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News
Murari Mohan Jha

Murari Mohan Jha

Rahul Rai, Executive Director, Unique Mercantile India, shares his views on the USP and growth of the Renest Hotels & Resorts. Excerpts from the interview: 

How has the performance been for you in 2021 and what are your expectations from 2022 in terms of average occupancy, ARRs and RevPar? 

The hotel industry has been struggling to manage its statutory and capital expenditure obligations since the pandemic began in March 2020. However, in comparison to 2020, the year 2021 was better for the sector due to the relaxation of the curbs. We have been growing in terms of business and as for the year 2022 is concerned, we expect a 15-20% increase in RevPAR. Things are progressively returning to normal. 

What is your current operational profile? 

Our USPs lie in offering a magical first-hand experience to our guests. From growing our own organic produce, recycling rainwater, establishing in-house bottling plants, vertical gardens and open skylights, we have incorporated sustainable measures to preserve and protect our environment. 

We have hotels and resorts in key locations of temple towns Shirdi and Tirupati, popular hill station Manali, business hubs, Jaipur and Gandhidham, and in wildlife space Bandhavgarh. We are keeping experiential locations, offbeat sites, and corporate venues on our radar in order to deliver the best and most unique experience possible. 

Which cities are on the radar and how would you like to fund the expansion? 

We are expanding our portfolio in Haridwar and Bangalore. We aim to grow at experiential and offbeat locations as well as at corporate locations. As far as funding is concerned, we are always on the lookout for opportunities, open to varied business models and always scouting for partners because we place a high value on partnerships by establishing a long-term two-way relationship that is committed to delivering strong profits. 

Where do you see Renest Hotels & Resorts by 2027? 

We are a growing and evolving brand that aspires to be the preferred brand of both our external and internal audiences. Yes, we will undoubtedly expand to other locations across India, but in the long run, we would like to see our brand have an international presence as well. We envision to have over 100 hotels by 2027. 

You are mainly focused on religious and leisure destinations. Is there any plan to foray into business destinations as well? 

We are not only confined to religious and leisure destinations as we are also located in business destinations like Kolkata and Bangalore, and we are doing pretty well ever since the pandemic led restrictions have been lifted. 

What is the contribution of F&B, MICE and weddings segment in your overall business? 

Despite pandemic, we have had overall growth as a result of our strategic location and our initiatives. Weddings and MICE, on the other hand, bring in a significant amount of revenue, which was impacted hard when the pandemic broke out. Situation is now getting back to normalcy with the adaptation of the new normal for MICE too.

 What is your marketing and promotional plan? How important is digital marketing for you? 

Ever since the pandemic happened, all the plans got disrupted. But now that things are gradually coming back to normal, we too want to come back stronger by harnessing new possibilities and utilising new trends. We are working on expanding our digital marketing strategies.

 What is the ratio of OTAs V/s travel agents in your overall bookings and how do you see the trend changing? 

OTAs are the reality, they give us a significant chunk of business. As per reports, the online travel market is expected to grow 18% in 2022 to $76.7 billion. OTA gross bookings are on track to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2023. In 2021, OTAs delivered $65.2 in gross bookings, reaching 82% of pre-pandemic levels. So keeping in view the numbers, they will be beneficial for us in the coming years and will help us in revenue growth. On the other hand, travel agents are equally important for our business, we want to leverage them both for a win-win situation. If the trends are to be considered, then the audience majorly is shifting to the online booking but we want to be on both sides as they would benefit us separately in their own ways.

Azerbaijan entered the Indian market riding on a staggering 175 per cent growth in Indian arrivals, around 40,000 visitors, in 2018. By Dec. 2018, it opened its Representation Marketing office. In 2019, Azerbaijan recorded another year of stellar growth, receiving over 65,000 Indian visitors, a growth of 67 per cent over the previous year, and also catapulting India to one of Azerbaijan top source markets. The pandemic put an unexpected stop to this growth. But as the global travel and tourism is gradually easing back to normalcy, Azerbaijan is keen to revive India market to the pre-pandemic level and beyond. 

 

“We never lost touch with the Indian trade during the pandemic. We had lot of virtual shows. We were always in touch with our partners here. We created ‘Azerbaijan one-o-one’, an online platform that educates the tour operators and travel agents about Azerbaijan, about our products and offerings. In fact, the highest number of certificates received were actually people from India. It means that India has also been very interested in the destination and waiting for the opening,” said Bahruz Asgarov, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Azerbaijan Tourism Board. 

 

“This year we will participate in trade shows like SATTE and others because the market is very important. We are also planning to have road shows, B2B meetings, fam trips and some join marketing campaigns,” he informed.    

 

Pre-pandemic, Azerbaijan found particular favour from Indian MICE travellers. However the NTO is keen to diversify its market segments and make inroads into the lucrative Indian wedding segments as well as family and leisure-FIT segments. “Azerbaijan has so much more to offer. It’s a year-round destination. It has four seasons and we have nine out of eleven climatic zones, which means we can cater to all kind of tourists. We have great culture, great cuisine, very hospitable people,” the Dy. CEO said. 

 

“India has been a very important source market for us. Since we got established in 2018, we immediately opened our representation office here because it was one of the six countries/regions that we are expecting numbers along with Russia, Europe, Middle East and China. We got very good feedback from tourists, our partners in India and their local DMCs in Azerbaijan were very happy. The numbers, Indian tourists, they have also changed the tourism infrastructure as we started adapting to accommodate the needs of the travellers from India. We had Indian restaurants opening up across the city. We had better understanding of what a tourist from India needs and how to accommodate it,” Asgarov commented highlighting Azarbaijan readiness for Indian tourists. 

 

Azerbaijan is also adding new tourism infrastructure. Capital Baku has seen the opening of a number of hotels across like Intercontinental, Courtyard by Marriott and others. Azerbaijan will also soon boast of Ritz Carlton to its accommodation profile. India is currently connected through Middle Eastern carriers but Asgarov expressed hope of direct connectivity sometime soon. 

 

Commenting on the evolving geopolitical concerns in the region and its impact on regional global travel, Asgarov said, “After the pandemic and now this war, there are a lot of doubts about future of tourism and how it will affect tourism trends because Russia has been an important source markets for a lot of markets across the globe. Especially for Azerbaijan, Russia is one of our main source markets. It saddens us to see what is happening between Russia and Ukraine. I hope it ends soon and peace is restored. Azerbaijan has good relation with Russia and good relation with Ukraine.”

 

 

 “This crisis will impact tourists’ decision when they are selecting the destination because there are countries where now Russians are not allowed to enter. But because Azerbaijan and Russia are on good terms and there are no sanctions, there are a lot of opportunity also for Azerbaijan. We may receive even bigger number of tourists from Russia, but the war will have its impact globally because Russia is important source market for other destinations as well. There can be other impacts as well such as increase in air fares. But with regard to Azerbaijan, I don’t see big challenges,” he also added.

Implementing its tourism strategy focused on strengthening tourism related infrastructure, sustainable and responsible tourism, diversification of product profile, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RKTDA) is confident of achieving its tourism development goal. 

“It was great to reconnect with our travel partners in India since the start of the pandemic. India is a very viable and highly valued travel market; last year alone it was the third largest international source market for Ras Al Khaimah, welcoming over 30,000 visitors. This is considerable given that the Indian market was largely closed or restricted last year. We aim to increase this and go back to pre-pandemic tourism numbers through promotional activities geared towards leisure travellers and incentives targeting MICE, destination weddings and other celebrations,” Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director Destination Tourism Development & MICE, , RKTDA, said addressing media in New Delhi recently.

RAKTDA announced a tourism strategy that will see the destination become the regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025. It maps out key steps for the Emirate to secure long-term sustainability that will drive overall tourism growth objectives and contribute directly to national and international climate change and environmental policy commitments.

An investment of USD $134 million is geared towards 20 sustainable tourism developments across the Emirate especially on Jebel Jais where our projects have been designed to not just protect the mountain ecosystem, but to enhance it. By creating attractions that preserve the Emirate’s culture and local communities, guests will be able to enjoy authentic experiences that will see them leaving a positive impact in Ras Al Khaimah when visiting.

On new and upcoming destination attractions in 2022, the Jais Sledder, the region’s longest toboggan ride were highlighted amongst a line-up of upcoming enhancements on Jebel Jais like the Jais Wings (paragliding) and Jais Mountain eco-golf. New sustainable accommodation includes Earth Altitude, an eco-based pop-up hotel concept and Cloud7 Camp Jebel Jais, the ultimate sustainable glamping experience. In addition, a brand-new tethered hot air ballooning experience in Manar mall, RAK airventure, which will offer panoramic views of the city above the beautiful mangroves and a Scallop Ranch at Al Hamra Marine will offer oyster/scallop diving, live cooking, family and kids’ experiences, and cultural activations.

Expanding the destination’s portfolio of world-class hotels, the Emirate recently welcomed the opening of InterContinental Mina Al Arab with 351 rooms, the largest Hampton by Hilton globally, with more than 500 rooms and Radisson Al Marjan Island with 388 rooms. Operated by global hospitality brands, a series of new hotels and resorts will be launched across the Emirate over the next three years including Marriott, Movenpick, Anantara, Sofitel and Conrad, adding 3,525 keys to the current 7,720 keys in Ras Al Khaimah.

Ras Al Khaimah received 1.1 million tourists, including 60,000 to 65,000 from India, in 2019. “In 2020 our overall tourist count was 715,000. But the majority were domestic travellers. We didn’t receive many from India due to travel restrictions back then. But in 2021, with travel restrictions in India, we received 30,000 to 35,000 tourists, while the overall count was close to 980,000,” Rasbey informed.

He highlighted the leisure offerings of the destination as well as updates that position Ras Al Khaimah as an attractive MICE destination and weddings for the Indian market. Efforts are also underway to create safe and attractive offerings for MICE and wedding travel. We anticipate increased interest in our Emirate for destination weddings, he said.

Rasbey said that India is one of the top international source markets for Ras Al Khaimah, followed by Russia, Kazakhstan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Talking about their strategy to tackle the challenges due to the pandemic, he said that Ras Al Khaimah adopted several new measures to counter the challenges. This included following strictly following the safety protocols, sustainability practices, and product diversification.  RAK was less impacted by the Covid-19 compared to other destinations. “We are a value for money destination with products for all categories of travelers, “he said.

Speaking on the connectivity, he said that currently 85 per cent of international tourists come through Dubai airport. “With 85% of our international guests coming through Dubai International Airport (DXB). Aligned with the government’s supportive efforts, we have seen the destination gain the appeal of Indian visitors for its natural scenery, adventure tourism and more.

Low-cost carrier SpiceJet is the only airline that operates direct flights between India and Ras Al Khaimah. “We are in talks with another Indian airline to strengthen direct air connectivity with Ras Al Khaimah. We expect these direct flights to be operational in the third quarter of this year,” said Rasbey.

Kurt Ekert, President, Sabre shares his perspective on the role of technology in shaping the future path of the travel and tourism industry as well as the way forward for Sabre

Global GDS Sabre is going ahead with the advancement of its technology transformation journey to unleash tremendous opportunity and benefits for Sabre and its customers. The company is also making a number of big bet investments in airline and hotel retailing and merchandising and also leveraging artificial intelligence in new ways for airlines. Sabre aims to become the premier global technology platform in travel and to drive Its overarching purpose of creating a personalized travel marketplace by 2025. Excerpts from interview:

What are your initial impressions of Sabre in the first 3 months?

I’ve been incredibly impressed by the wealth of intellectual talent that we have at Sabre. We have an outstanding team with an unparalleled commitment to customer success. We want to ensure this talent can be unleashed to its full extent through a culture of enablement, in a company where we can enjoy coming to work every day, and where make a tangible difference to the travel industry.

We have clarity of strategic focus and we’re working very hard to ensure that our execution in 2022 and beyond matches our aspirations and potential. 

The pace of change in the travel industry is very fast, and it is only accelerating. So, the winners are not going to be the ones who rest on their pre-Covid laurels, but who innovate and are willing to disrupt. We are focused on driving new value to the travel ecosystem, and in some cases that will mean disrupting our existing solutions. 

This is an exciting time to have joined Sabre.

There has been a lot of innovation in travel technology during the pandemic. What, according to you, are the three biggest innovations?

We’re definitely at a pivotal moment for the travel industry, and the pandemic has created a landscape that is encouraging digital transformation and innovation at an accelerated pace.

One can expect huge technology efforts continue to enable personalization in the travel marketplace, across the whole retailing, distribution and fulfilment journey. Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning are key to offering a relevant travel experience at a great scale, going beyond anything we’ve seen before in terms of personalization and that’s why we’re forging ahead with our innovation partnership with Google.

Sabre started Cloud migration two years ago and this is a pivotal year for us toward completion of this journey. Cloud migration will enable lower compute costs and enable us to achieve our engineering velocity and throughput, meaning faster innovation cycles to benefit our clients.

What is also helping to accelerate innovation is a mass movement to open architecture, particularly for integrating with services and APIs. Integrating with partners is of huge benefit to all sectors of the industry, so that all industry participants can tailor their technology to their business strategy in order to evolve at speed and create an environment that allows for easier travel and travel planning.

How do you see the recovery scenario unfolding for the industry and by when should it come back to a 2019 level?

The recovery across all sub-sectors and geographies will be a multi-year journey, but we are very encouraged by the trends we are experiencing now.

If we dial back just a few months, we did see a dip in recovery because of the omicron variant. However, bookings soon bounced back, and they came back strong. While domestic and leisure bookings have continued to lead the recovery, international and corporate bookings have improved at an accelerating rate since January 2022. In March 2022 (through March 28, 2022 versus the same period in 2019), our gross air bookings recovered to approximately 48%, net air bookings to approximately 50%, passengers boarded to approximately 76% and gross hotel central reservation system transactions to approximately 105%. We expect our March 2022 recovery versus the same period in 2019 for both international and corporate bookings to be at their highest levels since the pandemic started in mid-March 2020. Geographically, the recovery has broadened, with all regions showing strong improvement from January 2022 to date.

Recovery in the Asia Pacific region continues to lag behind other parts of the world because of ongoing border closures and travel restrictions. However, we have seen an immediate surge in bookings as soon as borders re-open, in India and Australia for example. So, we know from our data that so-called “revenge travel” is a real phenomenon. People want to travel across all sectors and geographies as soon as they are able to, and, while no one can give an exact prediction about a return to 2019 levels, we expect the strong upwards recovery trajectory we are seeing to continue.

How do you see the future of business travel?

The thesis from many people, during the first year of the pandemic, was that corporate travel wouldn’t recover to the levels we saw pre-COVID for many many years.

There certainly may be some negative long-term structural impact of corporate travel given the rise of video conferencing, but competition will spur folks to get back on the road for example to see their clients.  Further, with the rise of work from anywhere, I think we’ll see a material increase in ‘internal’ corporate travel as organizations seek to bring their team members together to foster professional connections and to build a robust company culture.

Looking at the data, while we have seen a leisure led recovery, we are now seeing the recovery of corporate travel on a positive parallel slope to that of leisure.  Accordingly, it is reasonable to believe that overall corporate travel will recover to near 2019 levels globally in the next four or so years.

The winning solutions in corporate travel will include elements such as consumer-grade user experience (online and offline) with intelligent and relevant retailing and choice, data insights, and the optimization of both spend and employee productivity.  Corporate travel promises to be an exciting and dynamic landscape in the years ahead.

How has the pandemic reinforced the value of NDC?

NDC is a very big focus for Sabre. The pandemic has accelerated trends we were already seeing pre-COVID, including the drive for personalization across the industry to meet evolving traveller wants and needs. Airlines want to sell dynamically in B2B in the same way they do in B2C, and it’s up to us to have the technological solutions to normalize and integrate the content, and then distribute it through all the different channels and points of sale that our agency and corporate customers have. 

Our NDC strategy is called “Beyond NDC” at Sabre because our thinking is guided by a longer-term retailing vision. While NDC is an industry standard, going beyond NDC is about driving impactful innovation at scale. Last year was a busy year for our NDC program and, as we lay the additional key NDC foundation stones during 2022, we’re beginning to see elements of the “beyond” part of our strategy come to life.

The pandemic has brought travel technology in focus. How can the global travel and tourism industry accelerate the pace of adoption of the technology?

One thing certain in the travel industry is that the only constant is change. Many of our travel partners across the airline, hospitality and agency sectors have already taken the time during the pandemic – just as Sabre has – to re-set, refocus and to ensure that they have the technological solutions they need in order to drive recovery and thrive.

What we are doing with our technological transformation at Sabre, with the new capabilities and solutions we are creating, will play a meaningful role in driving adoption across the industry as it’s clear that innovation at pace and scale is an important part of competing to win in the industry. Technology adoption comes when you see the proof points of real advantage, ultimately leading to revenue optimization and a better end traveller experience.

In this new travel world, many travel companies have already realized they need to adapt the way they operate and have started to do so. They need to be able to react with more flexibility to new situations and to cope with such issues as staff shortages. During the pandemic, many of their customers have also become more digitally savvy and demanding than before. In many cases, existing technologies in the travel industry are not sufficient to adequately support the customers’ new and increased demands. Therefore, technology investments are necessary for travel companies to meet the demands of today’s traveller. Most travel agencies and airlines are showing that they are ready for digital transformation and are pursuing this strategy to improve both their positioning in the market and their profitability.

Sabre has been on the technological transformation road. How will this support your travel partners in their recovery and growth?

2022 will be a tipping point for our technological transformation and we expect to continue our significant investments in technology, so we want to make sure we’re getting a fast return on that investment for Sabre and for our travel partners. Our technology transformation is underpinning our overarching purpose of creating a new marketplace for personalized travel to ensure competitiveness and growth for the future across the travel ecosystem.

For Sabre’s travel partners, this transformation, which encompasses a move away from mainframe to the Cloud as well as an innovation framework, will result in next-generation capabilities that will enable the unlocking of more revenue streams and higher value offers. Our customers will benefit from more frequent releases of new capabilities that they can quickly and seamlessly integrate into their existing portfolios, as well as greater flexibility to consume Sabre solutions in a more platform-centric, API-led model.

The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have the capabilities to respond to evolving marketplace conditions, and our artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities will enable our travel partners to quickly adapt to changing industry dynamics and ever-evolving traveller expectations in order to optimize their own revenue streams while continually improving user experience.

What are developments in your key partnerships with Google and American Express Global Business Travel?

Our partnership with Google is centered around enabling future growth and differentiation. It includes migrating Sabre’s IT infrastructure to the Cloud which will give us greater security, advanced support and improved flexibility, but it extends far beyond a cloud migration deal. We’re pairing Sabre’s travel industry experience with Google’s advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities, with Sabre and Google working side-by-side to accelerate innovation for the entire travel industry. We’ve already started to integrate Google technology into our products and there is more of this to come.

We are to partner with Amex GBT to drive innovation and new capabilities in the corporate sector. We look forward to sharing these developments in the months ahead.

Sustainability has now become a buzzword for the industry. How should tourism industry developing countries adopt sustainable practices?

The drive for sustainability was there pre-pandemic, and, despite the challenges of the past two years, it is still there as we move further into recovery. As with all trends in the industry, it’s vital that the travel ecosystem has the right tools to enable it to incorporate sustainability into its business model. For instance, Thomas Cook (India) recently spoke to Sabre, in our new Sabre Ascent webinar series, about its renewed consideration for ESG. It will be using Sabre tools to provide more information to its corporate and leisure clients about their carbon footprint and the impact choosing different travel options could have. So, personalization and traveller demands will have a big role to play in sustainability going forward just as they do across all other elements of the ecosystem.

The resumption of international flight services from March 27, 2022, waning of the impact of the Covid-19 variant omicron and opening of the international borders augurs well for the Indian outbound travel and tourism industry. Destinations across the globe are beelining for the Indian tourists and have activated their multi-city marketing and promotional campaigns in the India market. Not only destinations, but international products are also aiming to woo Indian tourists. Stakeholders are tweaking their strategy to instill confidence among stakeholders. 

This is evident from the fact that post the announcement of the resumption of the international flights by the Govt of India, major airlines have announced their India schedule. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of India approved 60 airlines from 40 countries to operate 1,783 weekly international flights from India during the summer schedule 2022. Airlines such as Emirates, Sri Lankan Airlines, Oman Air, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Etihad, AirAsia Berhad, Kuwait Airways, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, Malaysian Airlines, United, Air France, KLM and Lot Polish and others have already announced the resumption of India service. Most of these airlines work closely with their country’s respective tourism boards to bring international traffic.

Moreover, the DGCA has also allowed Indian airlines to operate up to 1,466 weekly international departures during the summer schedule. Among Indian airlines, IndiGo, Air India, Air India Express, SpiceJet, GoFirst and Vistara will be flying on international sectors. “A total of 1,466 departures per week have been approved to 43 destinations in 27 countries (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Turkey, Malaysia, United Kingdom, France, Kenya, Germany, USA, Canada, Myanmar, Australia, Israel, Bahrain, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Russia)," DGCA said in the statement.

Meanwhile, UNWTO states that global international tourist arrivals more than doubled (+130%) in January 2022 compared to 2021 - the 18 million more visitors recorded worldwide in the first month of this year equals the total increase for the whole of 2021.

Encouraging response

Countries have high hope from the Indian outbound market as major National Tourists Offices (NTOs) witnessed double digit growth in Indian arrivals before pandemic. The emerging global scenario also favours India as a sought-after outbound market. There is a pent-up demand for the travel and people have accepted to live with the pandemic.

“The feedback we received so far from the travel trade fraternity is tremendous. Agents are already receiving lots of queries for packages as well as MICE groups movement to Malaysia. All we need to do now is to ensure that potential travelers received the pertinent information required for them to make the decision to select a destination.  With our border opening beginning April 1, which was timely with the resumption of the commercial flight, I am confident Malaysia will be able to get good numbers of Indian travelers for 2022,” Sulaiman Suip, Director, Tourism Malaysia - New Delhi, informed.

Suip further said that India is a mature market, and we believe outbound travel will rebound quickly.  “It won’t take long for the situation to reach the pre-pandemic level once again.  In fact, there is already a 400 pax group going to Malaysia on April 15,” he revealed.

H. Deniz Ersoz, Culture and Tourism Counsellor, Embassy of The Republic of Turkey in India welcomes the resumption of the international flight services. “We are very happy to see that all international flights services resumed with full capacity by 27th of March. With the resumption of direct flights between our countries we are confident that touristic flow will increase in both ways. The country witnessed 52 million travellers in 2019, touching a whopping USD 34.5 billion in tourism revenue. Of these, 2.3 lakh were Indian nationals, which is the highest number of Indian travellers recorded till date, by the country. Despite the pandemic, Turkiye emerged as one of the top destinations for FIT and MICE tourists from around the world in 2021, by welcoming over 30 million international visitors. Thus, with the upliftment of travel restrictions and resumption of direct flights to Turkiye from India, we plan to host similar number of visitors in 2022 as we had in 2019 from India,” Ersoz informed.

Venessa Chen, Regional Consumer Marketing Manager, Asia, Tourism New Zealand, is also quite optimistic on the India market. “We look forward to welcoming our Indian manuhiri [visitors], family and friends to New Zealand when the border opens to fully vaccinated Indian visitors from October 2022. We believe that there is pent up demand for travel to New Zealand from the Indian market. We are also very appreciative of our Indian trade partners who continue to prepare to sell New Zealand by investing in improving destination knowledge through the New Zealand Specialists Programme and training sessions, in addition to making use of trade resources such as our marketing hub and travel trade website,” Chen said.

Positioning in India

The pandemic has forced countries across the world to focus on sustainable, responsible, and green tourism. This resulted into NTOs adopting dispersal approach by encouraging tourists to visit lesser crowded tourism spots. Almost all countries, while keeping their main segments intact, also diversifying and introducing new products.

Malaysia will continue to position itself as an eco-tourism destination with lots of exciting activities for all ages. “Consumers can again immerse themselves in Malaysia, Truly Asia experience of exhilarating highlands, vast jungles with a variety of flora and fauna, vibrant cities, beautiful beaches with crystal clear water for scuba diving or snorkeling. Malaysia also makes a great value for money shopping destination, especially for the ladies and a variety of ultra-modern Theme Parks make us a holistic family destination,” Suip said and added that another important segment is to position Malaysia as a Wedding Destination for Indian couples. “In 2019, around 25 weddings were organized in Malaysia and popular properties like Lexis Hibiscus had back-to-back wedding events at their resort. Besides the leisure and wedding segments, we will also continue to focus on the MICE segment. Highlighting the state of art facilities, easy accessibility and convenient entry formality that have made Malaysia one of the favorite destinations for the Indian MICE industry,” Suip added.

Similarly, Turkiye has also adopted new approach to woo international travelllers and the result is seen in 2021 when the country received over 30 million international visitors. “India is considered as one of the most potential emerging tourism markets for our country. Hence, we will continue to conduct different marketing activities in India in 2022 and we will actively promote our country as a family, wedding and MICE destination in India, and strive for increasing the numbers of Indian tourists visiting Turkiye. In addition to FITs, in 2022 we will have different type of promotional activities especially in the field of wedding and MICE tourism in India as well,” Ersoz said.

According to Ersoz, 2018 and 2019 were very successful years for Turkish Tourism in India. “We hosted more than 2.3 lakh Indian tourists in 2019 with an increase of 55% in comparison with 2018. This number was a record for us in India,” he added.

Promotional activities

NTOs had to keep digital marketing and promotional activities as the mainstay during the pandemic. Understanding their requirements to stay connected with the Indian travel trade fraternity, stakeholders accelerated their marketing efforts by hosting webinars, digital media interactions and bombarding relevant information through social media.

“We have been conducting different digital promotional activities since Jan 2022. Now with the resumption of international flights, we plan to continue our traffic campaign communications throughout the year as we did in the first quarter of 2022. Additionally, we will keep organizing fam trips for Indian influencers and bloggers as they cater to a large number of audiences of potential tourists,” Ersoz said and added that as a classical type of promotional activities, this year we will be more active in the market by conducting different activities such as multicity roadshows, workshops and B2B and B2C fam trips. “We will be targeting to reach corporates, wedding planners and Indian families by doing different type of promotional activities,” he added. 

New Zealand is also dialling up their PR activities by creating inspirational content while working with new media platforms, key social influencers to build strong word of mouth and generate media interest. “We maintain a strong relationship with the Indian travel trade fraternity and are constantly building brand in our trade work by driving engagement and building New Zealand knowledge within the community,” Chen informed.

As most Indians are already familiar with what Malaysia has to offer, hence Malaysia’s marketing activities will emphasize introducing the new Malaysia and the latest developments to consumers and continue to spread awareness of what they already know. “This year, we have planned to actively conduct Joint Promotion campaign activities with agents and airlines in the market. We will work together with them to promote their packages so that they will be able to sell more packages to Malaysia.  These campaigns will entail lots of seminars, roadshows, products update presentations and advertisements in print and digital etc. With social media communication becoming increasingly important we plan to come up with educative, engaging and entertaining content. Apart from that, we have lined up several educational or familiarization tour trips for Key Opinion Leaders, agents and media so that they can have firsthand experience of the products available in Malaysia,” Suip revealed.

Focus on sustainable tourism

Tourism New Zealand is committed to taking action to operate sustainably as crown entity and supporting the sector via Qualmark to encourage sustainability. “Owned by TNZ, Qualmark helps businesses become more sustainable from a people, planet and profit perspective. Qualmark assesses and recognises businesses that are delivering a sustainable experience. Businesses are awarded a bronze, silver or gold award depending on their performance against the Sustainable Tourism Business criteria.  TNZ also support the Tiaki – Care for New Zealand initiative which promotes and encourages safe and sustainable travel practices,” Chen stated.

Malaysia has long adopted a sustainable tourism approach as a development strategy that has already become a dominant source of income and employment generation, and an economic contributor to the GDP. “A sound infrastructure, convenient communication, and adequate internet facilities have been important catalysts for sustainable tourism in Malaysia. In December 2020, in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia launched its 10-year plan focused on strengthening competitiveness, encouraging sustainable and inclusive tourism, as well as planning for future disasters. It also seeks to further its commitment to brand Malaysia as an ecotourism destination, with an outlook towards balancing the development and conservation of its natural environment and heritage,” Suip said.

Turkiye signed a collaboration agreement with the world’s top environment and sustainability platform GSTC to ensure the protection of their natural assets and make tourism sustainable. “This was definitely a milestone of our Ministry as the agreement with GSTC made Turkiye the first government in the world to sign an agreement to develop a national program. Within the scope of this program, the Turkish tourism industry will be restructured gradually and begin to adopt global sustainability practices. In the first stage of the agreement, which Turkiye signed as a government with the utmost gravity towards sustainability, the national program criteria will be determined, and inspection firms will receive trainings. The program is planned to be wholly concluded by 2030. The first stage of the program will become operational in 2023; and the second stage will be carried out gradually in 2025. In 2030, all international standards will be met,” Ersoz informed.

Importance of B2B

B2B will continue to play an important role for the tourism industry in India as agents are still keen to meet face to face. “In fact, Tourism Malaysia after two years of border closing, has chosen India as our first destination in the world to organize our post-pandemic inaugural roadshow.  Tourism Malaysia together with a 40 members delegation comprising agents, hoteliers, products owners, and state tourism boards is hosting roadshows in six cities beginning on 18 April in Delhi followed by Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and concluding in Chennai at the end of the month,” Suip revealed.

For Turkiye also, the B2B side of trade has always been of great importance. “Now with travel trade market opening, we would surely want to educate them with the right product information focusing on those areas which we have missed during the travel restriction period, and we shall put our best efforts so they can obtain much more business for Turkey. Additionally, we will continue with the potential collaborations and engagements with travel organizations like Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) and Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) which will definitely enable Turkey Tourism in India to a great extent,” Ersoz said.

New Zealand also has an extensive travel trade program in 2022-2023 to help make New Zealand a desirable destination to promote and to sell. These include trade training, and industry event participation such as attendance at SATTE. “We are also looking forward to launching our own event, Kiwi Link Asia later this year. The 100% Pure New Zealand Marketing Hub, launched in September 2021. Designed to empower our agents with the right kind of information and assets that can creatively engage their customers and ultimately help make their job easier and more effective in promoting and selling New Zealand,” Chen said.   

For the last two years, tourism the world over has been closed to inbound tourism, except for a few small nations such as UAE, Sri Lanka, Maldives etc. India is no exception and this has taken its toll on the tourism economy.

The DefExpo 2022 scheduled to be held in Gandhinagar has been postponed as the government cited the Russia-Ukraine war as the reason. It may be but it points to a larger picture of the Indian hospitality industry losing out due to such postponement. 

So, let’s put a perspective to this thinking. In 2019, which was a normal year for tourism arrivals, India received over 10.9 million foreign tourists as per the Govt. of India statistics. On average, foreign tourists spend seven nights in India and this means at least fifty million room nights that was consumed in India, at a conservative level, the bulk of this spend is in star-rated hotels in India. 

Second, foreign tourists are bigger spenders in tourist destinations and they consume services of local guides, dine in the hotels and on average pay a higher room rent compared to domestic tourists. 

The year 2020 was a washout for inbound into India, there was a slight recovery in 2021 but not economically significant. This leads to another point, is domestic tourism the panacea of the tourism economy in India. To the best of our knowledge, it’s not the case. At the most, it can act as a band-aid to the tourism economy. Let’s explain why?

In the last two years, many hotels have closed shop. According to the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI), around 40 per cent of the hotels and restaurants had shut shop by early 2021 and the situation has not improved but only worsened. 

Second, Indian domestic tourists are not huge spenders, for the last two years, all hotels—be it five stars to three-star have slashed their rates and offered domestic tourists rates that were available as far back in 2017-18. Only, the deep-pocketed hotels is going to survive. City hotels in metros now charge rates seen in 2017-18 and they have restructured loans or come up with Rights issues to beef up their bottom lines.

Indian domestic tourists do not spend much on destination shopping and prefer to just skip that activity entirely as even they are on a tight budget, what with inflation eating into their savings. 

Third, Indian domestic tourists have the leverage to book last-minute and manage a better deal compared to foreign counterparts who lock their rates at least six months in advance. 

As a result, one can come to the conclusion that it’s the foreign tourists that drive the tourism economy as they consume all forms of services when visiting India and no amount of domestic numbers can make up for the shortfall in terms of value. This is the best time for the government to open its doors fully to international tourism.

 

Pedro Pinto, Head Global Business Development, Vision-Box talks how technology can offer a seamless and touchless experience to air travellers 

Airports in India and around the world have further affirmed their commitment to enabling seamless and contactless technologies to move the industry forward to a post covid world and induce much needed passenger confidence and commitment.

 What is the Vision Box’s current operational profile in India and how is the response from the India market?

In India, we have partnered with Bangalore International Airport for the implementation of the first Digi Yatra Biometric Boarding System solution. This project enables touchless and paperless travel journeys to passengers flying from Kempegowda International Airport (BLR). Vision-Box has established a subsidiary in India, based out from Bangalore and we have a full local team of software engineers and business analysts that support our expansion not only in India but in the region as well.

We continue to work with major airports and airlines in India to expand on the Digi Yatra program, to implement biometric technology to enable seamless travel. Our focus is completely on user privacy by design, and anyone who wants to benefit from the seamless travel technology can opt-in themselves.

How would you explain Indian airports adopting technology since pandemic?

Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, the industry was already beginning to shift towards innovative and efficient methods of passenger management and border control. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend, with 2021 likely to be a key benchmark for change. The central premise with covid-19 has been to reduce contact between people and remove bottlenecks in airports, and technology has proved this can be done efficiently.

Global studies conducted across the industry have clearly outlined a visible and imminent shift toward automation and biometrics. A Vision-Box survey in 2020 reflected these sentiments, capturing responses from companies and agencies in the travel and tourism industry across America (35%), Europe (32%), and Asia (24%). When asked what would increase passenger trust to enable the return to normal travel activities, 35% of the respondents saw touchless/contactless identification and clearance technology as a solution, while 63% of organisations in the aviation, airline sector and government agencies said they seek to implement biometric technologies at airports for contactless travel.

What this suggests is that we are now seeing such technology being implemented not because it is ‘futuristic,’ but because it is now a necessity, and this will only see the standards become the norm going forward.

How Indian airports can be transformed with biometric contactless technologies?

The basic premise of implementing biometric contactless technologies is to empower passengers to navigate the airport experience seamlessly without any hassles – be it queuing or presenting multiple paperwork throughout.

The advantage that biometric contactless solutions bring is that they finally lead all the stakeholders - from the airline to the airport and border control agencies, to join and create a common process of passenger experience, which will address the challenges of long queues, traveler uncertainties, and provide key information to all stakeholders, being airlines, airports, and border control authorities.

For the first time, everyone can be coordinated, to collaborate and process information and passengers faster, in a seamless and efficient manner.

We can eliminate the need for multiple documentation and checkpoints and reduce bottlenecks at critical areas such as check-in, immigration, and boarding. We can even enable a passenger to check in at home through their phone camera, to complete all the identification and verification processes, so that when they enter the airport, the biometric gates automatically recognise and process them. These technologies will radically transform the airport and travel experience.

Vision Box launched ‘Digi Yatra project India’ at KIA Bengaluru. Please tell us more about this project and do you have plans to put this system on other Indian airports too?

Vision-Box implemented a fully biometric-based self-boarding solution at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (BLR) for a seamless flow from registration to boarding. The project, at the completion, will have 365 biometric touchpoints (Registration Kiosks, Entry Gates, Self Service Check in, Self Service Bag Drop, Security Checkpoint, and Boarding).

This was the first project of its kind in Asia, when we started the rollout and become the benchmark to be followed. Passengers can simply enroll their ID and biometric data, combined with their flight details, before entering the Terminal. As they travel through the airport, passengers can put their travel documents away, as they will be authenticated and verified at every touchpoint by state-of-the-art biometric technology. This process offers the highest degree of safety and security while ensuring stringent standards of privacy. The biometric data is used only for authentication and verification of passengers to assist them in the airport journey a. In addition, the passenger data is deleted within a few hours of flight completion and the program is optional, meaning that the passengers will choose voluntarily if they want avail this service.

It is the largest deployment of an end-to-end paperless biometric program in Asia with over 365 passenger touchpoints at BLR Airport Terminal 1.

How India can be developed as an aviation hub?

The key factor for a region to become an aviation hub is the ease of passenger processing, especially for transit passengers. Airports with robust passenger processing technologies stand to be preferred destinations for both passengers and airlines. As technology is scaled up to growing traffic, they automatically transition into hubs. India, which already has fantastic infrastructure, can become a world-leading aviation hub with investments in biometric technologies.

What challenges the travel industry expects in the next 2-3 years?

The current challenge that the industry faces is two-fold – re-instilling passenger confidence to travel, while simultaneously making the industry nimble to navigate changing regulations. I believe 2022 will be a defining moment here, as it will likely be the year, we get back up to pre-pandemic levels.

Over the next couple of years, we expect airports and airlines to scale up their networks and infrastructure to offer more innovation. While implementing new technologies involves initial investments, they would pay off in the long run as passengers would certainly prefer airports that implement safety standards over those which do not.

Raoof Dhanani, Managing Director, Sayaji Hotels, talks about the performance of his hotels during the pandemic as well as the group’s expansion plan

 

Sayaji Hotels has been on expansion spree. The Group signed pact for 7 properties in March 2021, management/franchise agreements for 8 hotels and acquired intellistay hotels in November 2021. Its digital campaign ‘Shubh Vivah by Sayaji’ generated over 150 leads for weddings worth over Rs 4.5 crore revenue opportunities. Excerpts from the interview:

 

What is your expectation from 2022 in terms ARRs and revPar?

The hotel industry thrives on tourism. Business travellers are gradually increasing in number due to the rapid growth of the IT sector and the emergence of several global companies. In an increasingly competitive sector, the art of managing rates and availability while keeping an eye on all the different key performance indicators plays a major role. As the market is tremendously taking a swing, we expect a 10% increase in ARR and 20% in RevPAR in 2022 as compared to the previous year.                                                                                         

What is your current operational profile in terms of number of hotels and rooms and what is the expansion plan for 2022?

Sayaji Hotels presently has 13 properties with three flagship brands ‘Sayaji Hotels’, ‘Effotel by Sayaji’, and ‘Enrise by Sayaji’ with an inventory of over 1400 rooms. We are targeting 15 new properties in different states and cities in 2022. Maharashtra will soon witness Effotel and Enrise followed by Gujarat and Rajasthan. Villas and sprawling luxury cottages would be the inevitable part of our expansion. We are presently focussing on an asset-light model for expansion.

Where do you see Sayaji Hotels in 2027?

The hospitality sector thrives on creating loyal guests for our hotel.  Understanding the need and profile of guests are vital for the success of the hotel industry. Looking at the brilliant growth during these decades, we look out to be the world leaders in hospitality in the next 5 years.

The last 22 months have been very challenging due to covid. What is your take on this?

The challenges and difficulties teach us valuable lessons and introduce new techniques to make our guests feel comfortable. The last 22 months have been a challenge for every property but not everyone was able to survive the challenge. Our guests kept visiting us and that was where we felt confident. We survived because of the revenue we generated.

Most of your new properties are coming up in tier II cities. Which segment of tourism industry like leisure or business you are trying to tap?

Two-tier cities are being explored by the leisure travelers and business travelers. These cities are growing with an enormous speed and are fast developing cities. With leisure and business travelers, we see a huge scope of revenue generation. 

How important F&B and MICE for you? What is the contribution of these two in your overall annual revenue?

F&B and MICE are strong source of revenue bucket. They together pump in 70% amount of business. F&B is becoming a major contributor to our hotel's positioning. Our guests are not only looking for a place to stay, but a huge demand for and spending in restaurant has been growing, allowing our F&B to net extra revenue. F&B profit margins rose from 24.9% to 30.5% between 2010 and 2016.

Attendees of MICE events fill up rooms and F&B. MICE brings us additional leisure business and is a profitable source of business for us. About 54% of the revenue is generated through the MICE. We look forward to enhancing the corporate experience and get more MICE bookings.      

What is your marketing and promotional strategy?

Over the years we have laid emphasis on social media and digital media to promote the marketing objectives. Our digital campaign ‘Shubh Vivah by Sayaji’ recently generated over 150 leads for weddings worth over Rs 4.5 crore revenue opportunities. Our website has witnessed increased traffic, with effective SEO strategies and fresh content that is added regularly.

How closely do you work with travel agents/operators?

Travel agents/operators are a key factor in the success of the tourism industry. The Travel agents work closely with and give us a good amount of room nights, and this generates a business of 60%.

Marek Kroutil, International Marketing Manager, Czech Tourism talks about the Czech Republic’s preparedness to welcome international tourists including India 

CzechTourism sees India as one of the important growing source markets. The tourism promotion body has realigned its marketing and promotional strategy to regain the pre-pandemic Indian visitor numbers in a year or two. Excerpts from the interview:

The European Travel Council reports that Czech saw the sharpest decline of 94.2% in international arrivals in 2021. What will be your strategy to restart/revive tourism again?

Our main strategy is to promote the country as a destination that is safe to travel too, which we anticipate will be one of the most important decision-making factors for future travelers. For the upcoming summer season, we plan to mainly focus on online marketing activities to bring the Czech Republic back to the ‘must travel wish list’ of any traveler. In a long-term perspective, we will focus on the MICE segment which can support the low season.

What assistance/incentives the government offered to the Czech tourism industry for their survival and revival?

Based on several Government financial supporting funds, support was provided to hotels, restaurants, transport companies and other service providers. Another point that we would like to highlight was that domestic tourism played a very important role in keeping a lot of Czech service providers on hold to survive the pandemic crisis.

You are launching a new marketing strategy in 2022 focused on Czech traditions including spa and wellness. Please share details.

In 2022 – 2023, we plan to present the Czech Republic as a country full of traditions connected to our history like spa and wellness to. In 2021, the famous Spa Triangle of Karlovy Vary – Frantiskovy Lazne – Marianske Lazne were as a part of Great Spa Towns of Europe inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage List which will indeed assist us in promoting this product more efficiently.

Elements of folklore exist throughout Czech life and especially in the eastern parts of the country. Some of the traditions are even listed on the UNESCO list, such as South Moravia’s ‘Ride of the Kings’ or ‘Shrovetide processions’ in Hlinecko, with masked visitors going door-to-door, bringing hopes a good harvest and fertility before Easter.

Fans of folk architecture should not miss the village of Holašovice showcasing Rural Baroque folk architecture and examples of traditional wooden architecture can be admired in numerous open-air museums which from time to time become a place for various folk festivals.

To round out the senses, Czech folk traditions in food can incorporate smell and taste. The city of Pardubice is home to the sweet-and-tart flavour of Czech gingerbread, while the town of Olomouc has an entire festival and a museum devoted to its fragrant cheese (tvarůžky).

What other measures Czech Tourism is taking to woo foreign tourists?

CzechTourism is trying to promote the Republic as a safe destination. According to Global Peace Index, the Republic was amongst the top 10 safest destinations. The Republic has also received the international mark ‘Safe Travels Stamp’ awarded by the World Tourism & Travel Council.  We feel that this is quite an important step forward in these uncertain times to showcase to our international travelers that we are a safe destination to travel too.

The Govt recently said that most remaining restrictions would be lifted from March. What sort of ease Czech tourism industry expects?

We expect that if the restrictions will be lifted, there will be a higher demand from the international travelers not only from Europe, but also from long-haul markets. All the service providers are looking forward for this year’s summer season as the ‘pandemic forecast’ seems to be very positive and they are looking forward to restarting their work on providing high quality services to foreign visitors.

How important India as a market for you post pandemic?

CzechTourism perceives India as one of the most important growing source markets which can bring more interest about the Central European destinations like the Czech Republic. Based on our marketing plan, we would like to get back into the minds of the Indian travelers and hopefully within a year or two we can get back to the number of arrivals before the pandemic. What is important is our plan for communication of the Czech Republic through the gastronomy and its traditions which can make the promotion in India even easier.

What is your marketing and promotional strategy for India in 2022?

CzechTourism India is making the best out of the current situation by educating and informing the travel trade about the various facets of the destination, which are still new to travelers.

Apart from targeting families, experiential travelers, millennial’s, business visitors, honeymooners and leisure travelers, we will also be aiming to influence the MICE segment and leisure travelers. We have planned many B2B events in 2022. From a B2C perspective, we have stayed on the minds of travelers by showcasing the various assets of Czech Republic through our India specific Instagram handle. In 2022, we have a tone of promotional activities planned and a few exciting contests as well to look forward to.

Last year, there was tourism collaboration between Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Czech Republic. How are planning to take it forward once normalcy returns?

There are 3 segments that we are focusing on to promote Czech Republic in India and get back to the 2019 numbers: leisure, weddings and MICE and Tamil Nadu is a great source market for all these 3 segments.

Besides, we perceive film tourism as an interesting segment to work with and Tollywood and its importance in promoting a destination is also something that we as a Tourism Board are eagerly looking into.

Murari Mohan Jha

Pallavi Agarwal, Founder & CEO, goSTOPS shares her perspective on the unfolding scenario of the backpacker hostel segment in India.  

goSTOPS, a chain of backpacker hostels, plans to raise a $15 million in a series A round by July 2022 that will be utilized to expand its footprint as the company aims to have 20,000 beds across the country by March 2024. goSTOPS also plans to foray into Southeast Asian countries including Sri Lanka and Nepal. 

How do you see the unfolding scenario of the backpacker segment? 

Backpacker hostels are a relatively new concept in India. It wasn’t until 2008 -09 that the first hostels sprung up in the country, largely inspired by the European hostel culture that fits perfectly into pocket-friendly social accommodation options that Indian youth travelers were seeking. Will Indians warm up to the idea of shared living was a question on every entrepreneur’s mind. The past decade has set to rest these worries. 

We saw the rapid emergence of the shared living concept in the country with availability of options such as co-working, co-living, and shared traveling. Hence, we decided to expand our presence into non-foreign backpacker destinations early on in our journey. Untill 2018, 70% of occupancy dependence was on foreigners, however, by 2019, the scenario saw a reversal with 85% of the hostels being occupied by Indians. 

The trend has, overwhelmingly, spread across Gen Z and millennials, who have taken to the traveler hostels like fish to water. The young backpacking community is expected to grow multifold in the coming years, as hostels are evolving to cater to the aspiring needs of the young wanderers. 

What is the market size of the backpacker segment globally and in India? What is the expected growth potential of the segment in the coming years? 

The ‘backpacker segment’ is constantly innovating to meet the evolving needs of the travelers in the backdrop of a dynamic travel climate. While the segment is nascent, it is witnessing tremendous growth on the back of growing popularity of pocket-friendly social accommodation options among the youth, particularly hostels. 

Last year, the travel industry contributed USD 121.9 billion to India’s GDP, and is expected to reach USD 512 billion by 2028. Despite being characterized as unorganized and fragmented, the global hostel industry generated USD 6 billion revenue in 2018 and is expected to grow to USD 8 billion by 2023. 

For the segment to expand, Indian hostel players must focus on the evolving needs of the contemporary young travelers who are seeking unique travel experiences. Encompassing the world’s largest youth population, India’s youth travel accommodation segment is a USD 5 billion opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. 

Under the current pandemic scenario when safety and hygiene are of utmost importance, do you think travelers take the risk to stay in a hostel? 

The experiences from the past two pandemic waves have had a profound impact on travelers and the industry. As an ecosystem, we have become far more resilient to the situation, and are equipped to deal with the challenges that come with the territory. Awareness about safety precautions and mindfulness among travelers, complemented by measures adopted by hostels, has built confidence towards responsible travel. The youth have now learnt to travel in times of a pandemic. 

Few players forayed into this segment but could not sustain. How are you going to sustain your business model? 

All performance parameters in the backpacking segment point to the contrary. The players that entered the space eight years back have not just survived but thrived. While the past two years have been difficult, our concept and size give us great appetite for agility. We have been able to reinvent ourselves very quickly to suit the evolving audience. As the category has grown, in the past year itself, many players including us, have raised additional capital to meet burgeoning business needs. 

Youth constitutes 33% of India’s population and accounts for 60% of domestic travel. That’s a large base by any parameter. The untapped potential for the backpacking hostel segment is huge and is being tapped into with the widening network spanning across the country. Overcoming the dependence on foreign travelers, the segment is truly riding the wave of awareness among youth travelers of India. 

What are your plans in terms of expansion, investment and marketing & promotional strategy? 

In terms of investment, goSTOPS plans to raise a $15 million in a series A round by July 2022. The funding will be utilized to expand our footprint as we aim to have 20,000 beds across the country by March 2024. 

We also plan to set up outposts in south-east Asian countries including Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The fresh funds will be employed to build a product that lives up to the evolving expectations of the digitally native and smartphone first generation. Through advanced technology solutions, we hope to nurture and engage with our traveler community on a real time basis. 

By introducing more hostels and making them accessible, we hope to build greater awareness among the youth about the emerging backpacking culture. We hope to bring alive the transformative power of travel. Through our hostels, we endeavor to give them an opportunity to meet like-minded souls, connect with their real selves, and experience different culture. 

How can hostel chains change the face of the travel and tourism industry to become one of the trendiest things to follow in the next 5 years? 

The future of the travel and tourism industry is our youth. Travel is a crucial part of their lives as it provides them an escape from the mundane and helps them experience different cultures. However, there are limited options that currently fulfill the expectations of the massive and growing youth segment. This is where hostel brands step in, as they provide a go-to destination to the youth by offering safe and social accommodation options and state-of-the-art facilities in a pocket-friendly budget. This is enabling the youth to travel more frequently and explore the world, making hostels a crucial part of their life and leading to the overall growth of the industry. 

Moreover, the pandemic has given birth to the rapid acceptance of hybrid working options and trends like workations and staycations. Hostels provide dedicated working spaces during the day that transform into hangout zones to vibe with like-minded people post work hours, leading to their burgeoning popularity.

 

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