One of the largest industries in India, travel and tourism, has come to a grinding halt in the wake of the pandemic. According to Statista, the industry contributes over $ 247 billion to the country’s GDP, and is a key driver of growth for other service sectors.
In a recent panel discussion with YS’s Daily Dispatch, Vipul Prakash, COO, MakeMyTrip; Deepika Rao, MD and CEO, Ginger Hotels; and Ankit Gupta, CEO, OYO India and South Asia, shared valuable insights on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the travel and hospitality sector, and the industry’s revival strategies for the post-pandemic phase.
Sharing that although the scenario had changed compared to last year, Vipul said there were still certain similarities between the first and the second wave.
However, the silver lining about the second wave is that the travel front never really shut down completely, and therefore, the industry is set to restart from a better stage compared to the first wave.
Additionally, the panel also noted that the first sector to take off in the post-pandemic phase is essential travel. Vipul said that since the last week, search on leisure travel has seen a slight increase on the MakeMyTrip platform, which is a positive sign for the industry.
“By August or September, we’ll see more corporate travel and slightly longer holidays and longer hauls,” says Vipul.
According to Deepika, June would be a month of transition. It is expected that the overall situation will be more hopeful, and owing to the vaccination process, people will be more confident about booking for travels. Vaccination would be a big boost to the sector, she added.
“Overall, there is a better sense of wellbeing because of the fact that you have taken some precaution and built your immunity,” said Deepika.
Ankit added that a focus on both product and technology for both hoteliers and customers will help improve the overall experience across hotel chains.
“We are cautiously optimistic given how the industry has moved in the past year,” said Ankit.
Suggesting that flexible booking should be incorporated by companies to make it easier for customers, Vipul said good cancellation policies also give customers the confidence to go ahead with a booking.
The panelists also noted that several countries will open for up international tourists from August-September 2021, and so recovery in the travel front is expected to be dual in nature with domestic and international travel starting simultaneously.
Pointing to the declining trend of customers visiting a booking centre, Ankit noted that massive transformation in product and technology had enabled this. He said close to 96 percent of OYO customers opted to leverage the app for bookings.
Commenting on the hospitality sector, Deepika said standalone hotels are now looking forward to becoming part of branded chains. Branded hotels are comparatively more likely to succeed and thus, affiliation takes a front seat during such crisis times, she added.
According to Ankit, trends keep evolving every six weeks. Solving customer and partner requirement is important to business strategy, and agility is key.
The panelists agreed that government should incentivise domestic travel to give people the motivation to travel, thereby helping the industry.