Shreyas Kulkarni

"Leisure travel will be a huge focus for us this year": OYO's Mayur Hola

A chat with OYO's global brand head about its ‘registaan’ specific ad. More region specific ads are in the pipeline.

Until 2020, ‘travel’ was the buzziest word in people’s vocabulary. Last year, travel didn’t just take a backseat, it came to an abrupt halt because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a March 2020 report on COVID's impact on consumer business in India, Deloitte said, "The Indian tourism and hospitality sector, comprising of hotels, restaurants, tour and travel operators, wedding and conference planners, etc., contribute more than $250 billion, or nearly one-tenth of the GDP.”

In June 2020, JLL, a global property consultant, said that 60 per cent of the operators it surveyed believed it will take 13-24 months for their portfolio to bounce back to 2019 RevPAR (revenue per available room) levels.

However, as 2020 edged towards its end, the populace started getting used to the pandemic situation. And, with the COVID vaccine in the picture now (India has already started its vaccination drive), the travel and tourism industry's revival has started.

Just take a look around you in real and online life. How many marriage invitations did you receive in the last 2-3 months of 2020, and in January 2021? How many of your friends are posting their travel photographs on Instagram? How many of them went to Goa in December? Did you visit Goa in December? You get the drift…

OYO, a leading hotel chain, has been riding this wave with ads aimed to stimulate the suppressed wanderlust among the masses. Its latest ad, which was released on January 23, 2021 is, perhaps, the best of them all.

Eighty-seven seconds long, it has catchy music and lyrics, coupled with fun graphics that ask you to go to the ‘registaan’ (desert). Why? Because you (like everyone else) are frustrated with working from home (WFH) and doing household work too… “Nahi Banna Katputli,” says the ad.

“We are all a bunch of frustrated folks… You don’t have to research much to know that everyone is dying to get out,” says Mayur Hola, OYO’s global brand head. The frustration is apparent... “A lot of brands have used it, but I think the combination of using it, alongside destination promotion, was something we were pretty keen to do.”

Mayur Hola
Mayur Hola

We (afaqs!) were curious to understand why OYO spoke about the ‘registaan’ when one can say it’s the season of ‘barfila pahaad’ (snowy hill). Hola says simply because it’s the winter season. He then revealed that Jaipur consistently comes up as the most visited destination.

Last year, OYO released two ads on the beaches and the ‘pahads’ to encourage people to travel once again. When asked if OYO will do more ads covering other regions, Hola stated, “Absolutely. Uttar, Dakshin, Purab, Paschim (North, South, East, West)…”

If you look at the three ads, you will see a few similarities. For instance, an issue is figured out and then travelling is encouraged. (Frustrated WFH? ‘Registaan’. Working weekends? Beach.)

And, it turns out that OYO makes these ads in-house. Says Hola, “We take the help of a lyricist and a composer for the music. We work with them, write with them, but everything is done in-house, otherwise.”

A scene in the ‘registaan’ ad mentions Quora, an American question-and-answer website. When quizzed on it, the response was quite hilarious. Hola says that it’s a subliminal thing you tend to insert when you’re writing, and “the convenient thing is that we had to rhyme something with ‘mohra’, so…”

“Dimag fatt raha mohra. Maine chhaan liya sara Quora” goes the line.

While we enjoyed the ad, we wanted to understand who’s travelling these days and travel-related trends. Hola tells us that he had spoken to a company’s growth head last week. The conversation veered towards how OYO’s traffic tails off a bit after the New Year, by the third or fourth week of January.

Hola then went on to tell the growth head that there will be huge revenge tourism during every long weekend and holiday this year. “We scaled our highest number of stays since the lockdown this Saturday (January 23, 2021, because of the long holiday due to Republic Day).”

OYO has seen an uptick in places like Kochi, Jaipur, and Udaipur… Leisure tourism is picking up, and so are visits from groups and families, alongside the brand’s core audience, i.e., 18-25 year olds.

“February is a big month, in terms of youngsters choosing us, because it’s when people fall in love once more…” Hola says that when it comes to youngsters, “it’s hardcore digital (in terms of targeting). But we are not averse to going on print, like we did late last year…”

Expert views

The ‘registaan’ ad was quite enjoyable. So, we spoke to two creative experts about their thoughts on it.

Sambit Mohanty, head of creative, south, McCann

Sambit Mohanty
Sambit Mohanty

This ad is such a treat to watch. Much like the state of Rajasthan (that it’s urging you to go visit), it’s colourful, tuneful and delightful! I loved what has been achieved, presumably with a shoestring budget. The graphic elements, pop colour and meme-like treatment pegs OYO as a fun, youthful brand. ‘Registaan’, I stan!

Sraman Majumdar, senior creative director, Brave New World

Sraman Majumdar
Sraman Majumdar

The first thing that strikes you is the traditional hook and the hilarity of the track. I suppose we’re all itching for that escape right now after being well behaved for a year. So, it couldn’t have been better timed either.

Also, positioning this as a desert escape is such a clever strategic salute to a socially-distanced holiday. The lyrics hit all the relatable notes, the visuals catch the eye without taking themselves seriously and the general mood is irresistibly upbeat. It certainly helps that OYO is a popular enough name to not require overbranding in this context. I thoroughly enjoyed this ad.