A recent survey commissioned by Maharashtra Tour Organisers’ Association (MTOA) and Tour Operators and Travel Agents Association of Gujarat (TAG), and conducted by Pepper Interactive Communications, highlighted the pain points of partners within the tourism and hospitality industries.
The online survey was conducted among members of both associations receiving over 80 per cent responses from the stakeholders. The main highlights of the survey were the resumption of operations within all sectors of the industry. Expectations point to mid-November 2020 to January 2021, followed by a lot of focus on sanitisation and hygiene factors. The new normal for the tourism, aviation and hospitality industries are the concept of masks, sanitisers, thermal screening and contactless association with clients.
Abhijeet Patil, Convenor post-COVID Ops and Webinar Series (MTOA), explains his view states, “Tourism Boards across India need to take tour operators and travel agents into confidence and lend an ear to their viewpoint if tourism has to be revived post the lockdown. The survey enables us to get the bird’s eye perspective in a nutshell and hence, it was deemed appropriate that Industry Leaders are commissioned to undertake the same for MTOA & TAG”
The report indicates that travel outside India will take a while to resume (74.20 per cent) while domestic travels will be low (51.20 per cent).
The impact of Covid-19 on the tourism and hospitality industry is hitherto unprecedented. This is clearly visible from the impact on tour operators, who are the worst affected (82 per cent) followed by travel agents (80.20 per cent) and hospitality and aviation stakeholders (at 73.70 per cent and 72.40 per cent respectively). The pandemic has had a domino effect right from management levels to even associate partners of the industry such as guides, taxi drivers, shikara owners (65.40 per cent) among the many others.
Roshan Mohan, Director – Pepper Interactive Communications highlighted, “There was a dire need to bring out the impact of the pandemic on the tourism and hospitality industry, which were among the worst hit. The survey works as the voice of the industry especially to government officials in this time of impact.”
Among the many fears grappling travel agents, is the fact that passengers will seek a refund for pre-booked trips (54.40 per cent). In addition to the cash crunch, a troubling fact is that the industry is resuming or will resume at a very slow pace. Respondents believe that people will start travelling again possibly only by Diwali 2020 (43.8 per cent), while many (54 per cent) feel it could stretch to even December 2020 / January 2021.
Prabhubhai Joshi, President (MTOA) further added, “Tour Operators have the pulse of tourists and understand their requirements very well. In these troubled times, tourist’s apprehensions and tour operators’ problems, are accurately captured by the Association. MTOA & TAG constitute the highest volume of Indians travelling within India (in the organised sector) and hence, a survey report commissioned by us would be well received by respective tourism boards”
A few factors highlighted in the report is that travel may take-off once the vaccine is invented. However, there should be no compromise on hygiene standards and sanitisation at all tourist spots, airports, bus and train stations et al.
Charmaine Fernz, Senior Consultant – Pepper Interactive Communications opined, “The tourism industry has always been a resilient industry; bouncing back to normalcy through every crisis. The challenge that lies ahead for the industry players is to work with one voice for one goal – Growth in Business.”
The survey also delved into the levels of sanitisation, wherein respondents felt that transparency should be the first and foremost duty towards guests (85.30 per cent). The other factors included regular health check-up for staff (71.40 per cent) and transparency in how sanitisation is practised to ensure guests peace of mind (68.20 per cent) was of importance.
While travel is bound to take off at some time in the coming months, we also analysed how Covid-19 has changed travel behaviour. Group tours will be the last option in the post-Covid-19 scenario. Travelling solo or as couples will be a preference (65 per cent) followed by small groups (57.1 per cent). However, 55 per cent feel nuclear families will begin to travel first. The kind of destinations would also be pertinent, in this regard, our respondents feel weekend destinations (73 per cent) will be the preferred choice followed by hill stations (68.20 per cent) and beach destinations (59 per cent). Religious tourism which came to a halt will also take off according to respondents (49.80 per cent). This will be with a lot of scepticism and caution.
With social distancing becoming the new normal in one’s life, the tourism industry will witness new concepts emerging such as ‘self-drives’ may take off as travellers will be more comfortable travelling with their own vehicles and eliminate exposing themselves to commercial travel. Visa norms will now focus on health more than finances and the traveller today will be looking for less-populated destinations to explore. Travel insurance will soon become a must for every traveller. Concluding our report, respondents were of the view that Covid-19 must also be included in the insurance along with other medical facilities (47.90 per cent).