By Agrim Shah*
We have managed to bounce back in a positive manner
Having chosen a career in the travel industry, I am a director of a travel agency. My business endeavour has grown from being a startup to roughly upward of INR 2 crores. No doubt our business witnessed the ups and downs of the tourism industry in our country, while we rubbed shoulders with some of the big corporate houses. Along our roller coaster ride, there have been several significant changes in tourism as well as the hospitality industry.
The trends in the travel industry have undergone several rapid changes. At the onset of the millennial year, most people used to travel to specific destinations in a group. This might be the case as it served to economize their costs. However, currently (at least till pre-pandemic days) more and more people are out on their own, preferring to explore different travel destinations. There is a new generation of travel buffs who seek new experiences, some wanting an exotic feel. With a change in the customer preferences, noticeably the younger lot, we have more number of countries and destinations on our wish list.
The pandemic lockdown phase did upset the apple carts of the tourism industry for quite some while. However, things are fine as of now and we have managed to bounce back in a positive manner. We do face challenges in terms of logistics, visas, and other travel formalities that involve interfacing with the hospitality industry. However, the future looks promising as things are open and safe now and people want to travel and enjoy life with families. In my opinion, there are grounds to be optimistic both on the domestic tourism front as well as the outbound travel segment. Even in the slim period owing to pandemic travel restrictions, the domestic front performed in a robust manner and it is a cause enough to project a bright future, having proved that more and more leisure segment tourists are opting enthusiastically for the travel bug.
One other reason to feel optimistically inclined is the trend prevailing in religious tourism, especially after the floodgates got opened after the lifting of travel restrictions owing to the pandemic. The temple township in the north that hosts the Kedarnath Yatra and places of worship where people seek darshan, in and around the holy city of Benares are witnessing an enormous surge in terms of the volume of pilgrims seeking to partake on the domestic tourism front.
Besides, the Amarnath yatra that is expected to commence in a short while from now is expected to fetch robust business revenue for the religious travel sector. At the same time, it’s just not about the surge in this particular sector. Our outbound Indian travel clientele is also witnessing a huge rush. This positive sign persists despite the airline industry reporting hike in airfares and the hospitality industry charging more for hotel accommodation.
Along with optimism, there is also a need for caution to exploit the Indian travel bug that is seen to be picking up. We need to keep a balance between domestic travel and outbound travel. We have to brace ourselves for any challenges that might be thrown up and not keep all our eggs in one basket. I mean we as industry people have to keep our options open and be prepared for working in a flexible manner to suit our clientele. Our goal should be to weather a sustainable tourism package by delivering a good customer experience.
Finally, as facilitators of both domestic and outbound tourism, we look forward to working with the governments at the state levels and the Centre for adequate and robust infrastructure within the country. Maybe country-to-country coordination will help in this direction. At the same time, we look forward to our government engaging with officials from other nations to expedite visa formalities that are currently posing hindrances to outbound travellers.
*Agrim Shah is a Mumbai-based Commerce graduate who runs a travel company.
(As told to Venkatesh Raghavan)