Analysing the sweetest revenge: Travel
Experts discuss the travel situation in the country and compare it with pre-pandemic times, while agency heads analyse the return and future of work travel
Jan 30, 2023 10:25:00 AM | Article | Eularie Saldanha Share -
Aristotle wasn’t incorrect when he stated that man was a social animal. There is nothing more convincing than the pandemic to prove the Greek philosopher’s point.
Other than the obvious scare that had people within four-wall constraints, the lockdown meant doomsday to one specific set of the population - the hodophiles. These comprise people for whom travel is the primary way of life. While leisure travel became impossible, business travel too was turned into a Zoom call.
However, with the ease of travel restrictions and companies calling their dearies back to office premises - revenge travel became more than just a metaphor. To prove this, experts stated that 2022 saw a considerable spike in travel, as compared to 2019.
2019 vs 2022
EaseMyTrip revealed that its GBR (Gross Booking Revenue) grew from INR 2,937.8 crores in FY19 to INR 3,715.6 crores in FY22.
Rikant Pittie, co-founder of the company, explained the purpose for travelling in 2022.
“The post-pandemic era has heralded the ‘revenge travel’ phenomenon and later the ‘new normal’ concept. This saw several people taking the opportunity to enjoy vacations monthly, much more frequently than they did in 2019,” he said.
Cleartrip, on the other hand, has witnessed a 25% increase in bookings over 2019 - even though the first two months of 2022 were impacted by the Omicron strain.
Speaking about easing the concern over uncertainty, Prahlad Krishnamurthi, the chief business officer of Cleartrip, shared that there was a strong demand for air travel in October-December 2022.
“From a hotel standpoint, Cleartrip saw a 2x increase in comparison to BAU (business as usual) for the week of Christmas and New Year's specifically. The booking share for this specific week increased by 1.2x in comparison to 2019,” he added.
With regards to the air travel segment, Cleartrip saw an increase of 1.3 times in size, as compared to 2019.
Nature of the travel
Travel as a concept was redefined in 2022. Experts suggest that it was not only about stepping out, but also indulging in authentic experiences.
Pittie said, “Access to various new destinations within India has availed several options for people, while the easing of Visa application processes for multiple countries is driving them to opt for international travel.”
Krishnamurthi stated that the spike in bookings for the end period of 2022 was fueled by leisure destinations, with Goa leading the trend. “The year recorded a spike in demand for less explored destinations, travelling on weekdays for leisure, staycations, extending trips for a longer duration, and wanting an experiential journey,” he added.
Agency heads on their travel schedules
While the A&M industry applauds itself for being people-centric and social, agency heads and other folks who travelled frequently were forced to switch to video meetings and conferences.
However, advertising honchos have their heads in the clouds, once again.
Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India shares that he’s travelling for work, as much as he used to before the pandemic. “While the company is in hybrid mode with three days in office and two days of WFH, we encourage our teams to meet clients face-to-face when required and via video - when it comes down to stuff which is simple in nature.”
As stated by the agency, the aftermath of the pandemic had Havas Group India view work-related travel differently. While the agency claims to have started travelling both nationally and internationally - it is still selective about the purpose of travel.
Rana Barua, group CEO, Havas Group India, said, “We are conscious of not just where we are travelling, but also why we are travelling so that, in however small a capacity, we can do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint and strike that fine balance between profit and planet.”
For Publicis Groupe India, work today is a mix of in-person interactions, virtual calls, videoconferencing, as well as business travel. Anupriya Acharya, the South Asia CEO of the Groupe shares that certain formats work better for certain situations.
“I have begun travelling a lot more and possibly reaching the pre-pandemic levels. But now that everyone has discovered the power of virtual meetings, those are happening quite regularly too,” she added.
Acharya also highlights that while the network is not limiting travel budgets for essential business travel, the prevailing pandemic and longer visa processes show that business travel is yet to reach its former place.
Ogilvy, on the other hand, believes that the last few years have taught them to be super-efficient online.
Speaking about the travel scenario at the agency, Kainaz Karmakar, CCO, Ogilvy, said, “There is no pressure to travel, but we have started travelling for shoots, meetings, reviews and whatever else needs us. If I believe that a meeting or shoot would be better with me physically present, I do not hesitate at all. If working online on a given day allows me to get more done, then I do that.”
Future of travel
Coming back to where the industry stands in terms of the travel situation ahead, Krishnamurthi adds that irrespective of the spike in both airfares and hotel rates, the demand for travel remains undeterred. He said, “Rising Covid-19 numbers in certain other countries have also not dampened customer sentiment. International recovery is now at 95% of pre-covid levels for outbound customers. We are bullish that this trend will continue.”
However, speaking about business travel, Sinha believes that although the mode of interaction is a judgement call by the teams, the hybrid model is the best option for the company.
Agreeing with Sinha, Acharya said, “Businesses can now deploy more than one format and I foresee that it will be like this forever in the future.”
Karmakar points out that companies might become more financially efficient by cutting out unnecessary travel, which is a good thing. “However, I don’t think organisations will make the mistake of cutting off travel, because in-person interactions have their power. All things said and done, humans need other humans, in flesh and blood. I find that reassuring.”
Speaking of why international travel will only be onwards and upwards, Krishnamurti explained, “The capacity from airlines is increasing, and affordability constructs such as no-cost EMI and buy-now travel later in India are booming. A combination of these factors will further fuel its growth.”
On landing the conclusion, it is safe to say that although hybrid interactions will very much be a part of a business composition - business and leisure travel is back in the air and here to stay.