Dhruva, Cleartrip’s Vice President, speaks to exchange4media on the consumer trends and the ‘new normal’ in the industry
The COVID-19 crisis has hit industries across the board but one of the sectors to bear the maximum brunt has been travel and hospitality owing to lockdown restrictions and new norms of social distancing.
Unlock 1.0 has seen India slowly and steadily reopening key industries to try and bring the economy back on its track. After a hiatus of over two months, on May 25, the Ministry of Civil Aviation permitted partial resumption of domestic air travel. If reports are to be believed, international flights will also touch the skies soon. This comes as a ray of hope for not just stranded commuters, but also airlines and travel partners like the Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs).
In an exclusive interaction with exchange4media, Cleartrip’s Vice President, Ashish Dhruva, spoke about the future of the tour and travel industry and the ‘new normal’.
It has been two weeks since domestic travel has resumed in the country, and according to Dhruva, the initial trends show that 90 per cent of the bookings that Cleartrip is receiving are from metros to smaller towns. “This consumer behaviour was expected as most people travelling now are the ones who were stranded in other cities due to work or education. I think business travel, especially the SME travel, will take at least four more weeks to resume. There are still lots of offices that are working on just 10-15 per cent capacity. Once the working situation normalises, only then will business travel resume on a need basis.”
He further added that people will probably not go on leisure trips at least for the next quarter.
In Dhruva’s words, “It is going to take about two to three quarters for the business to normalise. Today, the attention is just on safety and flexibility of consumers. We are working on addressing the various stress levels the consumer is facing in terms of booking plane tickets as there is still uncertainty in the minds of consumers about irregularity and cancellation of flights.”
Talking about the new trends that the travel industry has been witnessing in the post-Covid world, Dhruva told us about Cleartrip’s observation in the Dubai market where most things have opened post lockdown. “We noticed a new trend in our Middle East market, where people have started taking day-long trips or a trip over the weekend within their own city. They are looking for getaways where they can reach within no time through their cars. We launched a new product there called ‘Staycation’. We have seen a very good traction in this new market and hope to replicate the model in India as things open up.”
During the lockdown most OTAs ventured into businesses like online food delivery or OTT. Asked why Cleartrip did not explore these other avenues, Dhruva said: “We utilized this time to go deeper into problem-solving for our consumers. Every stressful situation creates an opportunity for brands like us to innovate and lead tomorrow. There are a slew of products that we are going to launch soon that will address all problems that consumers are facing today, related to their travelling.”
Asked about new campaigns in the pipeline for the brand, the VP said, “We began marketing from May 25, immediately as the business resumed. We focus on performance-based campaigns, and are slightly digital heavy. Our marketing portions will also increase as the travel industry goes back to its normal strength.”
With regards to how the OTA had kept the communication flowing with consumers, Dhruva said, “Initially when the lockdown was announced, we kept communicating with consumers through our website and emails about flight cancellations and refunds. Later social media became an important channel. We used our various social media channels to give business updates and latest offerings to our customers.”