As the year 2015 drew to a close, it was quite obvious that the travel & hospitality industry was very glad to see the back of a rather stressful business year. There were plenty of indicators of things to come, but the speed at which these developments unfolded surprised even me. In one of my previous editorials, I had focused on travails of this industry and the fact that consolidation and M&As were some of the only solutions to the challenges of diminishing margins and plunging bottom lines. In this scenario, it comes as no surprise at all with the back to back announcements of Thomas Cook acquiring Kuoni India, TUI buyback from Le Passage to India, the global take over of Starwood Hotels by Marriott Inc, and AccorHotels buying Fairmont Hotels Group. Many such small to medium size deals in the Indian market are currently underway. This sets the scene for a very interesting 2016 and beyond. Now that the mergers have been announced, it will be even more interesting to see how these large hotels and travel companies juggle with multiple brands and products competing with each other in the same space. We are bound to see further shakeout within the brand identities for sure in the near future. Loyalty programmes and other such nuances will also have to be dealt with in the short term, and this will directly result in even more power vested in the hands of the customers in an age where consumer is already the king. This is not the end of the upheavels that we are likely to witness over the next year, but rather only the beginning. I daresay, the next big consolidation and disruption is likely to be seen in the OTA and e-commerce segment of this industry.
Another development which was expected over the last few years, but has never seemed possible is the exit of Manoharan Periasamy from the Indian travel industry. Being a dear friend I have a personal stake as I write this. He was one of the most loved, respected and dynamic expat tourism board heads for the Indian travel industry. The face of Tourism Malaysia in the last 15 years, Manoharan made India his home and shared a comfort with the Indian travel fraternity which was second to none. In some ways he had almost achieved the status of an honorary consultant to new tourism boards which were in the process of setting up office in this country. He takes off to his home country this month and will be definitely missed in all our travel gatherings from now on. At TravelBiz Monitor, we salute his achievement for Tourism Malaysia over the last one and half decade, and we wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.
Editor & COOsheldon@saffronsynergies.in