“Business travel has had a big return” | Tech US News


NEW DELHI : The strong rebound in domestic travel and tourism after the lifting of covid-related restrictions is here to stay, said Madhavan Menon, chairman and managing director of Thomas Cook India, a travel services company.

In an interview, Menon said both business and leisure travel have recovered to near or exceeded pre-covid levels, with the majority of demand coming from domestic travelers. Edited snippets:

What is the state of corporate travel in the country at the moment?

Business travel has witnessed a huge return. We are currently operating at 90% of pre-covid levels. Although, it is true, the combination of international trips with national trips has changed, with 70% being national trips and 30% international. Sales volumes are higher because air fares are higher. In fact, in April, the business travel unit actually returned to profitability, both at SOTC and Thomas Cook. Over the course of the year, we acquired many businesses from large corporations.

What types of companies are sending their executives to travel?

Most of the companies we deal with are back in travel mode. Most of them travel domestically and about 30% travel internationally. Given the current state of things, international travel is a bit cost prohibitive so I think it will take a bit longer to get back. But domestic travel is covering some of the shortfall.

Isn’t rising air fares a deterrent?

While domestic airfares have risen as a result of rising oil prices, international airfares have risen sharply and airlines have yet to return to pre-covid schedules.

What about hotel reservations? Reports suggest a decline in demand in the first two months of FY23.

We are witnessing an increase in hotel rates due to demand. Sterling Holiday Resorts, a group company, is a reflection of this phenomenon. Average room rates are up nearly 30% from pre-pandemic levels. Occupancy rates are 70%. While occupancy in the December quarter was obviously higher than in the March quarter, the reality is that in the March quarter resorts were open for approximately 45 days due to the Omicron wave. Despite this, occupancy rates and turnover were relatively close to the previous quarter. Sterling Holiday Resorts has been profitable since March 2021.

Will international tourists take time to visit India?

Long-haul tourists anywhere in the world were expected to take a little longer to return. Mainly because the focus of holiday travel around the world is on short-haul destinations. This is reflected in data from the US, Europe, India and Australia.

Visas are proving to be very long for Indians. Your comment?

As far as Indian tourists are concerned, we are witnessing demand for vacations in Europe and America. However, the delay in obtaining visas for these destinations is a limitation. We expect visa issuance to ease during the second half of 2022. Alternatively, we offer Southeast Asian destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam that have fully opened and visas are easy to obtain.

So, for now, are companies dependent on domestic travel?

Domestic travel is the fastest growing segment and in the current environment, call it revenge or whatever, we are close to 110% of pre-covid levels. The destinations are fully booked: Kashmir, Goa, Kerala and Andamans. We are seeing more interest in destinations like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, the Northeast and religious tourism like the Char Dham.

Despite rising holiday costs?

The cost of the holiday has been increased by higher entry costs such as air fares, ground transport and hotel fees and a weaker rupee exchange rate. On average, the cost of vacations has increased by 25-30%.

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