Written by: Ashok Jaiswar
About the author: Group Head Marketing & Corporate Communications – Greaves Cotton Limited & Ampere Electric
“Even a lone traveller feeds many.”
Yes, every time a plane lands, so many cabs run, hotels get occupied, restaurants get full, travel operators thrive & local communities survive. Travel is integral to life & contributes significantly to jobs & economic vitality of the nation.
Human beings are born to be social and hence the need for us to move, meet & mingle will continue forever. While there has been a big stop in the last few months with the travel & tourism industry coming to a grinding halt, there seems to be some ray of hope now with reopening of few markets. The fear of getting infected & lack of health-protective measures had made this worse but now with the gradual subsiding of the covid graph, the industry has started seeing some green shoots but will continue to move at a much slower pace at least for a while.
In the last few months, we have seen an increase in movement of domestic travellers on a weekend getaway within nearby driving distance from their location.
Few questions which pop- up as we think more about the travel related future
- Should we assume that those good old nostalgic moments at airports, scenic destinations & with your loved ones will be back soon?
- Will leisure travel also pick up with business travel?
- When will bigger groups for an incentive trip travel?
- Will the hospitality industry adequately plan for your safety, health protection & hygiene with structural changes done in their infrastructure to suit the new age traveller?
- Will exhibitions, events, conferences, tech shows, business conclaves, strategic meets catch up soon?
- Will we be able to engage our home-locked teams in a better way, creating avenues to charge our people force in coming months?
Well as travel planners & marketers in the tourism industry there are several challenges to overcome.
- Handle diverse sets of travellers and manage their expectations. It’s important to identify various types of customers & define what they want.
- Choice of destination – Understand what will drive more travellers to a particular destination v/s other. Since the dynamics of travel have changed, previous destinations wooing travellers with large gathering locations, shopping complexes, business avenues in urban districts won’t have the same advantage as it had last year. It’s time to revisit the factors used in destination planning so that it keeps the travellers happy and destination planners get good business simultaneously
- Communicate well – Clear the fear. A sound emotional state sets a clear way ahead, especially in travel. It’s good to know how the desired destination is taking care of the elderly & senior members of the group, who incidentally are also the decision-makers in most of the groups.
- With sentiment to support the local markets at an all-time high, will the destination provide an opportunity to work, indulge & support the local communities? Capture relevant stories with local communities, artisans & producers actively engaging with the tourists & create a platform to raise the voice for locals. Post covid, the concern for each other & care from heart has taken precedence & all of us as responsible world citizens want to be seen as good while taking care of the lesser privileged ones. Now, this can be weaved as part of a diverse travel itinerary striking chord with a philanthropic cause.
- COPABILITY is more important than CAPABILITY in these tough times …manner in which we cope with these changes is important. Travel to those locations which have clearly demonstrated the rigorous implementation of safety protocols & dealt with changes smartly.
- Customised Packages: Tap on emerging needs within Corporate houses. The extended confinement has made people bored at home & they would love to venture out in safe, secluded, less crowded locations with proper social distancing being followed. On a lighter note, today executives need – Laptop + Wi-Fi connectivity + spouse or your partner & then any place works. Are planners ready to create customised packages for small groups & find opportunity in these challenging times?
- Comprehensive Travel Experience: Is the destination rich enough to give adequate bragging points to travellers? Are there enough attractions – beaches, mountains, magnificent architectural tours in urban districts, shopping plazas, nightlife, entertainment etc.?
- Cost Savings: Is the overall package affordable, faster & easier to go with lesser exposure of travel modalities which means direct flights & no intermittent stoppages, contactless check-ins, easy local transfers, have adequate safety, & easy rules & regulations? There is a clear preference to countries which not just offer great business events & conferences but have higher EQ [ Experiential Quotient].
- Choose Eco-Tourism: Cycling trails, green walks, nature trails & forest baths will be catching more rampantly as people like to remain fit & healthy. In all likelihood, nature and wildlife will be preferred over monuments, busy malls and history in the months ahead. So the hills, the sea resorts, wildlife reserves and slightly isolated locations will win overcrowded localities. So all previous travel packages need to be augmented with elements which foster responsible tourism. This means add nature visits in their travel packages, promote this proactively and aggressively to remain relevant. New segment, new opportunities, new skill sets required as we move ahead.
Starting next year if vaccines come & things stabilize, we can see small groups start moving first from domestic markets & then international destinations. Incidentally, it will coincide with appropriate timing when most of the annual incentives & performance rewards for the high performers are given. It’s also the time when strategic goals for the next few years will be firmed up and larger teams will be required to be communicated about the goals plus execution way forward. This will also be the time to inspire the employees to create a new peak in performance & thus pave way for motivational trips in small & large groups. Holiday mood today is not buoyant but revenge travel will happen to cover up for the lost period. Apart from business travel, leisure trips with staycations will gain albeit in small groups.