The COVID-19 related travel curbs in different parts of the country has had a lasting impact on the track and tourism industry. With mobility restricted, less Indians were travelling for non-essential work for most part of the last year.
Now with the Second Wave of the pandemic subsiding and people are coming out, the most pertinent question in the travel industry is whether finally leisure travel will pick up pace? What will be the trend in the post-COVID world?
A survey by Thomas Cook India and SOTC Travel as part of their Third Holiday Readiness Report has found that people's interest in travel has increased tremendously during the month with several expressing desire to start travel immediately to get over the period of relative immobility brought about by the pandemic.
A significant 69 percent of the respondents in the survey indicated keen interest to travel in 2021 post-ease in restrictions -- with 18 percent ready to travel immediately post-unlock and 51 percent within the next 3-6 months.
What has changed from pre-COVID period to now is that people are increasingly preferring travel choices that provide hygienic staying options coupled with best safety protocols. In the survey, 70 percent respondents ranked health and safety as the key consideration while re-sanitation of rooms was selected by 52 percent respondents as a key requirement.
Majority or about 66 percent of the respondents showed willingness to increase spends to ensure higher levels of health and safety on their holiday.
Another interesting trend brought out by the survey is that a whopping 81 percent respondents reiterated their need for refundable or zero cancellation products. With the uncertainty created by the virus, people want flexible products where cancellations would be allowed as a rule.
The Thomas Cook India and SOTC Travel surveyed over 4,000 customers across India's Tier 1-3 cities to identify emerging consumer behaviours and trends that will drive travel preferences in the COVID era.
The survey covered consumers of India's top eight metros, mini metros like Pune and key Tier 2/3 markets such as Jaipur, Indore, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Nagpur, Surat, Baroda, Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Mysore, Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, Guwahati, Patna etc.
What is interesting is that travellers want options for both domestic and international travel in just about equal number of preferences expressed in the survey.
Among the domestic destinations, Kashmir, Leh-Ladakh, Himachal, Andamans, Goa and Kerala have caught the fancy of the travellers, while Dubai-Abu Dhabi, Maldives, Mauritius, Thailand, Europe etc. remain hot travel destinations globally .
Also, 35 percent respondents chose holidays between 3 and 5 days; 52 percent for 6-12 days; and 13 percent for over 12 days. About 62 percent respondents prefer to travel with family/friends; 20 percent as couple/solo; and 18 percent in a vaccinated group.
Even with the pandemic still lurking, 77 percent respondents continued to express strong preference for interaction with an expert for guidance/reassurance, 27 percent opting to purchase holidays through retail outlets; 17 percent for home service; 33 percent preferred a contactless experience of a virtual store/video chat; and 23 percent opted for bookings via website/app.