In many ways, 2021 was a crucial year for the Indian travel and aviation industry, be it airlines, airports, hotels, OTAs, travel tech firms, or mobility companies. There were highlights of innovation as well as many disruptions. But being a resilient lot, the industry devised ways to move forward, in spite of the restrictions, challenges in operations, cancellations, or closures in some cases.
The year changed a lot of dynamics with respect to the preference of travellers, how they travel and what matters most for them while they plan their trip. ETTravelWorld got talking with top market players from airlines, airports, hotels, OTAs, travel tech, and mobility firms to understand the major highlights of the year gone by and how the new year is expected to be more ‘disruptive’ for the industry.
2021 game-changer year for the aviation industry
Airlines – Ronojoy Dutta, Chief Executive Officer, IndiGo
The years 2020 and 2021 have been quite challenging for the aviation and travel industry. At IndiGo, we continue to work towards a return to profitability and strengthen our balance sheet. With a modern fleet, dedicated employees, and a stronger economic environment, we are well-positioned to leverage all the growth opportunities around us.
Our primary focus is to keep our costs low and to grow rapidly in both domestic and international markets.
Indian aviation is slowly witnessing the re-emergence of rapid growth. Families in India are dispersed all over the country and the globe, and Indian businesses are transacting business all over the world. Domestic travel demand has also seen an upswing owing to the fact that Indians are now more interested in exploring Indian cities.
This is propelled by a strong vaccination drive coupled with trust in air travel as the safest mode. We also have strong inbound traffic demand, whether it is for medical tourism or education tourism, so there is a lot of interest in coming to India. Hence, we look forward to a decent demand and healthy growth of the aviation industry in 2022.
Omicron is of course a major uncertainty for the travel industry. While the impact of Omicron has been modest so far, our future bookings are experiencing a slowdown and we cannot predict with certainty when the trend will reverse again. The past year has indeed been a game-changer for the aviation industry. Owing to ease in travel norms, we saw an exponential rise in air traffic since June 2021 around the globe along with the rise in passenger’s confidence in air travel.
Charter flights & growth from non-metro cities
Airports – Prakash Tulsiani, CEO, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) witnessed a record passenger traffic of around 1,09,000 in a single day for the first time since the pandemic broke out. In order to cater to the increasing passenger movement, CSMIA reopened its Terminal-1 in October 2021 to provide passengers with a seamless travel experience.
The airport also witnessed non-metro cities achieving pre-Covid numbers at a faster rate as compared to the metro cities, thus indicating a rise in air travel from/to Tier-II and Tier-III markets. Given health requirements from Central and state governments, CSMIA has also created around 300 rapid testing machine facilities for arriving passengers.
Moreover, FY21 witnessed a 52 per cent rise in annual cargo volume in comparison to FY20. Charter flights also observed a significant uptick in demand over the past year along with regular commercial flights. We shall see passenger numbers rising as leisure travel picks up.
The airport is continuously adding more routes and destinations to connect travellers to the world. We, at CSMIA, place our passengers at the core of every initiative. The airport continues to ensure that each passenger travelling has a safe and meaningful experience while enjoying a myriad of world-class services by creating cherished travel memories.
Year for domestic travel and offbeat destinations
OTAs – Rikant Pittie, Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip
Post the devastating second wave of the pandemic, the travel, and tourism industry witnessed a V-shape recovery on the basis of a strong vaccination drive in 2021. The industry redefined the meaning of resilience where it adopted and made a remarkable recovery. People started to travel for leisure and trends like revenge travel and festive season helped in generating an immense amount of traction giving a clear sign of the underlying pent-up travel demand.
Additionally, 2021 also emerged as the year for domestic travel and offbeat destinations. The year redefined travel where safety became the top priority and the adoption of technology-driven solutions had greater acceptance. We are confident that this positive sentiment will further get strengthened in 2022, which is set to further grow with the resumption of scheduled international flights.
New trends & modern, hybrid methods of operations
Hotels – Puneet Dhawan, Senior VP Operations, Accor, India & South Asia
Throughout 2021, we witnessed the hospitality industry as well as the guests adapting to inevitable yet functional changes, such as the concept of hybrid weddings, social events, new trends, and modern methods of operating with the use of technical aids that were focused on their wellbeing and safety. With mitigation in travel restrictions – both internationally and domestically, we witnessed an upsurge in demand for travel and noticed travellers’ confidence rebounding.
People are now enthusiastically exploring domestic leisure destinations, carrying out hybrid weddings, staycations, and workcations to off-beat locations in the vicinity. In 2022, we expect new trends and patterns to emerge. 2021 has prepared us to combat unprecedented, dynamic situations and to use those variables as catalysts for our learning. We’ve seen the horizons of the hospitality industry expand, giving us hopes for a new year with better prospects.”
Rise in demand for touchless & AI-driven solutions
Technology – Aditya Sanghi, Co-Founder, Hotelogix
In 2021, hotels learned to stay relevant with technology. This will impact their tech adoption decisions in 2022. Implementation of cloud-based Hotel PMS will go up for efficient multi-property operation as chain brands are in consolidation mode. This will also help them address issues like workforce shortage while enabling them to offer system access to their remote employees. There will be an exponential rise in demand for touchless and AI-driven solutions to enhance the guest experience.
Watershed moment in India’s intercity mobility
Mobility – Manish Rathi, CEO & Cofounder of IntrCity
With the higher rate of vaccination and the relaxation of travel restrictions within India, the inter-city travel sector is witnessing a gradual recovery of traveller confidence. Inter-city mobility saw a considerable increase in work-related travel in the fourth quarter of 2021, with the opening of offices leading to greater mobility along routes connecting tier-II and tier-III cities with metro cities.
Between September and October, the opening of offices in IT hotspots like Delhi NCR, Bangalore, and Hyderabad resulted in an increase in mobility on routes connecting those cities. Intercity mobility is currently at an all-time high due to seasonal surges that occur around this time of year. Furthermore, our platforms, IntrCity SmartBus and RailYatri are seeing a large increase in bookings across locations. At the moment, leisure trips to hilly areas and pilgrimage are in high demand.
With more and more people getting vaccinated and applying for booster shots, the year 2022 is expected to be a watershed moment in India’s intercity mobility. The travel industry is predicted to grow dramatically as the country recovers from the pandemic and travellers regain faith in public transportation, with smart buses playing a big role.
Intercity travel, particularly between metro areas and Tier II and Tier III locations, is expected to pick up. The ongoing highway expansion plans, as well as the opening of the Delhi-Mumbai expressway in 2022, will also contribute to the increase in road traffic in the country.