Few months ago, popular travel blogger-turned-author Shrinidhi Hande had earlier told The Financial Express Online that 'road trips, instead of trains and flights' will be the new focus and that 'people now opt to save for a crisis than avoidable travel'.
Luxury hotel chains have been at the forefront of communicating their safety measures and have been able to capture a disproportionate share of bookings. (Representational image: Reuters)
Want to travel this festive season? With Diwali, Gurupurab, Christmas and New Year coming up, this period marks a typical ‘clubbing the weekend getaway’ that most families and couples plan for. Few months ago, popular travel blogger-turned-author Shrinidhi Hande had earlier told The Financial Express Online that ‘road trips, instead of trains and flights’ will be the new focus and that ‘people now opt to save for a crisis than avoidable travel’. However, this festive season’s trends show us that there may be a different picture emerging . Several Indian families are now planning to travel to nearby locations in their own vehicles and they are ready to spend a premium for their safety.
Coronavirus effect: Travellers ready to pay premium for safety
With the coronavirus pandemic setting new norms for the way travellers choose their place of stay, gone are the days of browsing on the Internet for cheap hotel deals. The latest data related to hotel bookings from Cleartrip show that Indian travellers are ready to shell out more and pay a premium for hotels that adhere to the highest standards of safety protocol on their properties.
Aditya Agarwal, Head of Corporate Strategy at Cleartrip, in conversation with The Financial Express Online’s Swapna Raghu Sanand, shares the latest hospitality trends of the upcoming festive season. In his view, pent-up demand will translate into hotel bookings during the festive season of Diwali and Christmas and he expects a spillover to the next quarter.
1. Are hotel bookings picking up in tandem with flight bookings? Which travel segments – affordable, budget, premium, leisure, business/executive class- are witnessing an uptick?
We had anticipated recovery to happen in stages. In the first stage, we saw a lot of emergency travel and people returning home after being stranded in the lockdown.
In the second stage, we saw the rise of staycations and drive-cations, which has helped drive a surge in bookings to premium properties in leisure destinations.
Since the lockdown has lifted, nearly 50% of bookings on our platform have been for 5-star hotels.
We are now seeing confidence return for interstate travel coinciding with the easing of travel restrictions and this could further boost capacity utilization for airlines and hotels.
Customers are placing a higher degree of emphasis on safety measures in properties that they select and do not mind paying a premium for safety.
Luxury hotel chains have been at the forefront of communicating their safety measures and have been able to capture a disproportionate share of bookings.
2. Are MICE bookings or events picking up?
We are not witnessing a pickup in MICE bookings. This is not a surprise as many companies prefer to allow employees to work remotely and permit travel only under exceptional circumstances.
3. What about bookings by families vs couples, and what about elderly couples or families with children?
Customers prefer to travel in “bubbles” with close family members and friends. Across demographics, there is a high degree of emphasis on safety and flexibility, and this is evidenced by traffic volumes on our TravelSafe page and attach rates of our Flexifly products. All demographics are preferring properties that guarantee a high degree of safety.
4. Which are the top 5 trends with regard to hospitality bookings you expect given that Diwali, Christmas and New Year are coming up next?
We expect booking levels to be around 40%-50% of pre-Covid levels.
Customers will continue to prefer booking closer to travel dates though we will see a slow shift towards forward bookings as confidence returns.
As confidence levels improve, the share of round trips will also increase.
Safety during travel and in travel is increasingly being emphasized and is now looked upon as a criteria as important, if not more important than pricing.
Service providers who can demonstrate ability to meet high safety standards will capture disproportionate market share.
5. How optimistic are you about hotel bookings increasing and in which segment do you expect it to pick up more and why
We expect hotel bookings to increase as customers learn to live and adapt to the pandemic until a vaccine is made available.
Leisure travel will bounce back first, and within this, we will see a preference for 5-star properties that can assure a high degree of safety and flexibility.
Pent-up demand will also convert into actual hotel bookings with increased confidence in travelling.