How Cleartrip.com is leveraging Google Cloud to survive the slump in the travel industry
With the novel coronavirus COVID-19 sweeping across continents and fatalities climbing every day, it was only a matter of time before countries closed their borders to contain its spread. In the wake of this decision, travel and tourism, the linchpins of many economies, were among the worst affected. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 22 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, and could see an annual decline of between 60 percent and 80 percent when compared with 2019. The impact on the economy and to livelihoods that are dependent on tourism and hospitality has been significant.
Prior to the pandemic, the outlook was quite different. Research by UNWTO in 2018 estimated that India would have 50 million outbound tourists by 2020. Technology was also set to play a huge part in that growth. A Google Travel study showed that 74 percent of travellers were planning their trips on the Internet, and technologies like AI, IoT and VR were all set to be key trends this year.
Now, as borders slowly reopen and travel restrictions are gradually lifted, technology could once again be the game-changer. Manoj Sharma CTO, Cleartrip.com spoke to YourStory about the industry’s road to recovery and how technology will aid that journey.
Delivering convenience and safety first
In the immediate aftermath of the outbreak, there was a significant rise in cancellations on the platform. The Cleartrip team assembled a team of engineers and built and deployed solutions to help customers manage their own cancellations using a non-voice model. Manoj says this helped them take charge of their own itineraries and efficiently and conveniently manage their changing requirements.
However, with the easing of the lockdown, people are now slowly returning to travel, and their primary concern is safety.
“We launched several products like Travel Safe quite early on, which provides travellers with information about travel safety and rules and regulations for specific regions, airlines, airports, etc,” he says.
Creating custom experiences
One of the other fallouts of the pandemic was a sudden overload of information on how it would affect travel. There was an urgent need to educate the customer with relevant filtered information. “Travel Safe addressed this requirement at the pre-booking stage, and the feedback from our users was really positive. We also leveraged our data technologies to build products that would enhance flexibility in terms of pricing and trip planning at the booking stage to give customers an itinerary that was best suited for their needs.”
The Cleartrip team uses proprietary data algorithms and data analytics to understand customer behaviour and predict their needs. “Being on the Google Cloud Platform really helped us develop the necessary insights quickly, which shaped the various products that we are developing,” says Manoj.
Scaling on the Cloud
Cleartrip India recently completed its transition to Google Cloud. Manoj says that the team from Google were very responsive and supportive when it came to understanding their needs and creating solutions that catered to their requirements and were easy to implement.
“We were looking for a partner whose solutions aligned with our technology stack. Our other criteria were infrastructure integration, efficiencies, and a partnership approach. Factors such as reliability, scale, performance, were a given, and I have to say that Google Cloud has ticked all of those checkboxes for us,” says Manoj explaining why they chose Google Cloud as their technology partner.
Manoj and his team started engaging with the Google Cloud team early in their search for a cloud solution. He says that it was the latter’s willingness to understand their unique needs, and then recommend appropriate solutions that made them the ideal partner.
“We have seen a significant improvement (66 percent) in the reliability, and in the efficiency of our infrastructure. Our improved ability to scale up and down has helped us provide much better caching utilization, and remove some of the inefficiencies that we previously had in our systems. This has also improved our SLAs with global partners,” says Manoj explaining how the partnership with Google Cloud has aided them.
He adds that since Cleartrip has a significant B2B offering with customers in India and across the globe, a more reliable infrastructure has given them the confidence to better meet SLAs.
Speaking about the technologies that they plan to use in the future, Manoj says, “While we are currently using BigQuery, going forward, we are looking at using Auto ML, and TensorFlow. Apart from that, we are also strengthening security and seeing how we can leverage Google's global presence to aid our disaster recovery solutions.”
As an online business, Cleatrip.com is highly reliant on technology to deliver value to its customers.
“We are building teams that are independent end-to-end and can deliver both growth and innovation via our products. We feel that Google Cloud is an ideal partner, as our engineering teams can now focus on developing products that bring value to the business, and not worry about the operational challenges of managing infrastructure,” he adds.
Addressing the future of travel, Manoj says that while the travel industry has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, they are optimistic about recovery as they believe there is a pent up demand for travel. “Consumers are reluctant or hesitant to travel currently because of the uncertainty and their need for safety. We certainly feel that as companies start to address these needs, traveller confidence will return.”