Travel demand in 2021 pivotal

Sandeep Dwivedi, Chief Operating Officer, InterGlobe Technology Quotient (ITQ), shares his views on the
increasing consumer sentiment to restart travel, which in turn is leading towards air traffic surge. He expects full domestic recovery to 2019 levels by end of the year.

The first weeks of 2021 have renewed our hopes for a recovery, especially with the news of vaccines in world’s major economies. As consumer and business confidence slowly returns, it is still too early to say when ‘new normal’ statistics will meet the old. Irrespective, industry has been staying rather optimistic and estimates a full domestic recovery of 2019 level by 2021, provided substantial risk mitigation, consumer acceptability and aviation adaptability ensue. This makes demand for travel in 2021 more critical to sustaining the mild surge in traffic recorded during last Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

In the last quarter of 2020, as consumer sentiment revived, we saw two positive outcomes: first was improved confidence in air travel and second, an increased allocation for flights by aviation ministry. It is only fair to say that a further increase of up to 10 per cent by February 2021 is expected, provided number of air passengers rise in these initial weeks, number of cases detected on-board decline, and safety is elevated with successful vaccination of frontline aviation personnel.

All these bear high possibility, considering growing signs of declining health crisis domestically, latest vaccination drives, and increasing confidence in air mobility as well as rising engagement in economic activity and safer protocols.

It has been witnessed that leisure domestic travel is slowly picking up considering most international routes, including the ones in high demand earlier, are off limits. Domestically, travelling by road appears to be the preferred mode for most leisure travellers. The trend seems to shift towards air travel with the affluence, distance, limitations on time and need for enhanced safety. Snowfall in major northern attractions is also adding to the traction in domestic air traffic.

An interesting trend is picking pace under the name of ‘revenge travel’ and is likely to grow in 2021, considering limited travel opportunities presented by the year that passed by. With over 50 per cent of India’s population under 25 years of age and over 65 per cent below 35, travel, including air travel, appears to be one sector likely to recover sooner in the country than its counterparts abroad. Even more with the concept of digital nomads picking pace. Much still remains to be seen, given consumer’s price sensitivity due to previous economic contraction and preference for value and quality, especially in these sensitive times. The different stages of away-from-home activities that modern travellers are on, is another factor expected to impact this anticipated surge in traffic.


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