they allowed us to put our mind behind the software,” says Sawhny. Unbeknownst to both, this alliance would prove to be extremely beneficial to the Serai Group due to the impending COVID-19 outbreak.

“With Simplotel’s technology, we realised that a lot of our customers were spending time on our landing pages and booking engines. They weren’t spending time on our “Activities” pages. With this insight, we began placing a lot of key activities in the shop window of the booking engine as well, and clocked significant increased sales of add-ons as a result.”

In six months, the Serai Group witnessed another 200% increase in its direct online bookings — a 5X boost since onboarding with Simplotel. From an 8% share of direct e-bookings against a 92% share by online travel agents (OTAs) in September 2019, its website now accounts for 40% of the total e-bookings. “If it weren’t for Simplotel, we would have had to go through the cumbersome process of contacting the Property Management Service (PMS) provider, calling up the call centre and following up on every minor update. Simplotel provided us the tools to power our website and the flexibility to design offers which were easy to execute,” says Sawhny.

On why someone should join the hotel industry, Sawhny contemplates and says, “The learnings are huge. You become an all-rounder as the challenges are multidimensional and it provides you an enriching lifelong experience.”

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