Our childhood times were little different as compared to the exposure that today’s generation gets, we hardly had one TV channel, that too for a limited time and broadcast was Black & White, books use to be out the best way to spend time and playing outdoor with friends was in vogue. It is only in the later 1980s when TV started broadcasting some programs in color and things started to change in India.
Delhi has been my home ever since I was born. I did my education also from Delhi and it was in 1988, I joined my professional life by joining a renowned hospitality brand, learning about the industry and understanding the operations was a fascinating experience, as I started from the bottom of the pyramid and was lucky to have met few professionals like Ms. Meena Bhatia, Mr. RajanGhaley, who continue till date to be my guiding light.
It was in the year 1993, when I switched to travel & tourism and joined TRAC Representations, and took a leap towards outbound, though outbound was quite limited during those times and mostly travel and tourism was catering to inbound travel or ticketing business. The “Visiting Friends and Relatives” segment used to be the most prominent one. However, our focus, since inception was to look at the outbound business from India in a new light and get the industry involved with it as fast as possible. My initial role was to ensure TRAC became a B2B seller and to create a portfolio of the largest hotels inventory as well as packages available for the market, as it was Mr. Kavi Ghei’s – Founder and Promotor of TRAC’s vision to be facilitator and catalyst for Indian Travel & Tourism Industry to move towards outbound at a faster pace.
Early 90’s India was primarily a savings economy and travel overseas for leisure was predominantly considered as Luxury. Those were also the times when there were various formalities to be fulfilled before one could access forex for travel overseas. This was also a time when India embarked upon opening the economy and with liberalization, things started to become a little easier and Travel Overseas became a “bragging statement”.
While the top end of the society was traveling ever since the Indian middle-class was aspiring, and the rest is history which gave almost double-digit growth to Indian Outbound Travel Year on Year.
The best part of the Indian market has been that it has various segments of travelers. With the evolution of the market, specialization has taken a prominent role & became key to success. The Indian travel industry has developed its capabilities of servicing clients from all walks of life, ranging from “budget to ultra-luxury” and “of the shelf to bespoke customization”.
When we look back we feel proud and pleased with the way Indian Outbound has grown and we also feel that the industry also came together to put this growth in place. In the initial phase, there were challenges which were about process and disseminating information due to technological restrictions, but as we progressed and technological improvements came in, managing information has become more important.
It would not be wrong to mention that TRAC became a training ground for many people who aspired to get into the representations business. We have always believed that “change is the only constant” and it helps in bringing in new thought processes, ways & means of doing business. We have always encouraged the younger generation within the office and will continue to do so in times to come as well.
Currently, the travel and tourism industry has been passing through an unprecedented challenge on a global scale and there is no sector of travel that has not been impacted, last year has been a game-changer and toughest ever. Still, people continue to aspire to travel and there are various sources of information that are suggesting the same. We have seen an upswing in domestic as well as international travel, though currently, we have access to limited destinations, it surely indicates that travel is here to stay and flourish in times to come. As Industry we need to wait and hold our positions and prepare for the times to come often called the “new normal era”.
As expected post lockdown, travel would begin with essential travel and move to road trips to nearby destinations. Post which travelers would look at regional travel followed by mid & long-haul travel. As an industry, we need to be very sensitive to the client’s requirements, as in the new normal environment client acquisition will be challenging. In India, we are dealing with mostly the tech-savvy younger population who are looking for new experiences and are comfortable booking holidays on their own.
The key components of outbound travel are airlines or hotels, which are targeting their clients and audiences directly and we hope that service providers will continue to have a pivotal role to play. In the changing environment, it will be important to curate niche product options to promote. The persistence of a generic travel product will see a limited response. It’s imperative to accept and upgrade technology and invest resources in the same.
OTA’s have been changing the game for quite some time and now international aggregators will have an edge and reach. In order to compete, along with the conventional business model TA’s will have to adopt the new approach. It’s time to evolve from a Travel Agent to a Travel Consultant. It’s important to value our time & knowledge, for our clients to value it and pay for the same. Industry in India must come together and embark upon an era of not encashing on price point but promoting experiences with enhanced information and knowledge.
We cannot deny that for the travel industry it is very important to be connected and meet face to face. Surely, we will soon have on-ground events, but we as an industry cannot ignore the feasibility of digital/virtual events. With the experience of last year, more and more destinations & products will continue to connect digitally. A positive mindset towards such events will be productive and beneficial in the long run.
Based on various studies we can be optimistic about the future as travel will increase gradually. India’s strength has always been its vast network of agents across India. While many have started promoting domestic travel, many more are keenly awaiting the opening of International travel. It is expected that to reach back to the levels of the Year 2019 it may take another 2 to 4 years.
More destinations are opening doors for travel and travelers are also looking forward to embarking upon new journeys with new normal norms. It’s time, we as the travel fraternity also come together and adapt to the new travel environment. Our resilience to bounce back for sure will help us to rebuild travel and regain lost grounds sooner than anticipated. The year 2021 is the “Year of Hope”.
*Mr. Rajeev Nangia is currently the COO of The Trac Represenations India Pvt. Ltd.