Indonesia’s online travel sector could be the next big thing. Traveloka is unquestionably the dominant force for booking plane tickets, but when it comes to reserving hotels and rooms, several players are lining up for a shot at the title. With Valadoo’s shutdown earlier this year, names like Ezytravel, Tiket, and Travelio have made noise in the market.
A few days ago, a new contender emerged in the form of Mister Aladin, a hotel booking site born from Indonesia’s family-owned conglomerate MNC Media. Teddy Pun, Mister Aladin’s CEO, tells Tech in Asia he is bullish on the nation’s growth story in the travel sector.
“How we plan to compete in this market is first to focus on hotels,” explains Teddy. “This is only the beginning, over the next three to six months, we will introduce many more features and products to enhance the travel booking experience.”
Mister Aladin has hotels across the nation, as well as special villas in Bali. Users can browse and book based on the hotel name or destination. The site also features a travel blog about great places to visit across the archipelago.
Nice pedigree and bold claims
Teddy has been with MNC Media for the past three years as the company’s senior VP. Prior to that, he was CFO of Capitalinc Investment in Indonesia, and also had a stint as VP of proprietary trading and equities research at Credit Suisse in New York and Hong Kong.
“I convinced the CEO and the directors that MNC should have an online travel site,” he says. “The group also believes in the online travel industry and so that’s how Mister Aladin started.” Teddy believes he can outmaneuver Jakarta’s travel-tech incumbents with a bit of differentiation.
“The real reason why online travel is very interesting for me is because many of our competitors are actually offering the same products [as one another]. There is basically no differentiation between their offerings and zero innovations: flights and hotels that’s it,” he explains. “Further, many players have a limited advertising budget. Mister Aladin will be a force to reckon with because we have unique and better offerings and features, and more marketing resources than our peers.”
Too big to ignore
Teddy says ecommerce for travel services still has a lot of room to grow. “You know there are only 190,000 hotels in Indonesia, compared to 260,000 hotels in Malaysia? Even Singapore, given its size, has 65,000 rooms. But our population is 250 million, Malaysia’s is only 60 million. Foreign visitors to Indonesia are only 9 million [annually], visitors to Malaysia are 27 million,” he says. “Many travel bookings are still done with traditional travel agents, but that trend will move to digital very fast. If one combines all these factors, the online travel market [in Indonesia] is just too big to ignore.”
Indeed, other firms have noticed the potential as well. As a startup that focuses solely on hotels, Travelio will compete directly with Mister Aladin. Travelio was created under a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Surya Semesta Internusa, one of the largest publicly traded property, construction, and hospitality companies in the archipelago. It too has a vast pool of resources. Travelio’s unique value proposition is that is lets users negotiate lower prices for their rooms online. Mister Aladin will also see fiery competition in the forms of GoIndonesia, HotelQuickly, PegiPegi, and Rocket Internet’s newcomer ZenRooms.
Mister Aladin makes money from commission on hotel bookings. But Teddy says the firm will roll out new money-making features in the near future. Mister Aladin claims to have partnered with more than 12,000 hotels across Indonesia.
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