The travel industry was one of the major sectors to be hit by the COVID pandemic. Even though the pandemic is not over, things have improved slightly as compared to the last few months. People are stepping out of their houses and also travelling.
Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives at Booking.com says, post-COVID travellers are most concerned about health and safety measures, and features such as hygiene, sanitization, social distancing and food safety amongst others. In an exclusive interview with Priyadarshini Maji, she says the travel community will need to come together to support travellers’ financial constraints by offering deeper value for money, better choice, increased flexibility and transparency.
1. How has the mindset changed for Indian travellers after the pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the way people approach travel-related decision making, aspects of which are likely to last for some time. With consumer behaviours and expectations changing rapidly, the travel industry will need to be diligent and nimble in its approach to meet travellers’ demands in a more meaningful way. That being said, there are a number of requirements we know travellers will be looking at when it’s time to travel again.
2. What are Indian travellers looking for while planning their travel?
With the pandemic, we see travellers looking for enhanced transparency around health and safety. Booking.com recently combined research with more than 20,000 travellers across 28 countries and territories, including India to reveal the ‘Future of Travel. As per the research, 77 per cent of Indians responded with accommodations having proper health and hygiene policies in place and 71 per cent of Indians will avoid certain destinations altogether due to safety concerns.
To cater to this need, various booking platforms have introduced the ‘health and safety measures’ feature such as hygiene, sanitization, social distancing and food safety amongst others. This will help provide the necessary reassurance to travellers and help them make a fully-informed decision when it comes to deciding on where to stay.
According to the research, 76 per cent of Indian travellers indicated they will be more price-conscious when it comes to searching and planning a future trip and 67 per cent are more likely to hunt down promotions and savings—behaviours that we predict will last years.
Tech innovation will play a crucial role in rebuilding traveller confidence. Tech will help us regain the spontaneity, confidence and ease of times past, while at the same time help people travel safely and responsibly.
3. What are some of the key priorities for travellers in the post-COVID-19 world?
Going forward, some of the key priorities for travellers would be:
● Safety Cleans Up: The ‘new normal’ will also see travellers prioritize and adhere to increased health and safety measures. 86 per cent of Indian travellers wants to take more precautions due to Covid-19 and 77 per cent looking at booking a particular accommodation if it’s clear what health and hygiene policies it has in place.
● Familiarity not tourists: In a new COVID world, local tourism will continue to be a popular choice for travellers. 52 per cent of Indian respondents still plan to travel within their own country in the medium term (7-12 months’ time), and 41 per cent plan to do so in the longer term (in over a year’s time).
● Spotechnaity: Travellers are leveraging technology to regain confidence and help them travel safer. Soon, technology will be important in controlling health risk when travelling – 81 per cent say that accommodations will need to use the latest technologies to make travellers feel safe.
● Vital Value: Travellers will be scrutinising spend in 2021, with 70 per cent of Indian travellers indicating they will be more price-conscious when it comes to searching and planning a future trip and 64 per cent more likely to hunt down promotions and savings.
● Bye-Bye 9 to 5: With remote work becoming a long-term reality, we can soon set up an office anywhere. 68 per cent of Indian travellers have already considered booking somewhere to stay in order to work from a different destination.
3. How the travel community can cater to the evolving demands of vital value-led travel?
Seeking maximum value from travel will be part of the new normal for travellers in the future. Our research states that 74 per cent of Indian travellers expect travel companies to support their future travel plans via discounts and promotions. As travellers look to maximise travel at the least possible expense, the travel community will need to come together to support travellers’ financial constraints by offering deeper value for money, better choice, increased flexibility and transparency.
4. What are the initiatives taken by Booking.com to offer value to travellers in a financially-strained ecosystem?
We are constantly innovating to make it easier for our customers to find what they’re looking for. We have simplified our search experience with filters to make it easy for customers looking for the types of accommodations they are seeking. For example, the ability to search for private, whole-home accommodations and properties that have implemented health and safety measures, as well as introduced search options for trip themes, all of which are top of mind for travellers at the moment.