Rebuilding confidence in travel

In a session moderated by Kathryn Wallington, Head of Middle East and Africa, Travelport at the maiden Gulf Travel Show, eminent panellists shared insights on how vital it is to rebuild consumer confidence in travel, amid one of the biggest crises in the travel industry.

Kathryn Wallington, Head of Middle East and Africa, Travelport moderated an interesting session during the maiden Gulf Travel Show with panellists Srilatha Reddy, Senior General Manager of CWT / Orient Travel; Deepak Rawat, Senior Vice President – International Markets, MakeMyTrip (India); and Dayana Persan, General Manager, Business Travel and Atlantis Holidays and Wellness.

AAt the outset, Kathryn Wallington, Head of Middle East and Africa, Travelport, asked, “What have you’ll been doing to rebuild confidence in the travel industry?

Srilatha Reddy, Senior General Manager of CWT / Orient Travel, responded, “We have been really active ever since the crisis. We have facilitated our customers with PCR testing, we give them information about all the requirements which are needed to travel to a country, trying to assist as much as we can. As a global TMC, we provide information on the transit time and transit regulations. We also do the GDRFA and ICA approvals.”

Dayana Persan, General Manager, Business Travel and Atlantis Holidays and Wellness, said, “First of all, this difficult time has given us an opportunity to improve our processes, work on our channels of communication and build strong relationships. Also, the pandemic has made us realise that it is vital to ensure the safety and well-being of our customers. We are doing all we can in this regard.”

Deepak Rawat, Senior Vice President – International Markets, MakeMyTrip (India), said, “Our plans to launch and expand into the GCC market were stalled for a bit due to COVID-19, but we eventually decided to go ahead with them. It was a great learning for us. We gave customers every possible information regarding repatriation flights and quarantine rules. I think that helped us build customer confidence. We saw traffic grow week on week in spite of travel being halted. As travel started, it obviously helped us and our brand build confidence as people started transacting immediately, both on flights and hotels. We worked very closely with partners and government authorities to ensure that the consumers were getting the right information, the bookings were done, and they were assisted through our hotlines 24/7. Eventually when things started opening and travel did bounce back, we saw a huge amount of interest among people wanting to go on staycations.”

Kathryn Wallington: Travelport data shows that the Middle East and the UAE and Saudi in particular are right in terms of dealing with the crisis. It indicates that the confidence level has come back, rebounded quicker than some of the other markets. Do you’ll think leisure travel will be the first to recover, followed by corporate travel?

Rawat replied, “We are seeing more demand for the short-haul travel staycations. When I say short-haul, it means the destination should be at a drivable distance, which is the trend right now.  Though leisure travel has picked up with all the precautions in place, corporate travel will take a while to bounce back.”

“I think leisure travel will be the first to pick up because it’s an individual decision and it doesn’t depend on the company policy. We do see a lot of queries for leisure travel, particularly for staycations in safe destinations, for instance, a lot of TMCs consider Maldives to be a safe place. As for business travel, it will happen gradually, added Reddy.

Persan stated, “I think customers will prefer those destinations which offer ample clarity about their tourism offerings amid the pandemic. Such places will do well when it comes to leisure travel.”

Kathryn Wallington: Do you think that the AR or VR or any other technology is going to help in rebuilding confidence?

Rawat responded, “I think technology will play a critical role going ahead in terms of information content and the motivation, which customer will see and get inspired to travel to a destination, to a theme park, to a hotel, everything most probably will be decided by technology. The check-ins to rooms in the hotel, or even the cruise cabins eventually will all be available at the click of a button. I believe that is something which will decide the way ahead in the future of travel.”

“Technology is very essential. It is really important to progress and to be able to provide a customer with a touchless, advanced technology where they can see everything before they even book,” added Reddy. Persan pointed out, “Technology companies need to come up with more innovative solutions to simplify processes in the travel industry.”

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