With the new year bringing new hope, new energy, and new expectation for a better year for business, the Indian travel, tourism, and aviation industry is buoyant on a gradual revival in traffic, increased demand, and constant innovation which will lead all the stakeholders to a better position and hopefully, 2022 can result in more recovery than the industry actually anticipates. ETTravelWorld got in touch with industry leaders covering travel, tourism, aviation, visa, and travel tech sector and tried to understand how the industry will shape up in 2022 and what are their projections and expectations.
Representing the airline sector, Vinod Kannan, CEO, Vistara said that they are continuing to have a positive outlook for 2022 and hope that the situation will stabilise resulting in an improvement in demand soon. “While we started 2021 on a positive note in the form of a gradual revival in traffic, the deadly second wave of Covid-19 severely impacted the market and had huge implications on operations and business. However, in the latter half of 2021, we saw demand for domestic air travel steadily grow, owing to the streamlining of travel restrictions, vaccination efforts by the government resulting in the growing confidence of people in air travel. The surge can be attributed to the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) segment or people travelling for leisure. Corporate travel also saw an uptick; however, it has been quite slow comparatively. The last month, however, saw the outbreak of Omicron, which is impacting the market. We are already observing a drop in demand, mainly for international sectors. However, we continue to have a positive outlook for 2022 and hope that the situation will stabilise resulting in an improvement in demand soon,” he said.
Talking on the visa perspective, Pranav Sinha – Head – South Asia at VFS Global mentioned that the steady rise in visa applications demonstrates strong intent to travel. “Since the restart period happened to overlap with the peak students’ season in India, students comprised a large section of international travellers from India, followed by business travellers and tourists visiting families. Opening of international borders with the easing of travel restrictions, rise in vaccination coverage, and pent-up demand for travel, led to a spike in visa applications from India. Visa applications received in India until November 21, 2021, more than doubled vis-à-vis volumes witnessed in January 2021. There has been a three-fold rise in visa applications since June 2021 which indicates a significant recovery in travellers’ sentiments,” he said.
Rakesh Narayanan, Vice President, Regional General Manager, Asia Pacific, Travel Solutions Airline Sales, Sabre sharing his expectations for 2022 said that they are excited about further travel industry recovery, growth, and innovation. “We continue to face a rapidly changing world. However, we have seen plenty of green shoots during recent months and, together with our travel partners, Sabre remains laser-focused on recovery as we move further into the New Year. We firmly believe in a broad, global recovery across both corporate and leisure sectors. What is important now is that we create our catalysts for growth through our technological advancements and partnerships, to ensure the industry as a whole, in India and globally, can capitalise on opportunities ahead,” he said.Air mobility
Talking on behalf of the helicopter and urban air mobility sector, Amit Dutta, MD & Co-Founder, BLADE India comments, “2022 looks to me like the year where the real impact of our efforts will bear fruit, both as a company and as an ecosystem as a whole. BLADE will be starting multiple new routes across the country. Just like 2021, this year will see domestic tourism at an all-time high and we expect to expand our footprint across the country to meet that demand. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has been progressive with deregulation and reforms in the short-haul mobility sector. We have also been working with several government and private industry teams to bring about further changes and improvements for India’s fliers”.
Travel trade associations
Representing the domestic tourism arena, PP Khanna, President, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) said that the temporary suspension of human activities to arrest the surge in Omicron cases will not change the mindset of willing travellers and domestic tourism is here to stay in 2022.
“We highly appreciate people’s enthusiasm, their energy to enjoy their full life in 2021 despite the pandemic threat moving around on shopping, holiday, business social cause, etc., and the industry was slowly moving on the road to recovery. However, the threat is now looming again Omicron spreading and having gone through a catastrophic experience during the second wave, Government does not want to take a chance or show any laxity in taking all precaution to stop the spread of the new variant, and soon there might be another phase of lockdown restricting the movement of people at all places. We can say or predict about 2022 only after knowing the government’s policy in the matter,” he said.
Whereas, Vinayak Koul, Hony Secretary, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI), said, “2022 was looking very good before the Omicron variant started spreading and hit the industry. We got some positive responses from domestic travellers and some foreign travellers and FTOs. Now, we need to rethink our plans and we hope that the situation doesn’t turn out to be as deadly as it was in the second wave in India. A lot depends on how things turn up in the next month or so. The year is looking positive, but we need to be cautious for a couple of months and watch the situation very closely and react to how things turn out. We all have to start learning with Covid and keep hopes high for good business.”
Presenting the OTAs perspective, Rikant Pittie, Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip, said that he expects a strong recovery of the travel and tourism sector in 2022. “This year, we are expecting trends focused on safety and technology to be at the forefront as people look to resume travel. Due to safety concerns, we are also expecting a rise in demand for unique, unexplored destinations,short weekend getaways, and road trips to nearby tourist destinations. New forms of travel focused on sustainability, wellness and self-care are also set to drive travel demand in 2022. The international travel restrictions set to ease further in the coming year, and we are also expecting international travel demand to grow exponentially as more destinations will open up seamlessly and leisure travel makes a recovery,” he stated.
Sharing the outlook on the investment perspective in the travel and tourism sector, Ankit Kedia, Founder and Lead Investor, Capital A stated that the industry has found novel ways to adopt to the new world order. “The travel sector, especially aviation and hospitality was massively hit during the onset of the pandemic. However, we saw the resilience of mankind – who found novel ways to adopt to the new world order. For instance, countries with bubble agreements continued to allow travel between places where there were manageable caseloads. However, the pandemic also restricted international travel and created a relative unease amongst passengers who travelled without any worry. On the flip side, it gave enormous rise to domestic trips and home stays amongst the travellers. Overall as investors, we look at the long term and the end game which is immune to Covid-19, something that is gradually becoming a part of our daily lives. We invested in a travel tech SaaS platform – Pathfndr which is growing rapidly and helping travel agents create an online platform quickly and adopt technology at a break-neck speed. This fortunately or unfortunately has been the biggest beneficiary from the pandemic,” he said.