Domestic & Short Haul Travel
The future of travel is dependent on when countries are declared COVID-19 free, or resistant, and people feel safe enough to travel again. Post lockdown, they will be cautious about the destination they want to travel to. Beena Menon and Huzan Fraser Motivala, partners at Beautiful Planet Destination Marketing, think that domestic travel will pick up before international. "Once a vaccine is in place the situation will improve dramatically and people will want to travel. Destinations which attract crowds may not get too many leisure tourists. We think countries will become much more discerning about which markets they want to work with, and will encourage visitors from there. Governments will be more stringent while issuing visas."
There will be a market for staycations at places which are a short drive away. For example, Karma Lakelands near Delhi NCR may be a popular spot. They promote sustainability in many ways, including rainwater harvesting and solar regeneration. Or people may prefer a weekend at a self-sufficient boutique hotel like Tree House Bhiwadi for some long-due relaxation. On the other end of the scale would be a legacy property like WelcomHeritage Ramgarh near Chandigarh where you can get tranquility and centuries-old tradition.
“I feel the outbound sector will take a minimum of six months to recover and get back to normal, but the domestic travel market will pick up faster as travellers will want to explore short-haul destinations which are safe,” says Radhika Khanijo, Managing Director, Founder and Travel Designer, Welgrow Travels Pvt Ltd.
The future may look different, but it definitely looks positive. “There will be changes in the way many things are done. This may make some people apprehensive, but I am convinced that there are good things coming for everyone," says Loveleen Multani Arun, Founder Director at Panache World, Bengaluru. "Stay confident and keep an open mind. The belief that 'I can and will handle it' will see us through."
Most destinations will introduce a retrieval policy in which mark-downs and plenty of high-value packages could be a part of the incentive to return to travel. “We are expecting slow movement initially, but things should improve better after six months. We expect various airlines and hotels to come up with special lucrative offers for advance bookings. We see passengers opting for physically reliable channels to book tickets rather than online channels to safeguard their money,” says Shravan Bhalla, Chief Executive, High Flyer India.
The short-term outlook does look challenging. Riaz Munshi, President, Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) & Managing Director, N.Chirag Travels feels there might be a change in the operating dynamics of the travel business. "It’s difficult to predict anything as we are currently in a blind spot where we don’t know how long this is going to continue. We can only hope and pray for a horizon that brings with it positive signs of the effects of the virus fading. However, we are optimistic that once that happens, we will bounce back strongly. We are all dreaming of going somewhere when the ‘all-clear’ sign is given. We know that Indians love their holidays and once we get back to normal there will be a pent-up demand for a much-needed break. For the future, I’d say let us hold on to our positive values and reinvent the rest."
According to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), in 2017, the travel and tourism sector directly employed nearly 119 people and supported 313 million jobs. That's one in 10 jobs worldwide. As dire as the current situation may seem, we must remind ourselves that it is only temporary and that it is most likely that things will return to normal sooner than we anticipate. “As we mainly work with HNIs (high-networth individuals), we need to sustain our business for a few months. I have nothing but confidence in the long-term viability of the travel industry. The moment people feel safe and secure in their individual ability to travel again, they will. Be positive, be safe, and don’t stop dreaming!” says Khanijo.