The Year 2020 Looks Promising for the Travel and Tour Industry: Madhavan Menon, Chairman and Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd
On a standalone basis, Thomas Cook India is debt-free. This has been made possible using stable and strong cash flows that the Thomas Cook India Group is generating year over year.
THE THOMAS Cook India Group continues to be financially strong with cash and bank deposit balances of Rs. 10,883 Mn. As one of the largest travel service provider networks headquartered in the Asia-Pacific region, The Thomas Cook India Group spans 29 countries across 5 continents, a team of over 9700 and a combined revenue in excess of Rs. 6718.7 Cr. In an interaction with BW Hotelier, Madhavan Menon, Chairman and Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd. spoke about its current scenario, emerging travel trends and future plans.
What is the current scenario in the Indian travel market?
The travel and tourism industry has evolved exponentially over the last five years. With immersive, offbeat and unique experiences gaining popularity, travel has become non-negotiable among Indians. Consumers have become experimental while choosing a destination, and are open to exploring newer locations with brag-worthy experiences. While a large and increasingly affluent middle class from the metros and mini-metros have contributed significantly to the demand curve, it is noteworthy to highlight that Tier 2 and 3 markets are driving the travel growth story.
We believe that the announcements made by the government during the Union Budget 2.0, along with the revision of corporate tax reflect a clear and sustained growth priority with a potential to catalyse India’s domestic, inbound and MICE segments. While the e-visa initiative was a game-changer, the much-anticipated reduction in GST for the hospitality industry is a shot in the arm in creating a competitive playing field versus destinations in the Asian region. Added to this, the compelling initiative of Prime Minister Modi, encouraging citizens to visit at least 15 tourist destinations within the country by 2022, has given an unprecedented impetus to the industry by catalysing domestic tourism.
The consumption-driven economy and strong domestic demand, backed by infrastructure development have made the tourism industry a crucial contributor to India’s GDP.
What are the challenges that you faced in 2019?
The travel and tourism industry did encounter multiple challenges this year with the collapse of Jet Airways leading to a surge in airfares due to capacity crunch. The closure of Cox & Kings also had a negative impact on customers and to the entire Indian travel industry. Globally, the geopolitical unrest in Hong Kong & the Middle East, haze and heat in parts of South East Asia etc. impacted parts of our Outbound and DMS businesses. Also, being a fairly recent event - we continue to monitor the impact at a retail level, of the closure of Thomas Cook UK.
Tell us briefly about the emerging travel trends for 2020.
The year 2020 looks promising for the travel and tour industry. With the consistent advancement of technology in every sector, digitalization will spur innovation and growth and will redefine the perception of travel. Thomas Cook India has observed that today’s travellers are moving over traditional packages and are heavily riding on experiences.
What are your future plans for 2020?
At Thomas Cook India, we have been investing strongly on the digital transformation of the company. Today over 26% of our overall holiday packages are being booked via our online platforms. Some of the new age initiatives that are helping us reach out to India’s millennials and digital natives include our upgraded portal, our holidays and foreign exchange apps, customer self-service app and TeeCee, our recently launched AI-powered chatbot. To empower our people at Thomas Cook India, we had launched a slew of tech enablers like our tablet app for our front-line sales force and Tour Managers, Voyager- a dynamic platform that enables real-time bundling and customisation of packages, and more.
Our strategic hybrid Clicks&Bricks omnichannel model has been of immense value in catering to the varied needs of a diverse economy and is proving highly effective equally for India’s regional, as also its new-age travellers (self-booking + hand holding and expertise). With deeper penetration of the internet in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, technological evolution has elevated the convenience factor and the rise of our E-business stands testimony to the same. We are also employing big data analytics to identify consumer preferences which in turn is aiding us to create bespoke services for specific needs and will continue aggressive investments in Machine Learning, AI and Data Analytics. Our focus on Analytics is also invaluable in our propensity-based lead model for sales, as also our marketing automation and CX journey.
With the rise in disposable incomes and an increased propensity to spend, Thomas Cook India has observed a growing shift towards experiential travel amongst Indian consumers and has introduced offerings under its Experiential Tour packages, covering: Adventure Holidays, Cultural Holidays, Spiritual Holidays, and Getaways.
Our unerring focus on our product development to delight India’s rapidly evolving travellers is witnessing a constant expansion as we continue to penetrate uncharted territories to make travel accessible and affordable to Indians. Indian travellers are evolving rapidly, and Thomas Cook India’s innovative new offerings such as segment-specific offerings (Simply Series for its online customers, Travel Quest for the student/study tours segment, Millennial Tours, Ladies First), innovative travel solutions (Holiday Basket, Holiday Savings Account that enable our customers to save and earn in their holidays) amongst others, are aimed at elevated customer experience
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