Post-COVID, Travel Is Back, Tier 2-3 Fliers Pushing Traffic: Thomas Cook India Senior VP

| Updated: 27 October, 2021 8:57 pm IST
In conversation with Romil Pant, Senior VP, Thomas Cook

NEW DELHI: Travel is back and how! Lockdown fatigue and pent-up demand have emerged as the biggest drivers for Indians to pack their bags and set out to travel, as soon as the last Covid wave subsided.

A recent survey conducted by Thomas Cook India indicates that the travel demand is back at 65% of pre-pandemic levels overall — domestic travel at 290% (thanks to Dekho Apna Desh campaign by Ministry of Tourism) and international at 55% (acquisition data Sept 2021 versus Sept 2019).

Among the international destinations, Maldives, Switzerland, France, Russia, Spain, Egypt were listed as the top destinations, while Expo 2020 Dubai clocked a brisk demand currently. This is in addition to the demand for overseas education travel. And now that the international skies are set to open, the travel industry players are hoping for a new boom to emerge.

We are seeing very positive trends emerge in the market,” said Romil Pant, Senior VP, Thomas Cook. “The demand has picked up and things will stabilise as more countries open up. Domestically, we are on a roll. India is doing very well for us, as well as for the entire travel trade market. So travel is back and with a bang”

This comes as a piece of good news, as given the last wave of Covid, the travel industry had earlier predicted the revival in 2022. For Thomas Cook too, there has been a clear shift from crafting International packages to catering to a growing demand for domestic tourism.

It’s a good thing that our domestic business has grown because now we are able to offer our customers the entire plethora of holidays. We are able to cover the customer needs of travel across the entire spectrum and for the entire family

In terms of demographics, tier 2 and tier 3 cities are showing great promise. A lot of this can be attributed to the vast improvement in the infrastructure and airport facilities. “The government has done a phenomenal job in opening new airports and building infrastructure over the last couple of years. Consequently, we are seeing a lot of travelers emerge from the tier 2 and tier 3 cities,” he says.

For the choice of travel destinations, Goa remains an eternal favourite, followed closely by Kashmir and Andamans. Internationally, travel restrictions are proving to be the deciding factor. Destinations like Maldives and Dubai continue to draw travelers because they have well planned Covid protocols in place. “As the skies open up, we are expecting more demand for US and Canada to come forth. We are also looking at Southeast Asia opening up. Among experience seekers, Cordelia cruise is doing particularly well,” Pant says.

Cost is a big factor. Given the frequent changes in quarantine rules, travelers often find themselves at a loss while booking a destination. But, as things steady out, the confidence to book a new vacation is gradually growing. Travel, however, has become expensive.

“For sure, there is a surge in travel budget given the new overheads. Domestically, it would be fair to say, one can factor in a shift of about 8 to 12% in travel budget, with a median of 10%. Internationally, as of now, there is a difference of about 15 to 20%, which we expect to come down as the skies open up. Once that happens, the overall average will shift to between 5% and 10% of your previous 2019 budgets. That too will neutralise over a period of time,” Pant says.

The travel companies on their part are offering extra assistance to make sure their clients have a way out should there be a Covid related emergency situation. Thomas Cook now offers a mandatory travel insurance to make sure the travelers are covered by a safety net. They also take up negotiations with hotels and airlines to bail out their clients in a Covid related emergency.

Just before the pandemic, the world travelers were converting to BnB and homestays for the privacy and convenience factors. In the existing times, the segment has emerged even stronger given that limited accommodation offers seclusion on the lines of social distancing as well.

While there are a lot of expectations from the government, the travel industry is largely happy with the support provided by the government. To them improved infrastructure means better mobility and automatically translates into tourism growth.

“Ministry of Tourism’s Dekho Apna Desh has given impetus to domestic tourism. We are happy to see people travelling within the country,” says Pant. As the skies are set to open and travel beyond boundaries resumes, the industry is preparing itself to cash in on the positive vibe that the world is emitting in terms of travel. Let’s hope that the tourism industry is able to recover from the losses it incurred over the last two years and more employment is generated.

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