Trade optimistic in 2021

After a tumultuous 2020, the industry is hopeful that the New Year will bring different opportunities, as they work towards new beginnings with learnings from the year gone by. They see 2021 as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI
I hope that year 2021 will take us past the pain and catastrophe that we suffered. There should be guarantee of our money from our stakeholders and other aviation bodies. The government needs to ensure this. Another thing we require is an industry status; now, we had to be dependent on ourselves. We need to restructure the way we work, put in the new norms and regulate ourselves, and see how we can be a healthier, prosperous industry. We also need a good connect with the government and government bodies. I should be able to demand to be protected as an industry, because our businesses are also contributing to the economy.

EM Najeeb, Senior VP, IATO
We hope that in 2021, things will change and get better. In many countries, things are getting normal and most of the economic activities are getting back to normal, except tourism. Tourism has got restrictions not only in India, but all over the world, whether in full or partial. However, it is slowly opening up, but when international tourism, international flights, visa regulations will be eased, then only things would be absolutely normal. I hope and pray that we are going to be in a better situation in 2021 than we were in 2020.

Jatinder Taneja, VC, PATA India Chapter
At present, we don’t have big expectations from year 2021. From what we are observing, while domestic tourism has already begun, the inbound business will still take time to start. Even as the vaccine’s discovery gives us as well as the industry hope to revive, the path is not free of challenges. In my opinion, making the vaccine available for everyone and administering most of the world’s population is something that will surely take time. We are hoping for some inbound business to start from August 2021.

Subhash Goyal, Secretary General, FAITH
Year 2021 is like a silver lining to a dark cloud that has engulfed our country, the tourism industry in particular. We can see light at the end of the tunnel because almost 60-70% of domestic flights are operating and we hope that in 2021, all air bubbles will turn into scheduled international flights and visas will start getting issued. We are hopeful of good news, as not only in Russia and America but also in India, the vaccines are in stages of completion and distribution. This has given us a lot of hope and we are confident that by the end of 2021, we should be back to pre-COVID days.

Sandeep Dwivedi, COO, InterGlobe Technology Quotient
According to me, year 2021 shall emerge as a progressive year for the travel and tourism industry, swapping limitations with innovations. We expect a huge demand for travel to begin as soon as the endearing no-more COVID-fear is affirmed through vaccination. A strong collaboration between technology and travel is also anticipated, leading to a reformative metamorphosis of how travellers interact with the industry during several touchpoints, including check-in, boarding, lounging, dining, flying and most importantly, returning to out-of-home activities.

Biji Eapen, National President, IAAI
There will almost certainly be a travel recovery early this year as our industry has faced and survived similar challenges before, like the 9/11 attack, the 2008 recession, as well as SARS and NIPA. Even though nobody can predict what will happen in the future, one thing is sure that we won’t be able to travel as freely as before. We at IAAI believe that learning from past experiences, industry stakeholders will try to understand the value, virtue and goodwill of unity within the industry, and work together for a speedy recovery of travel and tourism.

Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group
There hasn’t been any help from the government, but we are hoping that in the Budget this year, the government will at least not give short shrift to the sector that employs millions. With the vaccine almost here, we are hoping that the sector will revive in 2021, but that also depends how soon international travel starts and domestic airline capacity returns to pre-COVID levels. It’s important that international flights resume as most of the countries around the world have a defined quarantine procedure and passengers can decide accordingly.

Deepak Narula, Managing Director, GRNConnect
We should not hesitate in taking tough measures, lesser credit in the market and having an online portal. Hence, we should all embrace technology. Going forward, the travel industry will definitely see a boom, maybe starting April. It’s possible that leisure travel may see a revival sooner than business travel, which will take a little longer. It may take a few years to come back to normal though. This also depends on different markets, as international travel from India may recover slower than travel within Europe or America. I think, domestic travel in India will continue to see huge growth.

Mahendra Vakharia, MD, Pathfinders Holidays
The biggest learning for me personally is the reinforcement of my belief that spending time to build and nurture relationships is very important and always helpful in life. We are simple actors in the drama called ‘life’, and have to play our role as given by the director (the supreme power), nurture and respect Mother Earth and take care of her. My expectation for 2021 is hope that the human race will be wiser from the experience and impact of the last nine months of the pandemic and realise what wrong we were doing and rectify it for the betterment of the human race.

Lajpat Rai, MD, Lotus Trans Travels
I believe that in 2021, there is going to be a massive change in the way of working. The first and foremost example is digital communication, which has given a way to all corporates to carry on their meetings without organising a physical event. They don’t have to hire a hotel or take the staff to a destination to carry on the meetings. Work-from-home is a culture that is here to stay, so is online food delivery. Even the way people do weddings has changed. Money transactions are already happening online and this goes for all kinds of payments.

PP Khanna, President, ADTOI
We are looking forward to 2021 as a tourism growth year for our country. Tour operators have a lot of expectations as domestic tourism has started growing slowly, but we are also expecting moratoriums and loans from the government and banks. Only then would we be able to survive and revive. While MOT is supporting the tourism and hospitality industry, we expect Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce to also support us. Till the vaccine is launched, there will be a fear in the minds of people. However, it will still take another 5-6 months to see full growth in the tourism industry.

Abhinash Manghani, CEO, WelcomHeritage
We have high expectations from 2021 and we have started preparing for the upcoming holiday season as well. We are also working on new business strategies to tap the burgeoning domestic market that is looking for relaxing and safe holidays. Our properties’ USP is their location, which offers natural social distancing, a greener environment and huge spaces, thus naturally adhering to a COVID-safe environment. In 2021, we will also be adding new properties to our existing portfolio and we hope that the year will be a fruitful one not only for us but for the entire hospitality industry.

Homa Mistry, CEO, Trail Blazer Tours
If we do 50% of the business we used to do pre-COVID, we are home. We know that the same business will not happen in 2021, but if we are able to achieve 50% of that, I think we would have achieved enough for 2021. After that it should be normal. Hence, we are holding on and are positive that things will bounce back and continue smoothly. We have seen many problems before, like Mumbai attacks, Tsunami, 9/11, 2018 economic crisis, plague, etc. We survived earlier and I am sure we will survive now as well. It might take time, but things would be fine.

Ravi Gosain, MD, Erco Travels
Sometimes travel companies have extravagant expenses like marketing, freebies, giving credits, exploiting the suppliers, and giving unnecessary benefits to customers. With the COVID-19 pandemic having exhausted resources, all this will end, I hope, because it only reduces margins and in such a situation, you stand nowhere. Hence, in 2021, I am sure the market will correct and I think operators will have a responsibility among themselves because many of us will be out of business. Hence, it is necessary to work in a sustainable way.

Harmandeep Singh Anand, MD, GPS and Jagsons Travels
We are bringing as many services as possible within a bouquet to serve our clients and increase our bottom line in the days and years to come because we can’t survive on what we had in the past. We must have alternate revenue sources, and that’s a big learning for us. In terms of revival, I believe, domestic has ignited basic travel. Only those with savings can expect to travel. Many people would first go to shorter distances and even if flights open up internationally, I don’t think that before 2021 Diwali or Christmas, many people would start travelling.

Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO- South Asia, Middle East and North Africa Americas, VFS
At VFS Global, the challenge over the last few months had been to chart our road to sustenance and reopening operations with a primary focus on making the entire visa journey safe, seamless and digitally driven (or physically distanced) for our customers. As the travel ecosystem inches towards recovery, creating an agile service offering with customer health and safety considerations will be paramount. Technology and digital capabilities will assist in making travel an anxiety-free process, and will enable the travel community to bring back the promise in travel.

Sabina Chopra, Co-Founder and COO, Corporate Travel and Head Industry Relations,
In the last couple of years, there has been growth in the number of individuals planning their travel to various destinations and celebrate winter holidays around New Year’s or Christmas with their friends or families. This year as well, the trend is picking up in demand as we have received a growth in booking enquires for the winter holiday season while comparing it to non-festive months. Travellers are being more selective. We have various offers on the platform as well as bank/wallet benefits to customers in order to help them plan their budget leisure trips.

Manoj Saraf, Managing Director, Gainwell Travel
We are glad that 2020 has come to an end. It has definitely been the worst year for the industry. Towards the end of the year, more so in December, we saw some light at the end of the tunnel with domestic travel kick-starting well. Destinations in North Bengal, Sikkim, Northeast, Goa and Rajasthan have been popular from eastern India. Maldives has been a hot destination for travellers going outbound from India. Three charters have flown to the island nation from Kolkata, too. We hope this trend continues in the next quarter as well, with more countries opening borders.

Neeraj Gupta, Director, Peekay Holidays
In 2021, I am really excited to bring out some new domestic products that our country has to offer, from boutique hotels to niche experiences like river cruising. I strongly believe that Indian travellers should travel domestically and see their beautiful country. Of course, international destinations like Dubai and Maldives have opened up and they have seen a boom. I believe, long-haul destinations like the United States and Europe might also open by March. Thanks to COVID, more and more people are now eager to travel after spending majority of time at home.

Sanjar Imam, Founder Director, Panache World
The turn of the year will bring about a lot of optimism because 2020 has been a very tough year for everyone. It’s been a reboot year and we have learnt a lot of new things, but going forward, we are going to get more humane about how we experience this world and that’s very important. We took this world for granted and a lot of things we were careless about, we will now be very careful with. Travel is going to become more meaningful. People are going to give a lot more thought in terms of why they are travelling, what are they going to get in return and what are they going to give to the destination.

G Kamala Vardhana Rao, Chairman & MD, ITDC
My mantra for 2021 is to be innovative and think out of the box. There is no denying the fact that the sector has been most severely impacted by the pandemic, but what is needed is a resilient approach and an eye for new opportunities. Tomorrow is created today, and we are doing just that. The biggest takeaway from 2020 would be that every crisis presents itself with an opportunity, provided you have the keen outlook towards converting it. Employees are your biggest strength, hence, organisations should focus on keeping their workforce agile and ready for challenges.

Puneet Dhawan, Senior VP, India & South Asia, Accor
Year 2021 is exciting for us at Accor. It marks the launch of the first Raffles in India that we are all very excited about. We are cautiously optimistic for the New Year. I believe that continuing to be agile and thinking on our feet will be key for us. It will be imperative to drive consistency across the board to delivering a guest experience that continues to keep the guests’ safety and hygiene at the helm. Every day, we will bring the best versions of ourselves by working smarter, driving performance, and continuously delivering quality service.

Pushpendra Bansal, COO, Lords Hotels and Resorts
The coming of the new year gives us a clean slate, a chance to re-evaluate our journey, do better, go farther and apply our learnings from the past year. We are hopeful that our industry will regain lost ground in the post-vaccine era. An opportunity to capitalise on exclusive experiences lies head for us, as we build a strong brand presence across India and beyond. We are looking forward to 2021 as we expand our presence in Northeast and southern India. May the coming year be a year of steady development, stability, good health and harmony for all of us.

Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts
The pandemic has really pushed the entire industry to innovate, transform and rethink how we do business. With the holiday season here, our hotels are running busy. We are excited that domestic leisure travel is picking up pace. We have re-opened 16 properties and all our leisure destinations are doing good business. We received many reservation requests for the New-Year weekend. However, with work-from-home imposed by most organisations, M!CE and corporate events will take a while to revive. With the vaccine already introduced, this should pick up by mid-2021.

Davinder Juj, GM, Eros Hotel New Delhi Nehru Place
Actual revival could be seen in the next 12 to 18 months. Our focus will remain on achieving breakeven and exploring all opportunities that will help us in sustaining ourselves. Safety and hygiene will remain at the forefront and we will ensure that our guests’ and team members’ safety is not compromised at any point of time. Staying on top of technology will ‘wow’ guests and would be a necessity. The biggest learning from 2020 has been that we should keep ourselves prepared mentally and financially, to deal with such unprecedented crisis.

Rohit Katyal, National Sales Head, Justa Hotels & Resorts
We are bullish about 2021 and likely to come up with three to four new projects in Tier-II and III cities as niche hotels and resorts. From 2020, the biggest learning has been not to keep all eggs in one basket. The need for the future is to diversify and create multi-locational hotels and resorts, streamline costs, but not compromise on quality. There is a need to cautiously manage financial resources and create balance in one’s credit and debit policy. At the same time, one should ensure that all compliances are followed through.

Inputs by TT Bureau

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