The skies are getting darker as the economic downturn is making people cautious when it comes to travel. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation data, about 82.56 million passengers travelled on domestic routes in January to July 2019 as against 80.04 million passengers a year earlier. This shows that there is a slump in the travel industry.
Second, the results of travel companies in the first quarter (April-June 2019), indicated that the growth in travel is in the higher single digits. The commentary that we hear from people in the industry is that there is a slowdown and this is getting even more obvious with each passing day. Third, the Rupee continues to weaken against major currencies, though a global phenomena but this is not a good sign for the Indian traveler. Fourth, the recent economic data that has been splashed across media indicates the beginning of a slowdown and we have to brace for it.
While the signs are not good, we need to brace for it and arrive at solutions.
The nascent Indian outbound travel industry, which is not more than 30 years old, has experienced such shocks in the past. We have come out of such cycles, more fitter with the support of all the stakeholders contributing to this turnaround so therein lies the opportunity as well.
So, what are the opportunities for the travel industry? First, short-haul travel will be the new flavor and this should be lapped up by the closer destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Dubai, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka amongst others. These destinations have products that attract the Indian travelers with a mix of nature and First World attractions. Second, they are well connected by air from the metros and mini-metros. This provides the traveler the luxury of travelling on a budget but and a value for money holiday.
However, this is not all gloom and doom for the long-haul markets. The destinations that come up with innovative ideas and path breaking marketing initiatives will stand to gain in the marketplace. This is the time for tour operators to devise packages that attract the mass market effectively.
One of the issues that confront long-haul markets is the lack of adequate air seat capacity out of India, and the government should address this concern as the demise of Jet Airways and the dwindling fortunes of Air India have once again created uncertainty in the travel industry. The earlier this is sorted out the better it will be.
Finally, this is one big challenge that the outbound industry will have to factor in when charting out plans for the coming season and 2020. Hope by that time, some of the clouds would have cleared and we recover quickly.