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India’s travel market buoyed by last-minute bookings since March

New flight booking data released today by Amadeus reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on flight booking lead times in India since March 2020.  According to Amadeus’ first COVID-19 Travel Insights bulletin, flight booking lead times in India decreased by 68% between March-July 2020, compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019 – the biggest change seen across the APAC region.

The bulletin also found that Indian travelers are currently the most last minute in the region when it comes to booking flights – making flight bookings on average only 10 days before their departure date between March-July 2020.

According to Cyril Tetaz, Executive Vice President, Airlines, Amadeus Asia Pacific, this shift towards last-minute bookings has major implications for how India’s travel industry should begin to think about recovery going into 2021.

“We expected that a greater number of passengers would prefer to book last minute in light of the uncertainties and changing travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has certainly been borne out by our flight booking data,” he said. “This has significant ramifications for India’s travel industry as it looks to rebuild. For a start, India’s airlines, hotels and tour operators now have a much shorter window of opportunity to engage travelers, and urgently need to adapt their marketing and business strategies to cater to the nuances of the last-minute market more than ever before.

“The old methods of using historical data to predict demand and income are no longer effective in the COVID-19 era, either; with so many bookings now left to the last minute, India’s travel businesses will need to increasingly rely on real-time data instead, and build extra flexibility into every aspect of their day-to-day operations, so that resources, systems and services can be seamlessly scaled up and down as demand fluctuates at short notice, without having any impact on the traveler’s experience.”

The Amadeus bulletin also found that the other nine APAC countries that it studied followed the same pattern as India in recording a contraction in booking lead times during the COVID-19 pandemic, except Malaysia and Philippines where travelers have been making domestic flight bookings much further ahead during the pandemic than they ordinarily would.

After India, Australia, Thailand and New Zealand are the APAC countries that have so far seen the most significant changes in traveler behavior, with decreases of 54%, 53% and 51% respectively in flight booking lead times compared to pre-COVID-19 levels on international and domestic flights combined. Even in Japan – where booking lead times have remained the longest in the region at 53 days – the booking window has still contracted by 14% compared to before the pandemic.

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