Travel will come back with a bang, says Unimoni’s John George
John George, Unimoni’s national head (travel & holiday business), feels tourists should be made aware of all the measures taken by the hospitality and transportation sectors to make their travel safe and hygienic. Since people always have the basic instinct to travel, the sector will surely bounce back, he says. Excerpts from an interview:
Q: It has been a tough time for the global tourism industry, ever since the advent of the pandemic. As Unimoni’s product head of holidays business, how do you assess the situation?
Yes, we should admit the fact that tourism is one of the worst affected industries across the globe. We had seen a lot of big/ small scale tourism related businesses which lost their momentum and were forced to abandon their business. Tourism boards in various countries are finding different ways to bring up the tourism industry with new ideas and support from local governments. Let us hope for the best.
Q: With the pandemic situation worsening in India, do you think recovery would be harder for the travel industry?
It may be harder but possible, as this industry has to bounce back, since most of the countries are relying on tourism. The pandemic showed a high growth curve initially in many countries but with full lock down and control measures from governments, we can see that slowly all have been able to overcome the crisis. People have a basic instinct to travel, so definitely it will bounce back with a bang.
Q: What strategy is Unimoni adopting to tide over the crisis in the travel sector?
We need to focus more on evacuation flights, quarantine hotel bookings, visa assistance, passport assistance etc. Later we can concentrate on holiday products like self-drive tours, adventure tours, honeymoon tours, pilgrimage tours, rejuvenation packages, local tourism etc. We need to provide awareness to the public that they are safe while travelling. They should know about the safety measures adopted by the hotels, transporters, cab drivers, guides & tour escorts.
Q: When the pandemic eventually subsides, what sort of response do you expect from the travel industry and the tourists?
Since all travellers are feeling suppressed due to the lock down, there will be some big movement in the tourism sector once pandemic ends. That will initially fuel the travel industry. However, tourists expect more hygiene and cleanliness of hotel premises, cabs and other facilities. All we need to do is focus more on these requirements.
Q: What is your sense of the growth of domestic tourism? How important will it be in the current scheme of things?
Domestic tourism will gain initially, since outbound tourism will take little more time to get back due to various norms and policies in different countries.
Q: Unimoni has been facing quite a few challenges of its own. How difficult has the last one year been for the group? What are the steps taken to come out of the tough period?
Last year was very challenging for us but we stood firm and overcame the situation. Steps were taken to control expenses, credit policy was revived, customer/agent receivables were settled. Now we are designing new products and initiatives which suit the situation.
Q: What are the trends that you see in the travel insurance vertical? Do you see travel insurance becoming a must in the wake of the Covid-19 situation?
Post-pandemic travel insurance is unavoidable. Travellers themselves are opting for it.
Q: What travel trends do you foresee for the immediate future? Short haul holidays may become a norm.
Short haul holidays, self-drive tours, adventure tours, honeymoon tours, pilgrimage tours, rejuvenation packages and local tourism will see more demand.
Q: International travel is yet to reopen in India. What is the kind of situation you expect as far as flight bookings are concerned, once international travel resumes?
India will resume international flights on case-by-case approval basis, post lockdown. Airlines and airports are working in innovative ways.
Q: When do you think the travel sector will bounce back? Do you see tour packages coming back in a big way this year?
Definitely it will bounce back and we are getting very good response from our customers and markets where we have branches.