Yet to see any impact of Omicron on the travel industry: Co-founder Prashant Pitti
It will be a cautiously optimistic year for the Indian travel industry, according to Prashant Pitti, co-founder of online travel agency (OTA) EaseMyTrip. In an interview to BusinessLine, Pitti shared his thoughts on the outlook for the travel industry in 2022 amid the Omicron scare. He also gave an insight into EaseMyTrip’s strategy to tide over the situation.
What were the hits and misses in 2021?
2020 is a year the travel industry cannot forget. We started 2021 on a high note. January, February and March were really good for the travel industry, people had almost forgotten that Covid-19 existed. Till March, the outlook for the industry was fabulous. At EaseMyTrip, we were at pre-Covid level numbers in 2021. Then the second wave happened which was more devastating than the first. So we were severely affected in April and May. So that is where I think that the travel industry could have anticipated better. We shouldn’t have ignored it.
At EaseMyTrip, we started our IPO work in January 2021, and went ahead with it in March. It was well accepted, and we were oversubscribed. We didn’t get a bumper listing because by the time we were ringing the bell, the second wave was at its peak. Since our model was strong, we weren’t beaten up despite being a travel industry IPO and though we have not had a bumper listing, we have given 2.5-3 times returns, so that is a hit for us.
What are your expectations in 2022 amid the Omicron scare?
Whatever the sentiments are, numbers are the ultimate truth and from a data perspective, we see only a slight dip of 10-15 per cent in comparison to the last wave. So, people are scared but not as scared as the wave one or two.
It’s uncertain how it will change soon. Even from an industry perspective, I believe it is the same trend. Cases of Omicron have only started piling up right now and we are yet to see the effects of it. We are also telling people to travel with utmost precaution. We’ve also updated our safety guide.
What is your outlook for EaseMyTrip for 2022? What are your top three goals?
We are looking at becoming a complete travel ecosystem. If you see our recent acquisitions, most of them are in non-air space, and we will continue to run them as they are. We plan to grow them much faster but independently. Both companies could benefit from each other’s services and data, and this makes our brand better.
EaseMyTrip will be heavy on acquisitions. We are looking at acquisitions in the hotels, holidays and cab space. We may also make some international acquisitions in FY23. Another goal is that we are growing very rapidly, and we plan to grow at the same pace. We also want to grow our brand image.
In 2021, our total gross booking revenue (GBR) was ₹2,100 crore. Without the Omicron, we were looking at crossing a GBR of ₹3,500 crore.
Do you see a lot of investments coming into the travel sector?
Investments in the travel sector have been slightly tepid. The reason is that investors, haven’t seen a lot of profitability in this segment. With EaseMyTrip IPO performing well, we are seeing investors looking at it in a better manner.
Domestically, we think there should be a lot more travel to the North-East if Udaan flights support that region. Otherwise, Goa, Shimla and Udaipur seem to be doing very well.
What are the destinations that will see a pick up in 2022?
We are watching the Omicron situation closely, and if there is no big impact on the travel industry, we feel Europe and Russia will do well. Closer home, we think Thailand and Singapore will open up.