The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted several sectors, but travel has been one of the worst impacted sectors, said Kapil Verma, Chief Product Officer, MakeMyTrip. He explained that the last 12 months have been the most challenging for the travel tech company, like any other businesses in that space.
Speaking at a fireside chat during the fourth edition of YourStory Future of Work 2021 summit, Kapil said, “Over the last couple of decades, travel has actually seen consistent growth, despite various crises such as the 2009 financial crisis, SARS epidemic, swine flu. There was an eclipse but still, it has seen growth but this one was different… We did a survey to measure travel sentiment score last year in May and this score was -40 percent that time, which meant that customers were not at all willing to travel.”
He added that in the new normal, safety, and hygiene assurance is a major requirement of the users.
Kapil explained that travel took the worst hit because the entire sector came to stand still, be it hotels, flights, trains, or restaurants. The sector not only incurred huge revenue loss but also saw millions of job losses.
However, with the COVID-19 vaccine out in the market, the travel industry is looking to get back on its feet.
Customer needs for new normal
While addressing the audience during the summit, Kapil explained that at the time of unlocks and when travel started to open up last year, MMT had connected with their customers to know about their requirements in the new normal.
According to Kapil, the company mainly found three major requirements from the users —
a) More Safety, hygiene, and assurance
b) Flexibility in their travel plans
c) Lot more hand-holding and guidance from trustworthy players.
The CPO also explained that the company had projected five ways in which travel would make a return.
“The first phase is essential to travel, which includes people who were stuck somewhere else and needed to return back home. The second phase mostly includes work-related travel. The third phase was short distance travel, and followed by the fourth phase which is the leisure travel returns. We are in this phase currently but it is still pretty much domestic. The fifth phase will be the return of international travel, which will happen once many people start getting vaccinated,” he explained.
MakeMyTrip’s new normal travel products
Kapil added that the company had been building and innovating to help solve the customer concerns, especially related to safety and hygiene, which he believes might remain forever.
“We launched a safety and hygiene programme MySafety, where we came up with a checklist of safety measures, which the properties needed to get certified upon. These properties received a badge of MySafety and thus the customers could decide accordingly. We saw exciting results as a lot of people made booking into MySafety marked properties,” he explained.
The CPO added that last year, during lockdowns and containment zone announcements, people were unsure about their travel plans, and hence, needed flexibility.
In order to solve this problem, the company not only increased the coverage of its zero cancellation service, but also launched a “zero cancellation and zero payment now” feature where customers didn’t need to pay at the time of booking properties. They could book it by authorising their credit card but the amount would get deducted closer to their check-in day, said Kapil.
Apart from this, MakeMyTrip also enabled contactless check-in for hotels via the app, similar to airports, to minimise the user’s time spent at the reception desk.
Kapil claimed that MMT has seen 45 to 50 percent of recovery as of Q3 in its major lines of businesses.