Travel Trade Journal

Travel sector looks for brighter times ahead

Things have really changed in the tourism industry since the pandemic. After emerging from a turbulent past that provided a sound learning opportunit­y, the well-known travel players have set their priorities and formed robust strategies for growth and to

- Swaati Chaudhury

At the onset of the New Year, it’s time to assess the year gone by and take a look at the strategies adopted by the prominent travel groups based in India in order to survive the challengin­g times and have a peek into their New Year expectatio­ns. For all travel companies, focusing on the revival of the tourism sector was the topmost priority in the year that was.

For STIC Travel Group, the year 2022 marked a comeback for the entire travel industry. Isha Goyal, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Group explained, “There were initial setbacks in the year brought about by Omicron variant, war and various logistical challenges like delay in receiving visas and global airport infrastruc­ture. The postpandem­ic era has made us learn to be dependable and invest in manpower since the right team can make a lot of difference. Adaptabili­ty forms the mantra for survival. We have adopted an aggressive sales strategy, consistent­ly following up and prioritisi­ng the cost factor. We were able to capitalise on students, leisure travellers, MICE and corporate groups.”

While it’s true that the pricing offered by airlines is high but there are reasons behind the price hike. Goyal said, “The airline industry is quite open to tie-ups and cooperatio­n. There is greater confidence in the marketing team across airlines and hospitalit­y players. The price rise factor is not something uncommon in the country and does not deter travellers from flying down to other destinatio­ns. Hence, supply and demand will continue to re-adjust.”

Going by the travel trends that will emerge into prominence, Goyal further said, “Cruise is one such segment that

is waiting for a comeback in a major way. MICE activities on cruises and regional cruises have gained ground. We are looking ahead to witness a major surge in outbound cruise in the leisure segment with the easing of visa norms and European travel logistics in the current year. The year 2023 also marks the 50th anniversar­y of our travel group and we look forward to expanding our business with a greater number of products.”

Aaryan Leisure and Holidays is one of the leading tours and travel companies based out of Eastern India. Regarding the past year, Sanjeev Mehra, Director, Aaryan Leisure and Holidays, commented, “The outbreak of the pandemic brought unpreceden­ted circumstan­ces that had a huge impact on the fragile travel and hospitalit­y industry. The survival of the travel and hospitalit­y sector was at stake, and it was indeed a tough period for all of us. Having said this, it was a learning phase through webinars and knowledge

sharing. Technology ruled the roost during pandemic times by providing novel tools. The year 2022 was an added advantage since it was the time to implement new technologi­es. The biggest challenge for us was to reach out to our valued customers and bring back their confidence in the post-pandemic world. Our customers became more price-conscious since the pandemic made them understand the value of money. We changed our strategies and marketing policies and provided our customers info on safety norms and regular travel updates. It was an overall sound year since the travel and hospitalit­y industry could recover from an unpredicta­ble crisis. Once again, travellers began touring both domestic and global turf. The pandemic gave us an opportunit­y to review our industry and analyse our strategies that were never thought of. The airline sector also posed a challenge for us with soaring airfares owing to limited flights. We are looking for better times in 2023.”

With changes in business perception­s, new strategies were formed and old ones were scrapped. The trend was on pocket-friendly travel. Mehra informed, “Rebuilding customer confidence, selecting safe travel destinatio­ns, keeping with travel safety norms, providing value for money travel, ensuring that our travellers get full-fledged support on travel procedures to a particular destinatio­n, keeping our employees updated and imparting training to them and forming new partnershi­ps with service providers in the quest to provide better customer service are some of our new-found strategies to entice the domestic travel sector.”

In the context of high airfares offered by the airlines, Mehra said, “Leisure travellers holidaying with their families aspire to make the best use of their holidays and the corporate sector intends to motivate their employees through incentive tours. If around 60 per cent of the tour budget is spent on airfares and luxury hotels, then travellers enjoy their vacation with the remaining 40 per cent of their budget. Airlines and hospitalit­y form the core pillars of the tourism industry and when airfares are high with limited service, the balance is tilted towards these industries and it becomes difficult for the travel industry to sustain. It’s time that the airlines and hospitalit­y sector need to re-look at their pricing factor and services in order to create the right balance for the travel industry.” He also averred that the frequency of a number of flights was curtailed during the pandemic that needs to be revived. “We are trying to unveil a host of new destinatio­ns for our travellers with an effort to create unforgetta­ble memories in 2023.”

In this constantly evolving world, things have become highly unpredicta­ble these days and one should be strong enough to embrace tough times. Kaushik Ghosh, Chief Operating Officer, Globe All India Services, said, “A flexible, agile and ready-to-adopt approach is the mantra for survival and growth. In other words, an out-of-the-box approach to life is a win-win strategy. The past year was quite a tough and testing time for us. We were once a corporate travel entity, with MICE as the second entity during pre-pandemic days. With time, we have learned to develop new expertise and have multiple windows that are highly essential. We are in the process of building capabiliti­es

in order to tap the current outbound and inbound tourism potential on the domestic front.”

The airlines and hospitalit­y industry were hard hit by the outbreak of the pandemic. Ghosh feels that these sectors have no other options but to redefine their approach and hike their prices. “Both airlines and hospitalit­y sector are going hand-in-hand and are having a uniform approach. It is essential to have strategies in place in an attempt to recover from the losses and move ahead. Similarly, as travel consultant­s, we have to set our priorities and build strategies in order to manage the survival and growth of our business. In current times, airlines have emerged firm and clear in their approach,” further said Ghosh.

As far as expectatio­ns from 2023 are concerned, “It will be quite exciting for the tourism industry. Both government and media need to deal with the current COVID scenario caused by new sub-variant BF7 in a mature way since all of us have been vaxxed. There is a plethora of medicines and protocols to provide support for those getting infected or else all recovery activities will prove to be futile,” signed off Ghosh.

Take the case of Ahmedabadb­ased Pathfinder­s Holidays which is best described as a travel curator and lives up to the reputation of the onelinerCu­rating Holidays and Creating Memories. Mahendra Vakharia, Managing Director of Pathfinder­s Holidays, explained, “Travel has bounced back in the past year and has recorded steady growth in terms of tourist count and revenue. The year

that has just passed by flickered as the light at the end of the dark tunnel. We have learnt to accept each day at a time and strive to deliver our best with an aim to build a long-lasting relationsh­ip not only with our partners but also with our global network partners.”

The travel group makes use of a simple strategy in a bid to stay connected with its customers. Vakharia said, “We keep on providing travel updates to our customers relating to changing rules and new hotels. Our referral customers are quite supportive in the sphere of business and have also referred us to new customers, and this has enabled us to march ahead. We adhere to our business policy and do not offer credit for the sale of any of the services and this has bolstered our financial position in challengin­g times.”

In post-pandemic times, the sharp rise in airfare and hotel cost is making fliers fume. Vakharia further said, “There is no such current solution to solve the issue of high airfare. The airlines and hotel groups should work to develop a strong rapport with the travel agents. Based on the travel patterns and demand that we have experience­d last year, 2023 will be great. Our group has geared up well to encounter any kind of challenges and deal with new business. The mindset of travellers has undergone a change and they are in quest of new destinatio­ns, have become environmen­tally conscious and are interested in communing with nature with a view to create joyful memories through travel.”

 ?? ?? Sanjeev Mehra
Sanjeev Mehra
 ?? ?? Isha Goyal
Isha Goyal
 ?? ?? Mahendra Vakharia
Mahendra Vakharia
 ?? ?? Kaushik Ghosh
Kaushik Ghosh

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