'Significant scope for travel and hospitality industry'

'Significant scope for travel and hospitality industry'
Tourism has emerged as one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors worldwide. Growing at a rate of 7.5%, as per World travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism stands tall as an important category of services exports - with a contribution to the global GDP of Rs 8.22 lakh crore (7%), offering 37.4 million jobs, 9% of the total employment.

WTTC’s Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2014, highlights that the total expenditure on outbound travel in India was Rs 75,000 crore in 2013 and is forecasted to be Rs 1,60,500 crore in 2024. The surge in the number of Indians travelling abroad has made India one of the largest outbound travel markets globally with a consistent northward growth trajectory.

The growing market

The Indian traveller has come of age. Travel is no longer merely traversing the distance between cities or countries, but rather a journey of exploration and discovery. Authentic engagement with the destination – its people, culture and cuisine is becoming the new order of the day.

The potential for travel is indeed immense. With traditional source markets falling by the wayside, India is emerging as a force to reckon with in the global tourism landscape.

IT —  a game changer

Additionally, Information Technology (IT) has been a game changer for the industry, as it has enabled close customer contact and maintain close customer relationships.

The travel and tourism sector has got a boost in recent times with the government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign. Even global tech giant Google is focusing on key areas like bringing more Indian regional language content online and help 20 million small and medium enterprises set an internet presence by 2017. This will enable people to get information online much more easily with content available in their regional language.

The sector is constantly trying all permutations and combinations to provide a seamless experience to its customers and this we believe augurs well for an aspirational middle India.

 Furthermore, with the introduction of new airlines and the constructions of new airports, the number of footfalls is expected to open up gates for unexplored destinations in India in addition to catering the compounding demand in the tier II and III markets.

New entries into the Indian skies  — through LCCs, full service and premium carriers serve to ease pressures on the supply side with price wars fuelling consumer demand in traditional off peak periods as well.

Ease of visa processes (the provision of long term tourist visas and e-TV) and the new advancements by the government to launch tri-highway to connect Myanmar, China and North East will be an added route for self-drive - as also the new sea-link from Kanyakumari to Sri Lanka.

Rise in experimental travel

 Experiential travel has also gained popularity in India and has now become India’s travel mantra with a northward uptake witnessed in the demand this year with authentic local elements that included stays in Airbnb accommodation, farm stays, etc. Another interesting observation this year was the emergence of Slow Travel with options like ‘walking tours’ seeing uptake. Village/farm stays in Switzerland and leisurely hiking, cycling tours in Europe also saw significant growth.

Slow Travel offers work weary Corporate India a neat outlet for rest and rejuvenation, to bond with loved ones and reconnect with their inner self for a spiritual refresh. India’s GenY see in Slow Travel, an opportunity to undertake courses while holidaying; for instance a one-month course in trekking in the Himalayas, scuba diving in Seychelles, or kite surfing in the Philippines!

A marked preference has also been noticed for Van Tours especially and this has been noteworthy for our Thomas Cook Europe departures, covering popular options of Switzerland, Germany and Austria, especially from family/ extended family also ad-hoc groups of friends witnessed a strong demand of 18%.

Cruise tourism

Cruise Tourism, a relatively new concept in India is becoming popular. It has witnessed a strong uptake Year-on-Year (YoY). Cruises offer an aspirational brag factor which together with great value pricing, is a strong proposition for the ‘value seeker’ Indian consumer. 

With cruise options available from budget, value, to premium, cruising as a concept fits every consumer price point.

A cruise has elements that captivate every need, across target groups and hence a very convenient tool in our travel kit. Given the growing demand for cruises from India, there will be cruises operational from new hubs such as Mumbai and Cochin by the end of this year.

European Domination

While Europe continues to dominate the favourite list of destinations for Indians, top selling destinations like Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain (and the emerging Hungary-Czech-Slovakia trio) – have witnessed an initial dampener due to perceived bio-metric concerns, but we are confident that its long-term benefits will tide over such hiccups. New Zealand- Australia could well be beneficiaries.

Rise in short haul getaways

The increasing trend towards short haul getaways over weekends/extended weekends is seeing continuum and perennial favourites like Singapore, Dubai, Thailand and Malaysia will see favour; equally destinations like Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sri Lanka, Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invaluable focus on tourism, sustained delivery will be critical in areas like infrastructure, access-connectivity, safety and hygiene. With commendable initiatives combined with favourable market trends and dynamics, the scope for travel and hospitality is significant.

(The author is President and Country Head - Leisure Travel, MICE, Thomas Cook – India)

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