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Sarovar sees 500% growth in revenue from direct bookings

Pool at Evolve Back Resorts Coorg

Evolve Back Resorts hits 10% in direct bookings via brand website with Simplotel

The chain of boutique experiential resorts received a Rs. 10-lakh booking through its brand website after onboarding Simplotel.

Most of us do not take the road less traveled. But then you have Sarovar Hotels and Resorts who did, and they became trailblazers in the Indian hospitality industry.

Sarovar operates 96 hotels across 55 destinations worldwide. One of the leading hotel chains in India, Sarovar was founded by Anil Madhok (Executive Chairman) and Ajay Bakaya (Managing Director) nearly a quarter of a century ago. Sarovar Hotels was the first mover in India to adopt the asset-light model, where it manages and services other hotel properties through strategic alliances with other chains.

Sarovar started operations when it took franchises of Park Plaza and Park Inn brands for India. A decade later (circa 2005), Sarovar began promoting its own brands: Portico, Hometel and Premiere. Fast-forward to another decade and the Louvre Hotels Group, one of Europe’s leading hospitality brands, purchased a stake in Sarovar in 2017. Another milestone in this impressive growth story.

Evolve Back Resorts is a chain of boutique experiential resorts owned and operated by Orange County Resorts & Hotels and promoted by Ramapuram Holdings. It currently has three operational resorts in Coorg, Kabini and Hampi in Karnataka, India; and one in the Central Kalahari, Botswana.

Initially christened as Orange County Resorts for orange groves planted within the property in Coorg, the hospitality chain started operations with a 10-room resort. Subsequently, the group opened two more resorts in Kabini (2008) and in Hampi (2016), and later acquired the property in Botswana. It was also around this time that the hospitality chain decided to rebrand itself as Evolve Back to celebrate & preserve the localness and culture of the respective regions.

Shatabdi Dutta, General Manager (Marketing) at Sarovar, believes that Simplotel’s USP is its digital marketing service. “Simplotel helped us rank in terms of traffic generation across online channels and drive conversions. We received great technical support from the team, which we lacked earlier. The website design is great and user friendly. We have received positive feedback from guests that the booking journey does not take much time, is hassle free, and most importantly, the mobile site is responsive!”

Sit-out at Evolve Back Kabini

Thomas Ramapuram, a fourth generation scion of Ramapuram Holdings, is currently the Director of Sales at Evolve Back Resorts. With a three-year experience as a wealth manager with a multinational bank, Thomas decided to return to his family business. “In our family, we have this unsaid rule that you need to venture outside, get some exposure and then join the family business.”

Evolve Back Resorts decided to onboard Simplotel’s Hotel E-commerce solution (Website Builder & Booking Engine) after meeting the team frequently over a period of two years. “We would always meet the Simplotel team at various industry events. Each meeting was an opportunity for us to learn more about growing direct bookings. We were happy with our previous vendor. However, we knew that Simplotel had the potential to grow our revenues. We’re glad to have made the switch,” says Thomas.

For India, Evolve Back Resorts does 25% of its total business through online channels. “Our direct bookings have grown 4x since. Out of total occupancy, our brand website generates a phenomenal 10% in direct bookings. Since we offer a luxury product, we understand that a majority of our bookings will always come through offline channels. Recently, there was this unique instance where we had a guest make a Rs. 10-lakh booking through our brand website. I was astonished because Indians are wary of transacting online. This was a testament to our brand credibility over the past three decades, and also to the direct-booking technology that Simplotel has empowered us with,” lauds Thomas.

The view of a room at Evolve Back Resorts Hampi

Within a year of onboarding Simplotel, Sarovar had hit over 3x growth in revenue from direct bookings. In another year, this growth doubled to 6x since it went live with Simplotel. “We were able to use Simplotel’s technology to begin promotions and campaigns that gave us a major boost”, says Khan. The average monthly organic traffic also nearly doubled for The Louvre Hotels-backed hospitality chain. However, this was only possible as Sarovar had managed to put their vision into action and achieve the almost impossible in such a short span of time.

On personal learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic, both Khan and Dutta agree that they have learned to live life more passionately and prioritize family. On the professional front, they have learned to think out of the box to jumpstart Sarovar’s operations and forge deeper connections with their partners.

The Classic Family Tent at Evolve Back in Kalahari, Botswana

Thomas believes that the difference between Simplotel and other vendors is that the Bangalore-based SaaS startup is genuinely concerned about growing direct bookings for hotels. “While other vendors just offer the booking engine at a throwaway price, Simplotel provided us with a high-conversion booking engine — which is so simple at the backend — that has grown our revenues.”

Thomas advises that people who wish to enter hospitality need to have a very strong ethic of service and attention to detail. “It’s one of the toughest industries to work in. However, the satisfaction of receiving positive feedback from guests or making someone’s day is worth it.”

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