SynopsisTill unfettered foreign travel returns, bringing with it large-scale exhibitions and conferences and group trips, it is domestic travel, particularly the leisure traveller, that the beleaguered tourism industry is pinning its hopes on.
One of the many choices 2020 snatched away was the freedom to pack your bags and head off to an exotic location without thinking twice. The promise of a vaccine rollout is, thus, arguably, more eagerly anticipated by the travel and tourism industry than any other. Because a vaccine will be the lynchpin for a complete bounce back, particularly foreign travel. But the news of an imminent vaccine rollout is being greeted with cautious optimism.
The distribution and the effectiveness of mass vaccination is something countries are yet to come to terms with, says MakeMyTrip’s founder Deep Kalra. He does not expect plain sailing for the buffeted industry just yet. Stakeholders are taking the measured view that it might well be another year before a proper recovery happens in a sector estimated to have lost, according to CII, Rs 5 lakh crore in 2020.
Till unfettered foreign travel returns, bringing with it large-scale exhibitions and conferences and group trips, it is domestic travel, particularly the leisure traveller, that the beleaguered tourism industry is pinning its hopes on. Kalra expects revenge travel, a trend which began in 2020, to gain momentum in 2021, with many so far yet to take their first flight or first real resort holiday out of fear of the coronavirus. The leisure traveller of 2021 will be someone who visits fewer places, possibly choosing a single destination and a long stay at one resort, rather than ticking places off a list. This has also led to customers seeking more non-standard experiences, such as mangrove walks in the Sunderbans, which will continue in the new year, says Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head-Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India). There is, he says, a desire to explore the lesser-known destinations within India.
With safety concerns likely to continue to be a priority in 2021, there will be increased interest to book with top-end brands, a surge in demand for private tours, boutique properties and one-on-one experiences with guides, say Thomas Cook and SOTC.
While large-scale vaccination is likely to put an end to the ubiquitous face masks and the like, the legacy of the pandemic for the hospitality industry will be efficiency in cost structure, especially through digitisation, says Lemon Tree Hotels Chairman & MD Patu Keswani. But whether the lessons of the pandemic will lead to better travel behaviour — a favourite prediction in 2020, after the ecological benefits seen at many tourist hotspots that were forced to take a break from tourists — remains to be seen.
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