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Romil Pant believes now is the time to explore your own country
New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANSlife) Thomas Cook (India) Limited (TCIL) India's largest integrated travel services company, witnessed a 5.7x growth in Holiday sales, 7.6x growth in MICE sales, 3.5x growth in Sterling Holidays sales, and 7.5x growth on Corporate Travel turnover.
With the opening up of the economy, increased vaccine coverage/global acceptance and easing of domestic travel restrictions, along with the reopening of 18 international destinations like the UAE, UK, Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Egypt, Turkey, Mauritius, South Africa, etc there's alot to look forward to in 2022.
The company's focus on Digitisation across lines of business pays off as a majority of customers/transactions continue to be served via digital platforms.
Romil Pant Senior Vice President, Leisure Travel, Thomas Cook (India) Limited shares an outlook for travel in 2022
Q: Would you say that people took to revenge travelling in 2021 after all the restrictions in 2020 ?
Pant: People are traveling, and there is a lot of domestic travel going on, which I always think is good because the industry needed that kind of influence and support, which I believe it is not getting from the government. So frankly, I really wouldn't like to call it 'revenge travelling', but I think it is more like exploring your own country.
Q: Domestic travel saw a boom in 2021, what's your take on it?
Pant: My personal belief is that India has everything right here, it has whatever is globally out there as well. Right from the snows up North, to the beaches down South, and then there's wildlife, the pilgrimages, we have everything in this country. If we talk about wildlife, we have many National parks and reserves; when talk about beaches, we have the most wonderful beaches in the world. In the Andamans, there is a beach in Havelock, which is in Conde Nast's global 10.
A lot of us tend to go outside of India and explore the 200-year old castles or forts and say "how ancient!" We have got 5000 year old forts across this country. So, I think a lot of people have discovered India and somewhere the push is also coming from the government with the "Dekho apna desh" campaign. A lot of state tourism boards have been much more proactive because everybody has realised that tourism gets not just tourist benefits but also economic benefits to the state and economy.
If that realisation drives home faster across the country, the level of domestic travel can be unprecedented. It's just a matter of time because the sky has opened up. You see the number of flights connecting smaller cities everyday; we now see announcements of new flights as well.
Q: Even the fear among people that we should or should not travel, has completely gone from their system?
Pant: Yeah, in fact my belief on this is that it is like when you are in your colony when you are in your house you feel much safer so if I was to go down to Goa or to Andamans, my comfort level within the country is always much higher. If something were to happen, there is always backup available. The language, the culture is similar so that comfort level of staying at home and yet exploring happens when we travel in India.
It's great to be in your own country, rather than being outside because of language, culture, food, medical protocols, even if it's a simple crocin that you need.
Q: Thomas Cook (India) has launched a whole new initiative for travel where you all have sorts of an entry points, starting at rupees 5000 per person for something between 2 and 7 nights depending on the stay. Do you think that's the kind of boost needed for those who hesitant or don't have the means to explore the country?
Pant: You know what typically happens is while people perceive it to be the entry point, they come in with their requirements and queries, and what actually fructifies by the end of the whole transaction is a much higher ticket size.
Somewhere the desire to travel well dominates, post pandemic, people might be in a position to spend a little more and experience the destination well; so hey end up upgrading their hotels, choosing better quality transport, add more sight seeing. So that ticket size typically gets higher, also a lot of people have to some extent saved the money they would have otherwise spent buying clothes or jewellery or any other non required item, thus spends on travel seems to be one of the luxuries they want to undertake, because they want to see new places and have new experiences.
Q: In terms of hospitality and travel, with platforms like Airbnb and booking.com, do you feel they have changed the game, and travel veterans like Thomas Cook India now have to come up with novel innovations to keep up?
Pant: So the thing is that the pandemic has changed the way of thinking. In one sense, the whole thing has become very beneficial for us because we are not a transactional organisation, we are an advisory organisation. You go on a website, you have to read everything yourself and then you have to make a decision whether you want to go to Goa on this date or not. You have to book a hotel after searching. You have to go through the entire list of the hotels that are provided. How do you go? What are the areas that you have to cover? What are the experience you have to plan the whole thing yourself? What are the travel protocols? What are the safety protocols? Can you buy insurance over there or not and so on and so forth all have to be figured out by you.
When you come to us, we have a fantastic online and offline platform, we also have a call center, so we guide you end-to-end. We are not like similar hotel or airline sales focused organizations. We are actually selling an advisory product. We plan your holidays; how many people going, what you want to do, figure out where you stay etc .. So we may not have 200 choices in North Goa on a website, but the pick of the best within your budget and choice of of experiences.
We arrange your transfers, your airline tickets, your sight-seeing and during the pandemic we also added the service of getting RTPCR tests done, so we are tied up with top labs. We also have the tie-up with Apollo hospitals, which is a 24*7 service. In fact, as I speak, we are running a "best price guarantee," which means that if you are able to get us a better package than what we are offering, we will give you back double the price, double the benefit, which is a strong statement to make in the market.
Q: You are focusing on adventure travel and wildlife, how come?
Pant: This is the perfect time to start your adventure travels. Dividing it into multiple segments, one being wildlife segment within adventure, the other is the rafting segment or the adventure sports segment rather, the third could be the segments like biking, sea and beach activities like scuba and so on. So now is the time to plan your trip and make your reservations, whether it is in Kaziranga or Kutch, Gir, or central India, where you have all the ability to crave the big three parks, which are Pench, Kahna, and Bandhavgarh.
On the wildlife side, everything has opened up; you just have to make the bookings according to the process and not disturb the wildlife. On the beach side, all activities such as scuba and deep sea diving, fishing, and so on are available. So again, adventure is fully operational now. The Bir has started sky diving, paragliding, and ballooning near Delhi and Jaipur, and I think somewhere in Maharashtra, in Nasik and Nagpur. In Benaras, there is Dev Deepawali where all the ghats are lit up with diyas. It's a sight to see.
Q: What is the overall feeling for the travel industry in 2022?
Pant: The more things open up, not just in India but globally, the more travel will happen, and more travel brings in revenues for everyone, jobs for everyone, and infrastructure growth for everyone, so we are more than hopeful that inbound / outbound and all travel will begin sooner or later. We are sincerely hoping things will work with an optimistic and pragmatic view on 2022.
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