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T3 News Network

T3 News Network

Yatra Online announced the launch of a Meta Search tool on their corporate travel booking platform. This easy-to-use tool should help in reducing the friction and bridge the gap that currently exists between search and booking of flights and hotels. With the implementation of this option, large corporations who have multiple vendor partners will be able to search across those vendors and display the best available options for their employees on a single screen along with rates directly contracted by the corporates with airlines and hotels.

As business travel continues on its path of a strong recovery in India, this Meta search tool should enhance booking convenience and save costs for business travelers. This Meta search tool will allow multiple vendors to offer their most competitive bids for travel requests made on the platform by corporates, while also acting as a single window for travel requisition, receipt, and expense management.

Commenting on the launch of this Meta Search tool on the corporate platform, Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder & CEO, Yatra Online, Inc. said, “We are pleased to announce the addition of the Meta search tool on our platform. The integration of this option on Yatra.com’s corporate booking platform will enhance the relevance of search results gathered for various flights and hotels, providing a consolidated view. In our continued endeavor to enhance the UX of our Corporate travel platform we are optimizing the platform to allow our users to access information on a single screen in order to facilitate air and hotel bookings. We believe with corporate travel recovering strongly – Our two key verticals IT Services and Consulting accounting for over 50% of our large corporate business have now collectively recovered to over 74% of pre-covid levels – this tool should help further drive self-book transactions on our corporate travel platform thereby enhancing margins”

The search option is being made available across domestic and international flights and hotels.

Keeping the interests and needs of its corporate customer base at the forefront, Yatra.com is expanding the current scope of its self-book platform to a platform with rich integrations, special request management, advanced supplier management, and precise and agile reconciliation dashboards.

After the successful launch of The Orchid Shimla, The Orchid Group of Hotels has further expanded its footprints in Himachal Pradesh with the launch of The Orchid Manali, its second property in the state.

Prominently located at Shuru, Naggar Road the hotel is well-connected to popular tourist attractions namely Solang Valey, Hadimba Temple, Rohtang Pass, and Bhrigu Lake among others.

Announcing the launch, Vishal Kamat, Director, Kamat Group of Hotels, said, “Manali is one of the topmost tourist destinations in India that is frequented by a huge number of visitors ranging from adventure enthusiasts, honeymooners and leisure travelers. We are extremely delighted to launch The Orchid Manali, our second property in the hill state that will enable us to tap the growing potential of tourist inflow in this region. This upscale hotel with fresh aesthesis, refined elegance, and eco-friendly hospitality will make every guest’s stay a pleasurable experience. We plan to further expand the The Orchid – An Ecotel Hotel’s presence across various tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh”.

The Orchid Manali offers 47 rooms replete with all modern elements. The hotel also boasts of a banquet hall with a capacity of 250-300 guests.

Accor has appointed Laure Morvan as Chief Development Officer (CDO) to lead the development team driving the Group’s strategic expansion while consolidating its leading position in the region.   

 

Laure Morvan brings almost 20 years of experience and expertise in hotel development, marketing and project management in Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. She relocated to Singapore in 2012 to drive the development efforts across Asia Pacific in the luxury and premium segments, leading up to her latest role as Vice President Development Luxury Hotels Asia Pacific, which saw her driving the relationship on some notable and iconic projects including Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, Raffles at Galaxy Macau, Sofitel Ambassador Seoul Hotel & Serviced Residences, SO Kuala Lumpur Hotel & Residences and Sofitel Singapore City Center.  

“It is a great honour for us to welcome back Laure into our region!” said Mark Willis, CEO of Accor India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey. “Her extensive experience within Accor and her market know-how make her an expert in her field and a true asset to the region. I am confident that with her on our Executive Committee, we will accelerate our expansion in the region while consolidating our position as leaders in the regional and global hospitality arena.” 

In her new role, Laure aims to maintain the momentum in signings by targeting development across all segments, but notably accelerating development levers of Accor such as all-inclusive, lifestyle, collection brands, branded residences and extended stay.

Accor currently operates 420 properties (over 93,000 keys) across India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey with another 190 properties (over 40,000 keys) in the pipeline.

Delhi-based adventure tour operating company Holiday Moods Adventures has been appointed as India distributor of the Havila Kystruten Operations AS (Norway) for its Havila Cruise bookings.

Havila is a Norwegian shipping company that has started sailing the classic coastal voyage between Bergen and Kirkenes with the most environment friendly ships from December 2021 onwards. Havila Voyages is part of the Havila group that dates back to the 1950s and Havila is now a group operating in shipping technology, offshore, transportation and tourism.

Commenting on the development, Tejbir Singh Anand, Managing Director, Holiday Moods Adventures, says: “It’s a great honour to be associated with the Havila group and the journeys ahead seems very exciting to distribute Havila cruises inventory in India.”

Arshdeep Anand, Director, Holiday Moods Adventures, adds: “Being an experiential and adventure tour operating company, it gives us an advantage of understanding the product better. The sailings on offer range from a day trip to 11 nights on board the cruise ships. More than the cruise experience, the experience of activities in the arctic outdoors that Havila cruise ships offer is more exciting”.

Havila Cruises will offer four new identical ships, loaded with the world's largest battery pack which will sail noiselessly without emissions through the endangered and vulnerable fjords for 4 hours, caring for nature and topping up the visitors' experience.

The batteries will recharge with clean hydropower when low and will switch to LNG natural gas cutting CO2 levels by 25% or so. All the ship's internal décor has been inspired by natural elements - sea, sky, mountains and glaciers.

Havila vessels are small identical ships, with capacity of 179 cabins for 640 passengers light footed and smooth enough to sail through inter-connecting fjords within touching distance of the islands. Havila vessels sail with zero emissions.

At present, Norway has no vaccines or test entrance requirements and masks are not required anywhere including on Havila Capella.

As borders begin to reopen across Southeast Asia, increased flight bookings show how excited travelers are to return to the region. All countries in Southeast Asia, except for Brunei, have started to remove their travel restrictions and are reopening their borders to international tourists in hopes of rejuvenating the industry that was hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic: tourism. Travelport, a global technology company that powers bookings for hundreds of thousands of travel suppliers worldwide, today released the below trend data showing how the easing of restrictions has affected the international demand for travel to Southeast Asia.

Hot Spots

According to Travelport’s booking data, the top ten destinations in Southeast Asia for international travelers to visit in 2022 are:

1. Manila (Philippines)

2. Singapore (Singapore)

3. Bangkok (Thailand)

4. Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)

5. Jakarta (Indonesia)

6. Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

7. Hanoi (Vietnam)

8. Phuket (Thailand)

9. Bali (Indonesia)

10. Angeles/Mabalacat (Philippines)

For the first quarter of 2022, international flight bookings to Southeast Asia overall have increased and have showed upward trajectory with the Philippines taking the lead by achieving 42% of its international bookings in the first quarter of 2019 prior COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines and Thailand were among the earliest countries in Southeast Asia to reopen their borders, and travelers are already clamoring to visit. In the first quarter of 2022, these two countries alone represent over half (51%) of all international flight bookings to the region.

• On 28 January, the Philippines announced its plans to fully reopen to vaccinated travelers on 10 February. Within a week of the announcement, international flight bookings to the country rose by 114%. One month after the announcement on 28 February, the country saw a 294% increase in daily flight bookings.

• Thailand first allowed foreigners to enter the country on February 1 with the introduction of its Test & Go program which required tourists to have a negative PCR test for entry, and a subsequent antigen test on the fifth day of travel. In the 24 hours following that announcement, international flight bookings to Thailand grew by 37%. On March 7, the Thai government further revised the measures, dropping the testing requirements on the fifth day. With that change, international flight bookings grew 128% compared to booking on first announcement.

The top five countries traveling to Southeast Asia are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. Solo travelers made up 44% of international flight bookings for the first quarter of 2022 to date, by far the largest traveler segment, which may be comprised of returning business travelers, flexible tourists whose bags are packed the moment borders reopen, and Southeast Asian expats who are eager to return home without enduring a once mandatory quarantine.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (SVPIA), managed by the Adani Group, has completed the recarpeting work on its 3.5-kilometre-long runway in a record time of 75 days. This duration is an all-time best among brownfield runways in India.

Ahmedabad’s SVPIA is the busiest airport in Gujarat with over 200 flights every day in the pre-covid time. The challenge of recarpeting the runway without impacting the operations of scheduled flights was tackled by Adani Airport Holdings Ltd (AAHL) by using only nine hours of NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) daily. During the 75 days it took to complete the project, SVPIA kept the runway open daily for 160 flights on an average during the remaining 15 hours of the day.

The quantum of asphalt laid for the recarpeting was equivalent to a 200 km stretch of road, while the concrete used for the runway drainage system was sufficient to build a 40-storied structure.

The project was earlier planned for 200 working days starting from 10 November 2021. However, in keeping with the brand’s continued endeavour to improve operational efficiency and reduce inconvenience to passengers, the Adani Group had reset the target to 90 days by increasing the resources. Subsequently, SVPIA’s project team completed the work in just 75 days. The project entailed the support of 1 Mn safe manhours and 600 individuals featuring staff and workmen along with over 200 sophisticated pieces of equipment.

SVPIA’s recarpeting record is more significant as other brownfield Indian airports like Mumbai, Kochi, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad had more time at hand or had access to an additional runway.

SriLankan Airlines records its first profitable fourth quarter (Q4) since 2006 for the financial year that ended on 31 March 2022 with a group net profit of USD 1.7 million despite pandemic challenges.

The airline was able to achieve this financial turnaround through various measures in its 2021-22 financial year including scaling down staff costs and overheads; renegotiating supplier contracts; increasing cargo revenue; and creating an ambitious growth plan capitalizing on pent-up travel demand.

The initiatives paid off, with SriLankan making its first monthly profit since the onset of COVID-19 in December 2021 and continuing with a profit in the final quarter. The airline now has accumulated over USD 12 million in profits over the last 4 months as traffic has returned after the pandemic.

SriLankan’s expansion initiative saw the launch of flights to several new destinations in the last year including Seoul; Moscow; Kathmandu and Paris. Frequencies were also gradually increased across the airline’s network in line with the recovery of the global travel industry and demand. The airline has also carried out major campaigns to boost tourism to the country including a major initiative in India, roadshows supporting new routes and most recently sponsoring the popular French annual adventure trail, Raid Amazones, in March of this year.

The airline is now back to 75 per cent of the passenger revenue it made pre-pandemic in Q4 of 2019-20. Correspondingly, passenger numbers also rose to near 700,000  for the quarter. The airline is making strong headway towards matching pre-pandemic levels as demand for international travel recovers. The payoff is not limited to the airline, as it remains by far the largest carrier of tourists into Sri Lanka. SriLankan is also a net foreign currency earner for the country owing to a sizeable share of its revenue being generated from international markets.  

Ashok Pathirage, Chairman of SriLankan Airlines stated, “I am pleased to note that we ended 2021-22 on a high note, given our first quarterly profit in many years. The passenger demand remained strong, and revenues continued to recover from the setbacks of the pandemic during the quarter. Our annual expenditure remained within expectations. I am thankful to all our valued employees for contributing towards this achievement.”

“We anticipate some headwinds in the first half of this financial year with high fuel prices and a short-term dip in demand to Sri Lanka. We have factored in these challenges and are working towards minimizing the impact with a strong business plan and a sound turnaround strategy to return to full-year profitability. Traffic is expected to recover fully by the end of the year as travel restrictions are eased off further. We will continue to support the tourism industry of Sri Lanka and be a catalyst for economic recovery,” added Richard Nuttall, Acting Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan Airlines.

SriLankan Airlines records its first profitable fourth quarter (Q4) since 2006 for the financial year that ended on 31 March 2022 with a group net profit of USD 1.7 million despite pandemic challenges.

The airline was able to achieve this financial turnaround through various measures in its 2021-22 financial year including scaling down staff costs and overheads; renegotiating supplier contracts; increasing cargo revenue; and creating an ambitious growth plan capitalizing on pent-up travel demand.

The initiatives paid off, with SriLankan making its first monthly profit since the onset of COVID-19 in December 2021 and continuing with a profit in the final quarter. The airline now has accumulated over USD 12 million in profits over the last 4 months as traffic has returned after the pandemic.

SriLankan’s expansion initiative saw the launch of flights to several new destinations in the last year including Seoul; Moscow; Kathmandu and Paris. Frequencies were also gradually increased across the airline’s network in line with the recovery of the global travel industry and demand. The airline has also carried out major campaigns to boost tourism to the country including a major initiative in India, roadshows supporting new routes and most recently sponsoring the popular French annual adventure trail, Raid Amazones, in March of this year.

The airline is now back to 75 per cent of the passenger revenue it made pre-pandemic in Q4 of 2019-20. Correspondingly, passenger numbers also rose to near 700,000  for the quarter. The airline is making strong headway towards matching pre-pandemic levels as demand for international travel recovers. The payoff is not limited to the airline, as it remains by far the largest carrier of tourists into Sri Lanka. SriLankan is also a net foreign currency earner for the country owing to a sizeable share of its revenue being generated from international markets.  

Ashok Pathirage, Chairman of SriLankan Airlines stated, “I am pleased to note that we ended 2021-22 on a high note, given our first quarterly profit in many years. The passenger demand remained strong, and revenues continued to recover from the setbacks of the pandemic during the quarter. Our annual expenditure remained within expectations. I am thankful to all our valued employees for contributing towards this achievement.”

“We anticipate some headwinds in the first half of this financial year with high fuel prices and a short-term dip in demand to Sri Lanka. We have factored in these challenges and are working towards minimizing the impact with a strong business plan and a sound turnaround strategy to return to full-year profitability. Traffic is expected to recover fully by the end of the year as travel restrictions are eased off further. We will continue to support the tourism industry of Sri Lanka and be a catalyst for economic recovery,” added Richard Nuttall, Acting Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan Airlines.

The Indian tours and travel industry could see revenue increase this fiscal to over 70% of the pre-pandemic (fiscal 2020) level, riding on high pent-up demand and increasing confidence of people to travel as the pandemic risks wane.

While full recovery to pre-pandemic level is expected only by fiscal 2024, continuing recovery with improved operating profitability, supported by cost-control measures, and healthy liquidity will support credit profiles from here.

A CRISIL Ratings study of three major players that account for over half of the domestic tours and travel industry indicates as much.

The industry, which provides services such as air/bus ticketing and hotels/packages for both leisure and corporate travel within India and abroad, has taken the severest beating from Covid-19.

Post the initial shock of the pandemic in the first half of fiscal 2021, which brought the entire industry to a standstill, tours and travel operators witnessed gradual recovery in the second half, with improving air traffic and demand for short domestic holidays.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2022, however, the severe second wave of the pandemic slammed the brakes on recovery, that too in the peak travel season of summer, tamping revenue down to less than 20% of the pre-pandemic level.

The third quarter of fiscal 2022 saw the industry make healthy recovery as the second wave abated, taking revenue up to ~60% of the pre-pandemic level on the back of high pent-up demand. To be sure, air traffic reached around 70% of pre-pandemic levels during the third quarter, led by domestic traffic.

The third wave during the last quarter of fiscal 2022 was only a blip in the road to recovery given its lower severity, shorter and limited lockdowns by governments, and improved vaccination rates. With this, the industry appears to be firmly on recovery path, with revenue estimated at over 40% of the pre-pandemic level last fiscal, more than 70% in the current one, and full recovery likely in fiscal 2024, from the lows of ~20% in fiscal 2021.

Says Naveen Vaidyanathan, Director, CRISIL Ratings, “High pent-up demand, eased restrictions, and higher consumer confidence are expected to drive recovery in domestic travel to >80% of the pre-pandemic level. Corporate travel should also rebound to >70%, as corporates increasingly resume work from office. However, segments such as outbound and inbound travel should see a more gradual recovery as restrictions in other countries ease gradually.”

The continued demand recovery, along with sustained focus on prudent cost measures and adoption of technology, could result in operating profit of over Rs 150 crore this fiscal for travel operators.

This would be a turnaround after two consecutive fiscals of operating losses. The industry had already reported an operating profit for the third quarter of fiscal 2022, but losses in the first half of the fiscal and the third wave of the pandemic in the fourth quarter are expected to result in losses of about Rs 200 crore for the full fiscal 2022. This is against operating losses of around Rs 600 crore during fiscal 2021.

Says Ankush Tyagi, Associate Director, CRISIL Ratings, “Travel operators typically have a negative working capital cycle because of high customer advances and creditors, resulting in limited dependence on debt. Significant reduction in business had resulted in working capital outflow for the industry in fiscal 2021, which has reversed last fiscal and may accelerate in the current one with expected business recovery. Furthermore, companies had raised significant capital2 in the face of pandemic-related uncertainties, which boosted their liquidity. Cash balance of over Rs 4,300 crore vis-à-vis debt of ~Rs 2,000 crore as of December 2021 supports credit profiles.”

That said, any further wave of the pandemic or new strain of the virus, as well as geo-political risks such as prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict, which impact travel, will bear watching.

Qatar Airways and IndiGo announce the reactivation of their strategic cooperation following the lifting of the suspension on international scheduled flights by the Indian government.

 Qatar Airways is currently operating 190 flights per week to and from 12 destinations in India, namely Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Kozhikode, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Goa, Kolkata, and Thiruvananthapuram. IndiGo is currently operating 154 flights per week between Doha and eight cities in India and that includes Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Kozhikode, and Kannur.

As part of this expanded code-share agreement, Qatar Airways will be placing its marketing code on IndiGo operated flights between Doha and Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, starting from 25 April 2022, and Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Kozhikode, starting from 09 May 2022.  

Both Qatar Airways and IndiGo flights are optimally connected to Qatar Airways' hub, the award-winning Hamad International Airport in Doha. This allows passengers to benefit from seamless and convenient connections to the airline's entire route network, including North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia/Australia.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, said: "The reactivation of our strategic partnership with IndiGo is another milestone in the development of aviation between the State of Qatar and India. Together, both Qatar Airways and IndiGo will offer over 340 flights per week to 13 destinations in India. Never before has our partnership with IndiGo been stronger and the resumption of our strategic cooperation demonstrates the resilience, agility and commitment both partners have shown in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic.”

 Ronojoy Dutta, Wholetime Director and Chief Executive Officer, IndiGo added: “We are excited to reactivate our code-share agreement with Qatar Airways, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines. We are confident this strong partnership will not only expand opportunities for the customers, but also boost trade and tourism in both the countries. With the easing of restrictions, we believe that this will create economic growth through IndiGo’s seamless nationwide connectivity. We look forward to serving customers on our lean, clean flying machine, as we extend to them our on-time, affordable, courteous and hassle-free travel experience.”

 

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