Now, focus on franchise business

Giving a status check on the state of existing travel industry, as well as how UNIGLOBE Travel is the right model for the agencies today, Ritika Modi, Regional President, UNIGLOBE Travel, South Asia, says that travel is back with a bang, though corporate travel is not up to the mark.

TT Bureau

Despite opening of borders, and India being the front-runner in APAC, the airline capacity is not yet back to what it should be, informed Ritika Modi, Regional President, UNIGLOBE Travel, South Asia. “As soon as the capacity resumes to pre-pandemic levels, there will be pent-up demand. We have been waiting for this for the past two years. While leisure and business travel are back, corporate travel is still not up to the mark. Since companies are being careful, there is going to be a hybrid model, including online and in-person meetings,” she said.

Rebound

Claiming that UNIGLOBE agencies have a rebound, Modi shared, “We have crossed the 2019 numbers. On the domestic front, we are achieving higher numbers and higher in terms of travel spend, but for international we are not yet there, though every month we see an increase.” When it comes to target setting, she explained, “If you look at volumes, every airline is giving targets based on the current numbers as they cannot look at 2021 numbers. However, we need to help members regain their lost revenues. The challenges include people and even IATA. Thus, the agencies were stretched to the full, having to pay salaries to their people and managing businesses,” she said.

“Though the credit flow is more because when a customer goes online, he/ she does not take credit from the vendor, he/she takes it from the credit card company versus the agency from where he/she has got the tickets issued. Our mantra this year is how do we do more with less because we have less resources and less people. We are working with many technology improvements in order to help our members achieve a lot more with less. We have 35 member agencies in India and have added another during COVID-19,” she said.

Helping hand

Modi claimed she brought the concept of franchising to India in 2002. “It has taken the pandemic for the members to realise the value of being together and being a part of the same ecosystem. They have learnt how this could benefit them in terms of technology, training, training, and preferred supplier relationships. We have been looking at the changing landscape of the travel industry and structured ourselves on four strategic pillars in the organisation. These include technology, commercials, alliances, and consulting piece. This is the core focus for going forward this year to help the members get the revenue back,” she elucidated.

Everyone wins

When asked how every UNIGLOBE members are getting business, she claimed, “Agencies prior to COVID-19, and even before that, literally struggled to charge a fee for the services they had rendered. The ongoing pandemic has taught the consumer to pay a fee for everything that he/she has bought, which is a big shift and will enhance revenue. Thus, the agency must understand how they want to service their customers better and charge them accordingly.”

Modi said, “The customer will be willing to pay the fee when he/she experiences a different quality of service. The good news is that with the pandemic, people are coming back to brick-and-mortar agencies because they want to talk to somebody and not do everything by themselves and pay for the services too. Even the larger OTAs have started charging a fee other than convenience fee, which is a good sign. Thus, we see that not only in India, but also globally people are returning to brick-and-mortar agencies.”

Revenue

When it comes to revenue, she said instead of focusing on revenues from various sources such as inbound, outbound, corporate travel, leisure or bleisure travel, agencies need to decide on their specialisation.

Events & engagements

Modi said they have multiple meetings for their member owners. “We have our conference, which we delayed owing to pandemic. We will be organising it soon. We had our first in-person meeting with all our members on the 1 July 2022 at the Andaz New Delhi and it was well attended. Everybody was happy to meet each other. Amitabh Khosla, Country Director, IATA, came and interacted with us. Each of us could discuss the challenges we foresee and how we could accomplish a lot more,” she shared.  While they have been holding many meetings, seminars and trainings online, they are planning to have more physical conferences. “We are planning an event in November, most likely in Mumbai,” she informed.

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