SAFE TRAVELS
Hotelier India|December 2020
As customers prioritise health and hygiene, travel and hotel brands are collaborating on safety protocols to score points with them
VINITA BHATIA

It has been said often enough and with every repetition the statement’s ominosity keeps increasing. The pandemic has dramatically changed some industries, with travel and hospitality being amongst the most affected.

The nationwide lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by the government to flatten COVID-19’s spread hit both sectors, which are symbiotically bound, very hard. Despite the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, which will hopefully bring the pandemic under control, there is no denying that business will be equally challenging going forth.

Few know exactly how the dynamics of the travel and hospitality business will transform. However, many are trying to comprehend the altered customer behavior and come up with strategies to deal with it. One thing is definite though; safety and health is right on top of a traveller’s check list.

According to a Booking.com report, about 86% Indian travellers plan to take more health and safety-related precautions when travelling in the future and 71% are opting to avoid certain destinations altogether due to safety concerns. The online travel aggregator recently conducted this survey amongst 20,934 people who had travelled for business or leisure in the past 12 months and were planning to travel in the next one year, whenever travel restrictions are lifted.

Talking about it, Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives at Booking.com said, “Health and safety are top priority for travellers wanting to travel once again. They are looking forward to new health and safety measures to avoid COVID-19.”

These findings are reiterated in Thomas Cook India’s ‘Holiday Readiness Travel Report - Future of Travel post-COVID-19’ report. Once again health and safety ranked as the primary concern for 75% of respondents of the 2500 surveyed customers. 35% were willing to increase their spending to ensure higher levels of hygiene and sanitation, while 72% preferred reputed brands across their travel journey, including tour operators and hotel chains.

NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC

Keeping an eye on this ball, Thomas Cook and its group company, SOTC, are collaborating with various hospitality brands to underline how safety forms the core of all their business plans. Talking about this, Rajeev Kale, President, and Country Head – Holidays, MICE, and Visa at Thomas Cook India said, “While flights were suspended, we worked on creating a non-flight domestic holiday strategy. We collaborated with hotel partners with accessible properties from residential areas to create innovative products such as workstations, staycations, wellness breaks, affordable luxury holidays, etc.”

The company partnered with hospitality brands, including the Indian Hotels Company Limited, ITC Hotels, Accor Hotels, Marriott International, Royal Orchid Hotels, Sterling Holidays Resorts and other regional chain hotels. As travel restrictions eased and borders reopened, it also tied-up with airline companies, like IndiGo, to catalyse demand for domestic destinations.

This was part of its twin-pronged strategy to boost customer confidence who were taking hesitant steps towards traveling and vacationing. Since they sought value-centric propositions, it came up with products at affordable price points with various value additions. So, free transfers, flexible cancellation options, minimal booking deposit, easy payment, and EMI options as well as immersive experiences at its hospitality partners –its customers could pick and choose from a range of permutations.

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