Amidst a burgeoning global industry, Pakistani travel startups are failing to get a sizeable chunk of the pie. While many startups like SastaTicket, TripKar, Checkin.pk, FindMyAdventure and the likes have popped up in recent years, almost all have not shown any promise so far despite a well-developed product.
So what is it that is keeping the travel startups in Pakistan from becoming big league players in the country’s growing e-commerce industry. Here are 7 areas where these startups are falling short:
Failing to Advertise Themselves Properly
Most of these startups do not realize that marketing their brand does not necessarily mean spending millions on advertising dollars and then going broke the next day. It’s not how much money you put into advertising, it’s how much money you put into targeting the right kind of people.
So if you run a Facebook ad that targets people just based on their demographics instead of targeting people who are frequent travelers, you will of course end up wasting your marketing spend. Not everyone who falls within a given demographic wants to travel or can afford to travel. And then there are those who are actively looking to travel based on their search habits.
This is why these travel startups need to target people based on their searches via Google Ads.
Not Setting Up a Loyalty Program
Promoting app or service usage by giving coupons in partnership with different retail brands is one of the most under-utilized marketing strategies in Pakistan.
Customers use an app or service more if they are rewarded for using it. Pakistani travel startups need to partner with fashion and food brands and give discounts via redeemable points gained through their app usage.
No B2B Marketing
It’s all about understanding the end customer. People who travel frequently are usually business travelers & so reaching out to their companies makes more business sense than reaching out to the employees directly.
Travel startups can offer discounts to businesses if they sign up on their platform as a partner and agree to book all their flights via the travel platform.
Not Concentrating on Their Mobile App
People who usually book a flight/trip online, do it via their smartphones. So not having a mobile app is equivalent to suicide and having a buggy mobile app is punishment even in the grave.
One of the best travel mobile apps is that of AirAsia. It has the most friendly user experience and keeps notifying the customer of latest promotions using push messages – that have 50% higher open rates than emails. I have not seen Pakistani travel startups use push messages frequently.
Not Tapping into the Muslim Travel Market
In a Muslim country, one would have thought this would be obvious. But no. Pakistani travel startups still have not jumped on the opportunity of offering Muslim-friendly tours to Pakistanis in non-Muslim countries. This includes booking hotels that offer Halal food and have the absolutely necessary ‘Muslim Shower’, and giving coupons for Halal restaurants.
Then there are many Muslims who want to go on a Muslim world tour but have to book separate flights to the countries which were once part of an ‘Islamic empire’ like the Ottoman Caliphate or the Abbasid Caliphate. If Pakistani travel startups could offer tours to Grenada, Fez, Cairo, Amman, Tehran and Uzbekistan, all under one discounted travel package, that would be a huge time and cost-saver for the average Pakistani consumer.
Indeed, Muslims just don’t want to travel to Mecca and Medina only. There are other places in Islamic history to visit too.
No Custom Tour Packages
TripKar does an amazing job by offering various tour packages that allow a customer to plan the entire trip from the start to the end. But what if a person does not want to go to a specific place in a tour but rather wishes to go someplace else? Where’s the option of customization.
Many international travel brands are known to offer customizable plans: one notable example is Expedia. It evens offers a fully customizable plan. Once you get picked up from the airport, the entire itinerary is up to you. You tell your driver where you want to go. This is the kind of adventure many tourists from Pakistan want.
Being Too Pushy
Travel startups in Pakistan are guilty of being too pushy with their services and not building enough engagement. Promoting your service all the time without addressing what he or she really needs is a big turn-off.
Travel startups need to generate educational content, especially video content, which includes reviewing places to show how to survive in a particular country & making travel films and documentaries that showcase the arts and culture of a given country to build customer interest.
Most travel startups simply want to capture customers at the end of the sales cycle, those who are ready to travel. But they fail to target those customers who are at the start of the sales cycle, those who are not ready to travel yet but may travel if their interest is built upon. Because, after all, we need to expand the market, not just target the existent customer pool, right?
Unless Pakistani startups learn to get more creative and try to have a deeper understanding of the user behavior, their growth will continue to be unimpressive, if not stagnant.